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1. Secret Wonder Bondage Woman!

 
I recently read Jill Lepore's The Secret History of Wonder Woman alongside Noah Berlatsky's Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism, which had the bad luck to be published at nearly the same time. The two books complement each other well: Lepore is a historian and her interest is primarily in the biography of William Moulton Marston, the man who more or less invented Wonder Woman, while Berlatsky's primary interest is in analyzing the content of the various Wonder Woman comics from 1941-1948.

Lepore's book is a fun read, and it does an especially good job of showing the connections between late 19th-/early 20th-century feminism and the creation of Wonder Woman, particularly the influence of the birth control crusader and founder of what became Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger. The connection to Sanger, as well as much else that Lepore reports, only became publicly known within the last few decades, as more details of Marston's living arrangements emerged: he lived in a polyamorous relationship with his legal wife, Elizabeth, and with his former student, Sanger's niece Olive Byrne (who after Marston's death in 1948 lived together for the rest of their very long lives). Some of the most fascinating pages of Lepore's book are not about Wonder Woman at all, but about the various political/religious/philosophical movements that informed the lives of Marston and the women he lived with. She also spends a lot of time (too much for me; I skimmed a bit) on Marston's academic work on lie detection and his promotion of the lie detector he invented. As she chronicles his various struggles to find financial success and some sort of renown, Lepore's Marston seems both sympathetic and exasperating, a bit of a genius and a bit of a con man.

Because she had unprecedented access to the family archives, and is an apparently tenacious researcher in every other archive she could get access to, Lepore is able to provide a complex view not only of Marston and his era, but especially of the women in his life — the women who were quite literally the co-creators of Wonder Woman: Marjorie Wilkes Huntley, Elizabeth Marston, and Olive Byrne. She is especially careful to document the contributions of Joye Hummel, a 19-year-old student in one of Marston's psychology classes who, after Oliver Byrne graded her exam (which "proved so good she thought Marston could have written it") was brought in to help work on Wonder Woman. Originally, Marston thought he could use Hummel as a source of current slang, and to do some basic work around the very busy office. "At first," Lepore writes, "Hummel typed Marston's scripts. Soon, she was writing scripts of her own. This required some studying. To help Hummel understand the idea behind Wonder Woman, Olive Byrne gave her a present: a copy of Margaret Sanger's 1920 book, Woman and the New Race. She said it was all she'd need." When Marston became ill first with polio and then cancer, Hummel became the primary writer for many of the Wonder Woman stories. (Lepore provides a useful index of all the Marston-era Wonder Woman stories and who worked on them, as best can be determined now.)

Lou Rogers, 1912
H.G. Peter, 1943/44
Lepore also has a few pages on Harry G. Peter, the artist who brought Wonder Woman to life, and does a fine job of showing how Peter, who was about 60 when he got the Wonder Woman assignment, was also influenced by the iconography of the suffrage movement. He had been an illustrator for Judge alongside the far better known Lou Rogers, who created some of the most famous artwork of the later suffrage movement. Lepore writes: "To Wonder Woman he brought, among other things, experience drawing suffrage cartoons." (Not a lot seems to be known about Peter — Lepore has a note stating that "details about Peter's life are difficult to find, largely because, after his death in 1958, his estate fell into the hands of dealers, who have been selling off his papers and drawings, one by one, for years, to private collectors.")

Marston was hardly a perfect man or role model, and one of the things the story of his life and the lives of the women around him shows is the complexity of trying to live outside social norms. While Marston had some extremely progressive ideas not only for his own time but for ours as well, he was also very much a product of his era and location. That's no earth-shaking insight, but Lepore does a good job of reminding us that for all his liberalism and even libertinism, Marston still had many of the flaws of any man of his age, or of ours. He truly seemed to dislike masculinity, and yet lived at a time when it was difficult to imagine any way of living outside of it or its hierarchies, and his ways of analyzing the effect of masculinity and patriarchy were very much bound by his era's common notions of gender, biology, propriety, and race. Lepore does a fine job of showing not only how the assumptions and discourses of a particular time, place, and class situation shape notions of the possible in Marston's life, but also in the lives and politics of the early 20th century feminist movement.



However, Lepore's book is seriously under-theorized, and that's where Berlatsky comes in. The Secret History of Wonder Woman is aimed at a general audience, and Lepore is a historian, not a theorist. This would be less of a problem if Marston's life and work didn't scream out for the insights of someone familiar both with feminist theory and, especially, queer theory. (Lepore actually seems quite uncomfortable with the sexual elements of the story, and even more so in an interview she did for NPR's Fresh Air, where she can't help giggling over it all.) Berlatsky makes the excellent choice to take the queer elements seriously. He organizes his book into three large chapters, the first focusing on feminism and bondage, the second on pacifism and violence, the third on queerness. A brief introduction gives background on the comic and its creators; the conclusion looks at Wonder Woman's (sad) fate after Marston's death.

Berlatsky's writing is accessible — he's perhaps best known for founding the Hooded Utilitarian blog, so he's used to writing for a non-academic audience. (The blog has tons of Wonder Woman material, including lots from before the book, so you can follow Berlatsky's thinking as it develops, get more information and imagery, and see Berlatsky in conversation with many thoughtful, informed commenters and guest bloggers.)  Though his prose is not heavily academic, Berlatsky is well-versed in comics scholarship and has some good knowledge of both feminist and queer theory, all of which he uses to fill a relatively short book with a real density of ideas. It helps that the early Wonder Woman comics are so strange and suggestive; even after Berlatsky's most thorough analyses, it still feels like there's plenty left to say. (Which is no slight to him.)


In the introduction, Berlatsky describes the 1941-1948 Wonder Woman comics as “…an endless ecstatic fever dream of dominance, submission, enslavement, and release.” His first chapter then offers various ideas about bondage and fantasy, with the majority of its pages devoted to a complex reading of Wonder Woman #16 (you can see Berlatsky first thinking about this issue in a 2009 post at HU that gives a good overview the plot and substance, as well as lots of samples of the art). Ultimately, Berlatsky argues that the story is a representation of, among other things, incest ... and I'm not sure I followed him there. Something about the analysis feels forced to me, though I don't have any good rebuttal to it.

Chapter Two was more convincing for me, as Berlatsky has some cogent insights about violence, maleness, and superheroes: "Looking at Spider-Man's origin makes clear, I think, that superhero violence is built on, and reliant on, masculinity." Is Wonder Woman different? "It is certainly true that, in Marston and Peter's initial conception, Wonder Woman, like other heroes, often solves problems in the quintessentially superhero manner. That is, she hits things." Wonder Woman also participated in World War II, as the first appearance of her character coincided with the US entry into the war. "It was natural that Wonder Woman's alter-ego, Diana Prince, worked as a secretary for army intelligence, just as it was natural for Wonder Woman herself to foil spy rings and Nazi plots. Superheroes and war went together as surely as did goodness and power." But Marston wanted Wonder Woman to be something other than just a fist-fighting warrior, thrilled to hit anybody she could find. She is a fighter, but, Berlatsky says, a pragmatic fighter for peace: "The Nazis embody war; therefore, fighting the Nazis is fighting on behalf of peace. Or, more broadly, masculinity embodies war; therefore, fighting on behalf of an America that Marston sees as feminine means fighting on behalf of peace."

Berlatsky then goes on to show how some of Marston's psychological and social theories (particularly about the force of love) find expression through the Wonder Woman stories. Coming off of Chapter One, I was a bit skeptical about all this, but by the end of Chapter Two, I'd pretty well been convinced. The evidence Berlatsky marshalls from Marston's writings, particularly his book Emotions of Normal People, is compelling. (Emotions of Normal People itself is a fascinating source. Lepore describes it thus: "Emotions of Normal People is, among other things, a defense of homosexuality, transvestitism, fetishism, and sadomasochism. Its chief argument is that much in emotional life that is generally regarded as abnormal…and is therefore commonly hidden and kept secret is actually not only normal but neuronal: it inheres within the very structure of the nervous system." Berlatsky uses it well in the second and third chapters to show where some of the oddest Wonder Woman moments derive from.)


Chapter Three is what really won me over, I will admit, particularly because Berlatsky brings in ideas from Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Julia Serano to explore the implications of various situations and images throughout Wonder Woman. As it explores Marston's lesbophilia and the manifold queer implications of the Marston-era Wonder Woman comics, the chapter ranges across all sorts of subject matter, including, among other things, James Bond and Pussy Galore (from Goldfinger). Berlatsky notes that unlike Ian Fleming's women "Marston's women don't want the penis; rather, his men want the absence of a penis — a unique female power."

There's too much good stuff in this chapter for me to summarize, but one especially interesting bit involves the relationship of the vagina and penis in Marston's idea of sex. Berlatsky quotes Emotions of Normal People: "The [woman’s] captivation stimulus actually evokes changes in the male’s body designed to enable the woman’s body to capture it physically. …[During sex] the woman’s body by means of appropriate movements and vaginal contractions, continues to captivate the male body, which has altered its form precisely for that purpose." Berlatsky summarizes: "Penises don't defile Marston's vaginas; on the contrary, Marston's vaginas swallow up penises."

(If that sentence doesn't make you want to read this book, then there's really no hope for you!)


Berlatsky then shows how these ideas play out in Wonder Woman. "Men in Wonder Woman are never as disempowered and objectified as women in James Bond or gangsta rap or Gauguin — a couple thousand years of tropes don't just vanish because you have a vision of active vaginas. Thus, when Marston flips the binary from masculine/feminine to feminine/masculine, the result is not simple hierarchy inverted. Rather, it's heterosexuality inverted — which is another way of saying it's queer." He then develops this idea to show that "For Marston, essentialism and queerness are not in conflict. Instead, queerness is anchored in, and made possible by, an essentialist vision of femininity. Femininity for Marston doesn't just appear to be strong and love; it is strong and loving. Women for him capture men not just as metaphor but as scientific fact. And it is from those beliefs that you get [in Wonder Woman #41] Sleeping Beauty rescued/captured by a semisentient vagina, or men turning into women on Paradise Island. Femininity makes the world safe for polyamory. You can't have the second without the first."

It's these sorts of insights that would have brought more nuance and complexity to Lepore's portrayal of the role of early 20th-century feminism in Marston's creation of Wonder Woman, but we can be grateful that we can read the two books together.


I've only barely touched on Berlatsky's arguments here, and may have misrepresented them simply by trying to summarize, so if they seem especially bizarre or off-base, check the book. (They may still be bizarre, but to my thinking, at least, they're more often convincing than not.) It's an extremely difficult book to summarize because its ideas and arguments are carefully woven together, even as, in an initial reading, it all often feels quite off-the-cuff, like an improvised high-wire act.

Wonder Woman has suffered in popularity in comparison to male superheroes, and even in this age of wall-to-wall superhero media, a planned Wonder Woman movie has had all sorts of problems getting started. Of course, no Wonder Woman is going to be Marston's Wonder Woman, which is one reason why it's unfortunate that DC hasn't been able to finish re-releasing the 1941-1948 Wonder Woman stories — some, as far as I can tell, have never been reprinted at all, and the most comprehensive collection, part of the DC Archive Editions, petered out after seven volumes, ending with issues from 1946. (Wonder Woman: The Complete Newspaper Comics is quite good.) For the casual reader, the material in the Wonder Woman Chronicles, which got up to three volumes before apparently stopping in 2012, works well, though some of the best and craziest comics come later.  There just doesn't seem to be enough demand from readers, and so a trove of wondrously strange material remains generally unavailable.

Perhaps Lepore and Berlatsky's books will create enough new interest to spur DC at least to finish the Archive Edition releases. Personally, what I'd most like to see is a 300-400 page "Best of the Marston Years" collection edited by Berlatsky, because only the real die-hards need all of the various Wonder Woman stories, and it would be nice to have a one-volume edition of the most engaging and exemplary material.


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2. Guest commentary: Who Stole Superman’s Undies?

movies man of steel henry cavill Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

Guest post by T Campbell.

Can the soul of Western civilization be found in a pair of red briefs? Was our first great superhero at his strongest, his noblest, his superest, before modern interpretations stripped him of his underwear? Is there a connection?

A generation ago, when those red briefs were an inseparable part of Superman’s design, he was the most familiar superhero by a wide margin, leading the field in film adaptations,[1] headlining cartoon shows,[2] and even winning over famous media critics who were fiction writers in their own right. Even now, if you believe superheroes have anything to say to American culture or the human experience, you sort of have to start with him, because he’s the prototype.

Umberto Eco called him “the representative of all his similars” [3]  and Harlan Ellison described him as one of “only five fictional creations known to every man, woman, and child on the planet.”[4] Born in the early hours of a visual, easily reproduced medium, he was popular enough to codify most of what being a superhero meant. The Oxford English Dictionary even mentions him by name in its definition of “superhero”:

su·per·he·ro ˈso͞opərˌhirō noun: superhero; plural noun: superheroes; noun: super-hero; plural noun: super-heroes. a benevolent fictional character with superhuman powers, such as Superman.[5]

And yet, Batman emerged a year later with no superhuman powers at all, and he was far from the only superhero to flout that membership requirement.[6] What really seemed to make a superhero a superhero, in the minds of the public, was the benevolence, the codename and the costume.

Superman is a strong man created by weak boys. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were nerdy teens when they came up with their first “Superman,” a madman with mental, not physical, powers.[7] Their second draft, far closer to the version we know, had what appeared to be a streak of white in his hair and a bare chest.[8] And those trunks, which persisted through other versions for eighty years.

01 originalsuperman Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

Lacking any personal experience being strong, S. & S. took Superman’s powers from their beloved science fiction, and his costume from the circus.[9]

01 ActionComic1 Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

Underpants on tights were signifiers of extra-masculine strength and endurance in 1938. The cape, showman-like boots, belt and skintight spandex were all derived from circus outfits and helped to emphasize the performative, even freak-show-esque, aspect of Superman’s adventures. Lifting bridges, stopping trains with his bare hands, wrestling elephants: these were superstrongman feats that benefited from the carnival flair implied by skintight spandex. Shuster had dressed the first superhero as his culture’s most prominent exemplar of the strongman ideal, unwittingly setting him up as the butt of ten thousand jokes.

Grant Morrison [10]

 

Actually, Siegel and Shuster thought of Superman’s other clothes as the mockable ones. To fully understand the significance of Superman’s costume, look at him when he’s out of it—when he’s Clark Kent.

01 clarkkent Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

In virtually every version of Superman, Clark is an exercise in patient self-restraint, the ultimate man pretending day by day to be the ultimate common man. In his early days, this restraint was a superstrongman feat all its own, because Clark was extra pathetic—the better for Siegel, Shuster and the readers to identify with him.

I had crushes on several attractive girls who either didn’t know I existed or didn’t care I existed. So it occurred to me: What if I was really terrific? What if I had something special going for me, like jumping over buildings or throwing cars around or something like that?

Jerry Siegel [11]

Kent looked like Shuster, who later lifted weights for five years but never developed the bodybuilder’s confidence.[12] If Kent’s daily humiliations echoed Siegel’s past, they also predicted part of Shuster’s future.[13] When Shuster’s worsening eyesight drove him out of cartooning, he went back to deliveries, showing up at his former publisher carrying a package and wearing a ratty, worn-out suit.[14]

It’s not hard to imagine nerdy Shuster stammering “Sign here, please” in the same voice that Kent used to ask Lois, on their first date, if it wouldn’t be “reasonable” to let a bullying gangster have just one dance with her.[15]

008 shusterman Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

Yet Shuster also drew Clark with a rock-hard physique that threatened to burst out of his jacket and pants at any moment. Every so often, after meekly tolerating an editor’s blustering or Lois’ icy contempt, “Clark” would crack a smile: if only they knew. For him, the angst Siegel and Shuster had felt in real life was just a pose, a suit he put on sometimes. And then he’d hear someone in trouble and strip off his shirt to reveal the S-shield underneath. The red trunks would soon follow. Underwear, for the underself.[16]

01 alex ross Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

It was all just a game. Everything was going to be all right. Superman cheerfully presided over a world of bright rainbow colors where hurts and humiliations were temporary. Indeed, after a couple of years he developed a code against killing—a code most superheroes also followed.[17]

They also imitated the briefs, especially his most immediate peers—the original versions of Batman, Robin, Hawkman, Hourman, Starman, Dr. Fate, the Spectre, the Atom, and the Star-Spangled Kid all rocked the look as seen below. [18] And yes, more than half of those heroes also followed his “Somethingman” naming convention.

01 Justice Society of America Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

The 1960s and 1970s still saw plenty of new trunks-wearers among Avengers like Giant-Man and the Vision, mutants like Magneto, and gods like Orion. The Thing wore only trunks, and the Hulk torn purple pants. Other gods and mutants (Thor, Darkseid, the early X-Men) wore onesies broken up with a belt.[19] Strangely, two X-Men who each disdained the other’s sense of style—Cyclops and Wolverine—went full trunks-over-pants from the 1970s into the 1990s.[20]

01 Jim Lee X Men 11 Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

This tendency to assign the look to gods and mutants, though, instead of more central figures like Captain America, Mister Fantastic, and Spider-Man, may have been an early sign that it was on its way out. These newer Marvel characters stood out from the first generation by being more fully realized people in their civilian identities, if not eliminating the dual identity altogether. Of the marquee Marvel heroes, only Thor, whose fashions and godly nature made him the exception that proved the rule, was introduced with a Clark Kentish self-denying secret identity.[21]

Superman’s influence continued to erode as the decades wore on. Newer heroes showed less interest in the code against killing or in names ending in “-man.”[22]  And costume redesigns left the trunks behind. The X-Men got into black leather for a while, and their later, more colorful costumes still left the briefs out.[23]

Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film “de-briefed” comics’ second most famous underwear wearer. Batman never went back to the briefs in any succeeding movies: they began to fade from the comics as well, as shown in this sample of Ben Moore’s larger survey of Bat-suits seen in various media, covering the period from 2005-2012.[24]

01 batman infographik e1419850900988 Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

The look could still show up in the deliberately retro stylings of a film like The Incredibles; despite fashionista Edna Mode’s disdain for capes and insistence that “I never look back, darling, it distracts from the now,” her creations had an old-fashioned flair that matched the traditional values of their wearers, the kind of nuclear family that seemed to headline most sitcoms from the 1950s to the 1980s.[25]

 Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

Superman, for many years, seemed content to be a bit old-fashioned. His brand hadn’t been about “cool” for a long time: it was more about safety and stability. The comic-book Superman of 1962 or 1988 was more scientist than slugger, often approaching problems from a cool remove. His peers honored him as the one who came first, and therefore someone who didn’t need to follow the trends. He had, after all, defined them.[26]

002 comic superman Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

Nevertheless, as superheroes and popular entertainment in general grew increasingly impatient with the “no kill rule,” the temptation to challenge Superman for wearing last year’s morals was overwhelming. The movies of the 1970s and 1980s danced around the issue by making Superman’s foes inanimate[27] or leaving their fates uncertain.[28] But many of his best-loved adventures, the ones that could claim to influence his canon, saw him sorely tempted to end a life—or even saw him succumb.

However, this was always an ending for the character as we knew him, as proved by what came next. In one such story, Superman instantly punished himself by giving up his super-powers and retiring.[29] In another, he died along with his foe.[30] In a third, he had a mental breakdown and went on a long journey of soul-searching before returning to duty with an even firmer vow, “Never again.”[31] In multiple stories of a world not our own, a world gone wrong, Superman deciding to kill is his first step toward villainy.[32] And at least once, he used magicians’ stage tricks to fool the world into thinking he’d broken his rule—just to show how terrible a Superman unchecked by restraint would be.[33]

01 superman nobody has the right to kill Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

The conservatism is unmistakable but charming.  Nearly all fictional franchises create a moral universe that rewards readers for following them, and Superman is no exception. However much he struggled with it, refusing to kill would always be The Right Choice. Other heroes would always look to him for guidance, saluting his cape as if it were the flag. Underwear on the outside of your pants totally works.

The super-briefs stayed on for generations, in comics, movies, TV, Halloween costumes and branded, official kids’ underwear—an incentive to finish toilet training if ever there was one. [34]

005 super underoos Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

And then everyone seemed to reject them at once. In 2011, Jim Lee redesigned all DC Comics’ top-selling characters, giving them the scratchy, slightly self-conscious “edginess” that had made Lee famous.[35] But the artist who had kept Cyclops and Wolverine in trunks now broke precedent. The red of Superman’s trunks shifted to his belt, and its buckle took a shape echoing the chest symbol. The trunks vanished.

I think you have to go for the core elements that are critical to the costume and freely change what looks dated… For me, the red trunks on Superman, you didn’t notice. It gets colored in blue anyhow.[36]

003 comic superman postpants Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

In the same year’s Action Comics, Grant Morrison and Rags Morales emphasized the populist strain in Siegel’s early, Depression-era stories. Theirs was a Superman for the 99 percent, and his costume was the believable result of a reporter’s salary: a screen-printed T-shirt, short cape, and jeans. [37] Morrison explained:

We felt it was time for the big adventures of a 21st-century Paul Bunyan who fights for the weak and downtrodden against bullies of all kinds, from robot invaders and crime lords to corrupt city officials. The new look reflects his status as a street-level defender of the ordinary man and woman.[38]

004 action comics superman Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

The filmmakers of 2013’s Man of Steel found the trunks clashed with their concept of the costume as alien armor. Even director Zack Snyder, whose adaptation of Watchmen had featured two trunks-over-pants designs to the comic books’ one,[39] now found himself breaking precedent.

The costume was a big deal for me, and we played around for a long time. I tried like crazy to keep the red briefs on him. Everyone else said, “You can’t have the briefs on him.” I looked at probably 1,500 versions of the costumes with the briefs on.[40]

006 man of steel Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

Who stole Superman’s undies? Morrison takes responsibility for his part in it, Lee shrugs about careless colorists and readers, Snyder bows to the input of unnamed advisors. Their earlier output, though, suggests they had no dislike for the design, just a need to follow popular taste rather than acting as if Superman still shaped it. But fashion, as ever, sends a message about its wearer.

In Man of Steel, the blue is navy, the yellow rusty and gritty. Smallville’s Clark operates without a costume at all. Both versions of Superman are painfully unsure of themselves, closeted, desperate, and far less successful than earlier versions at preventing collateral damage.[41] Smallville averaged one death per episode in each season.[42] Superman’s first TV outing, The Adventures of Superman, averaged none—and lasted six seasons to Smallville’s ten.[43]

Analyst Charles Watson puts the Man of Steel death toll at 129,000, with the last of those deaths by Superman’s own hand.[44] Contrast this with Superman: the Movie, in which Superman saves everyone at risk from a devastating earthquake except Lois Lane, whom he then rescues via time travel. Man of Steel opened in eight times as many theaters as Superman: The Movie.[45] An influential new beginning, and by his old standards, an inauspicious one.

Man of Steel Superman may scream in anguish after killing General Zod, but unlike in the other stories where he crosses that line, he seems to get over it pretty fast. One scene later, he’s cheerfully knocking an Army drone out of the sky. He actually seems more relaxed and happy after the killing is done! No doubt Lois’ approval helps, but even so.

01 man of steel close e1419854857831 Guest commentary: Who Stole Supermans Undies?

Man of Steel screenwriter David Goyer appears to be weaving some acknowledgments of that issue into its sequel.[46] He would like to assure you that the Superman you remember from your childhoods isn’t gone—he’s just not fully reborn yet.

Our movie was, in a way, Superman Begins; he’s not really Superman until the end of the film. We wanted him to have had that experience of having taken a life and carry that through onto the next films. Because he’s Superman and because people idolize him, he will have to hold himself to a higher standard.[47]

It’s true that Smallville and Man of Steel focus on a young Superman who hasn’t had a chance to become the graceful legend of earlier works. But these have been the portrayals to reach the widest audience in the last decade. [48] Even in current comics, though they have a lighter color scheme and mood, he’s an impulsive younger man with a quick temper.[49] The latest Superman project to be announced, TV’s Krypton, will take place thirty years before his birth.[50]

Put it all together and you’re left with the impression that Superman’s 21st-century caretakers would rather invoke the smiling, life-preserving, cool-headed circus superstrongman than actually show him. Will the next film change that? Will it give him the power and certitude to preserve all intelligent life in his path with a calm soul and a wink at the viewer? Or is that Superman no longer filmable, a relic to be tossed out like a pair of outgrown briefs?

Tights may tell.


[1] 1978’s Superman: The Movie earned nearly six times its budget and spearheaded the only superhero film franchise of the following decade.

[2] Some variation of Super Friends, always with Superman as the headliner, appeared on TV from 1973-1986.

[3] Eco and Natalie Chilton. “The Myth of Superman. The Amazing Adventures of Superman. Review.” Diacritics, 2(1), pp. 14-22. Spring 1972.

[4] Ellison, Foreword to Dennis Dooley and Gary Engle, Superman at 50: The Persistence of a Legend, 1987.

[5] Oxford English Dictionary entry, 2014. Found via Google search, November 22, 2014.

[6] Batman later used gadgets as sort of substitute super-powers, but other figures—the first Atom, Wildcat, and the Spirit, among others—used nothing but ordinary fists.

[7] Jerry Siegel (illustration by Joe Shuster), “The Reign of the Superman,” Science Fiction: The Advance Guard of Future Civilization #3, 1933.

[8] Les Daniels, Superman: The Complete History, 2004, p. 17.

[9] Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Action Comics #1, 1938.

[10] Grant Morrison, Super Gods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human, 2012.

[11] Gerard Jones, Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the American Comic Book, 2005, p. 63.

[12] Tom Andrae with Geoffrey Blum and Gary Coddington, “The Birth of Superman,” Nemo #2, 1983.

[13] Craig Yoe, Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman’s Co-creator Joe Shuster, 2009; Brad Ricca, Super Boys: The Amazing Adventures of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster—The Creators of Superman, 2013.

[14] Joe Simon, My Life in Comics, p. 188, 2011.

[15] Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Action Comics #1, 1938.

[16] Alex Ross for Alex Ross and Paul Dini, Superman: Peace on Earth, p. 7, 1938.

[17] Editor Whitney Ellsworth was the driving force behind this rule, as early as 1940, years before the Comics Code Authority.

[18] Art by Jerry Ordway, Who’s Who in the DC Universe #12, 1986.

[19] Tim Leong, “A Venn Diagram of Superhero Tropes,” Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe, 2013.

[20] Art by Jim Lee for X-Men #11, 1992.

[21] Dr. Donald Blake is more complicated than we can cover here,

[22] Wikipedia’s “List of notable superhero debuts” shows a tapering off of such names after the 1960s.

[23] Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, New X-Men #114, 2001; Joss Whedon and John Cassaday, Astonishing X-Men #1, 2004.

[24] Selected from Ben Moore’s 2012 “Batman Infographic: Every Significant Bat-Suit Ever,” found at Screen Rant, http://screenrant.com/batman-infographic-every-batsuit-benm-144238/.

[25] Brad Bird, The Incredibles, 2004.

[26] Image by Jim Lee for DC Comics.

[27] In Superman: The Movie and Superman Returns, natural disasters are the chief problem; in Superman III and IV, the main villains are destroyed but arguably not truly alive.

[28] Superman II.

[29] Alan Moore, Curt Swan and Kurt Schaffenberger, Action Comics #583, 1986. Source of the image below and the last “Silver Age” Superman story.

[30] Dan Jurgens, Superman #75, 1992. The famous, notorious “Death of Superman.”

[31] John Byrne, Superman #22, 1988; Jerry Ordway, Adventures of Superman #450, 1989; Roger Stern and Kerry Gammill, Superman #28, 1989; George Perez, Action Comics #649, 1989. John Byrne’s last Superman story, and a heavy influence on Man of Steel in terms of who Superman kills and why.

[32] Central premise of the video game Injustice: Gods Among Us, released in 2013, ongoing storyline in the Justice League/Justice League Unlimited animated series (2001-2006) and invoked in the climax of 1996’s Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross.

[33] Joe Kelly and Doug Mahnke, Action Comics #775, 2001. Adapted into a 2012 direct-to-DVD animated film, Superman vs. The Elite.

[34] Photo from http://savinginsalinas.blogspot.com/2011/09/yard-sale-finds.html. Superman has had many adaptations but this was true of virtually all of them until 2011.

[35] Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, Justice League #1, 2011 (image source), and George Perez, Superman #1, 2011. Lee’s career goes back to 1987.

[36] WonderCon 2013 panel, “WC13: Jim Lee Talks DC, Answers Fan Questions and More!,” Comic Book Resources, March 30, 2013, http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=44604.

[37] Grant Morrison and Rags Morales, Action Comics #2, 2011.

[38] Dareh Gregorian, “Bird? Plane? Superdude!,” The New York Post, July 18, 2011.

[39] Nite Owl wore them in both versions, but Ozymandias picked them up in the movie. Comics 1986-1987, film 2009.

[40] Reed Tucker, “‘Steel’ this movie,” The New York Post, November 25, 2012. Image from Man of Steel, 2013.

[41] In addition to the film itself, see Emma Dibdin, “‘Man of Steel’: Zack Snyder defends Superman’s ‘collateral damage,’” Digital Spy, August 30, 2013.  

[42] According to smallville.wikia.com. In some seasons it was as high as three.

[43] 1952-1958; 2001-2011.

[44] Graphic by Chris Ritter, “The Insane Destruction That the Final ‘Man Of Steel’ Battle Would Do To NYC, By The Numbers,” Buzzfeed, http://www.buzzfeed.com/jordanzakarin/man-of-steel-destruction-death-analysis, June 17, 2013.

[45] Box Office Mojo. http://boxofficemojo.com.

[46] Devin Faraci. “Find Out Superman’s Situation In BATMAN V SUPERMAN,” Badass Digest, December 15, 2014.

[47] 2013 speech at the BAFTA and BFI Screenwriters’ Lecture series.

[48] 2006’s Superman Returns was far less profitable and problematic in a different way.

[49] Johns, Lee, and Morrison have confirmed this is deliberate.

[50] Lesley Golberg, “Syfy, David Goyer Developing Superman Origin Story ‘Krypton,’” The Hollywood Reporter, December 8, 2014.

13 Comments on Guest commentary: Who Stole Superman’s Undies?, last added: 12/31/2014
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3. Look! Up in the sky! It’s…Super Roger!

bow tie Look! Up in the sky! Its...Super Roger!This week Roger talked with living-comics-legend Stan Lee about his new book Zodiac. That made us think of Roger as a superhero: his bow tie doubles as a boomerang! to chase down bad-guys! and retrieve books off high library shelves! It also made us think of Roger in tights and Spandex, which just made us giggle. [Ed. note: You laugh NOW…]

We ask: do you know any superhero librarians? Either librarians who could be existing superheroes (So. Many. Catwoman. Jokes.) or those who could helm their very own, all-new Marvel franchises. Admittedly, Bow-Tie Man isn’t the most scintillating. What are some other ideas?

I’ve always thought K. T. Horning must be able to fly, for example. And Julie Roach is always smiling. But I’m not saying she’s The Joker (though, like Heath Ledger, may he rest in peace, she is cute as a button).

You can also share your thoughts here, by letting us know how you library.

Also, is Stephen Savage’s Supertruck the cutest superhero around or what?

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The post Look! Up in the sky! It’s…Super Roger! appeared first on The Horn Book.

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4. Muddy Max - a graphic novel review

I have been busy lately with review and blogging obligations, as well as work and preparation for the holiday season, but I did take time out to read a copy of Elizabeth Rusch's graphic novel, Muddy Max: The Mystery of Marsh Creek. Thanks to the hard-working intern who brought it to my attention and supplied me with a copy.


Rusch, Elizabeth. 2014. Muddy Max: The Mystery of Marsh Creek. Kansas City, MO: Andrews McMeel.  Illustrated by Mike Lawrence.

Max lives in the aptly-named suburban town of Marsh Creek. In addition to the marsh on the outskirts of town, mud is everywhere in town as well, making it almost impossible for the child of neat-freak parents to stay clean!  Max becomes suspicious of his parents'secretive habits, frequent trips to the marsh, and fanatical obsession with his cleanliness.  When he accidentally discovers that mud gives him superpowers, he and his friend Patrick become determined to figure out exactly what is going on in Marsh Creek.

This is an easy-to-read graphic, sci-fi novel that should be popular with younger kids and reluctant readers. The panels are easy to follow, with simple, but expressive drawings in muted browns and grays that reflect the book's muddy locale. Hopefully, future installments will add some dimension to the Max's female friend. Not willing to completely divest herself of her nonfiction roots, Rusch adds some real science about mud and its denizens in the back matter.

I predict that more than one member of my book club will want to take this one home.  I'll have to place some holds on library copies.



A Teacher's Guide to Muddy Max is available here.


Elizabeth Rusch is also a talented author of nonfiction. Last year I reviewed her book, Volcano Rising.


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5. Sweet News in Diversity

Happy Halloween everyone! We’ve got something even better than treats today: great news in diversity!

Appltim cooke CEO Tim Cook recently came out in an editorial published by Bloomberg Businessweek, saying that he is “proud to be gay,” and making him the first openly gay leader of a major U.S. company. This was the first time Cook addressed his orientation publicly, saying, “I don’t consider myself an activist, but I realize how much I’ve benefited from the sacrifice of others,” Cook wrote. “So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.” With more states and people accepting gay marriage and supporting LGBTQ rights, Cook’s move is inspirational and will hopefully lead to more acceptance within the workplace.

Marvel announces next phase of superhero movies

From left: Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther), and Chris Evans (Captain America) at a Marvel event in Hollywood

Marvel just recently announced their next phase of superhero movies and we’re excited to see that it’s going to include a Black Panther movie! The Black Panther (T’Challa) was the first black superhero in American comics. We’re also looking forward to seeing Jason Momoa as Aquaman and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman! DC announced that Momoa would be playing Aquaman in the highly anticipated “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and the Wonder Woman movie will premier in 2017.

Have you heard more good news in diversity? Let us know in the comments!

 

 


Filed under: Diversity, Diversity, Race, and Representation, Lee & Low Likes, Musings & Ponderings Tagged: apple, apple ceo, aquaman, batman vs superman, black panther, dawn of justice, DC, gal gadot, jason momoa, marvel, superheroes, tim cook, wonder woman

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6. Book Spotlight: Guardians of the Galaxy by Abnett & Lanning: The Complete Collection Volume 1

guardians

With the fabric of the universe torn, all that stands between us and invading horrors is a team of cosmic misfits. Led by Star-Lord, the newly-minted Guardians of the Galaxy include a who’s who of the mightiest -and most bizarre – protectors the stars have ever seen! Rocket Raccoon, Drax the Destroyer, Groot, Gamora, Adam Warlock, Mantis, the all-new Quasar, Cosmo the telepathic space dog and more take on the universe’s most dangerous menaces…and have fun while doing it!

COLLECTING: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2008) 1-12

Series: Guardians of the Galaxy
Paperback: 296 pages
Publisher: Marvel (August 12, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0785190643
ISBN-13: 978-0785190646

PURCHASE HERE!


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7. review#409 – The Middle Sheep By Frances Watt

. The Middle Sheep (Ernie and Maud) By Frances Watt Judy Watson, illustrator Eerdmans Books for Young Readers 4 Star . Back Cover:  The Adventures of Extraordinary Ernie and Marvelous Maud continue . . . but what—or who—is making the usually cheerful and dependable Maud so grumpy? And why are she and Ernie arguing all …

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8. Captain Awesome No. 8: Captain Awesome vs. the Spooky, Scary House, by Stan Kirby, illustrated by George O'Connor, 117 pp, RL 1.5

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - CAPTAIN AWESOME TO THE RESCUE -->if(!window.igic__){window.igic__={};var d=document;var s=d.createElement("script");s.src="http://iangilman.com/interchange/js/widget.js";d.body.appendChild(s);} <!-- END INTERCHANGE --> Captain Awesome vs. the Spooky, Scary House is the eighth book in this super series that debuted early in 2012. With his cry of MI-TEE!, Captain

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9. The Big Bang Query

In March 2013, during the Q&A after an educators conference in Georgia, a huge fan of The Big Bang Theory suggested I send a copy of each book to the show. 


Though I don’t watch it (heresy!), I know it regularly references superheroes. I didnt see what the producers might do with my books...yet this audience member kept kindly suggesting (almost insisting), and eventually I was convinced.

What did I want from this? Well, this woman seemed to think the true stories in these books could inspire a storyline on the show. I felt that is probably unlikely, but I am a never-hurts-to-try guy. In any case, I
d be thrilled if either or both could be added to the set, even if for just a scene. I believe they are the kinds of books the characters would own...


On Facebook, I asked if anyone in my network has a connection to anyone connected to the show, and within minutes, I heard from a friend who is friends with Kaley Cuoco’s makeup artist. She happened to be supremely nice, and offered to pass along my books, so I sent them to her. Every time I followed up, she was equally nice and complimentary.

As of now, nothing has come of it. But you can’t predict a big bang…

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10. John Ferguson on Saltire: “He’s Big, He’s Blue, and He’s Ginger” [Interview]

Scotland has been missing some good superheroes recently, and especially giant hulking shirtless ginger ones. Luckily that’s all changed thanks to Saltire, a new character created by writer John Ferguson, who’ll be the star of a series of graphic novels over the next few years. A proud Scot, Saltire is a centuries-spanning hero who starts in Roman times and fights for Scottish pride from then onwards.

Drawn by Gary Welsh and Tone Julskjaer, the first graphic novel ‘Invasion’ is out now in the UK, and will be arriving in the US later this year. A best-selling title in Scotland, Saltire marks a creator-owned attempt to revitalise superheroes, and a follow up called Saltire: Annihilation is promised for the near future. I spoke to John recently about the series – and more specifically, about the character himself. Who is Saltire? Is the World ready for a Ginger superhero? Read on to find out!

Saltire Front Cover

Steve: What is the basic concept of Saltire? What is the book about?

John: Saltire is the immortal protector of Scotland and Invasion is the first in a graphic novel series set in a pseudo history of the country that takes the reader through some of the great legends and myths, and the most climatic moments of it’s past. He’s big, he’s blue and he’s ginger, with quite an iconic superhero visual.

The first book is set in ancient history and tells of the famous Roman Ninth Legion, who have had many books and films in the last few years, championing their heroism. This however, comes from the Scottish perspective of an invading Imperial force to a peaceful land. The book also includes the origin story of Saltire, “Inception”, which explains the background to his creation and his reason for being.

Steve: To that regard, the book starts in post-Roman times. How did you decide the timeframe for the series? Without spoiling anything, the character *is* immortal.

John: To be honest, the history of Scotland dictated the time frame. So many amazing events have happened in its past that we wanted Saltire to cover them all, so we had to make him immortal.

Steve: There’s been a slight misreporting of the character – you call him “the first Scottish hero” and so people have raced to the internet to write about pre-existing characters like Wolfsbane and Ghost Girl (no? just me on that one?) Yet what you’re actually saying is that the book goes back in time chronologically before any other Scottish hero existed – Saltire is the first superhero in Scottish recorded history. Is that about right? I just wanted to clear that up!

John: Actually there has never been a lead comic book superhero from Scotland or a series set in Scotland, only comic strips, or characters who are supplanted into America like Wolfsbane or Fantastic Four’s Caledonia. So Saltire is first in a few ways. We know comic book fans like a good debate and I’m sure it will carry on for a while yet.

Saltire Map

The World of Saltire

Steve: The book is full of Scottish mythology, both real and (I think!) invented. Scottish mythology is not a subject which has been explored in comics, particularly. Was that part of the appeal of writing the story: that you could delve into this dense mythology?

John: Actually none of the mythology is invented. It is all based in some sort of belief or legend from the Picts, Scots or Gaels, with just a little tweaking to fit it all together as a cohesive world. Telling the story of Scotland’s legends and folklore in a modern, dynamic way is a huge undertaking, but it’s hugely enjoyable and the first book has been selling out all over the country.

Steve: Were there any particular myths or folk stories that you knew you particularly wanted to touch upon? It would have been tempting, I imagine, to immediately throw in Nessie and The Stone of Destiny and all the most famous references, but you hold back here.

John: Absolutely. The tale of Scotland’s otherworld (the spirit world) and the folk tales of the Blue Stones are central to the Saltire series. The records of Scotland’s history were destroyed twice, so our own past quite often reads like mythology because it is fairly unknown. This is not the story of tartan, bagpipes and haggis.

Steve: So what defines Saltire as a character? What’s his personality, what’s his ambition – what is he looking to achieve?

John: In a word, Scottishness. He’s aggressive, protective, believes in liberty and freedom but he has his flaws and one major weakness, one that Scotland is famous for. His ambition and purpose is to see the people of Scotland live in freedom and peace. Saltire will hibernate for centuries in times of peace, meditating under the mountains, to be called upon through the ancient Stone of Destiny, when a threat to the nation is at hand.

Saltire Page 16

Steve: Am I right in thinking the design for the character was run as a competition, and that artists Gary Welsh and Tone Julskjaer won said competition? What was it about their art which appealed to your sense of the character?

John: The prestigious Duncan of Jordanstone Art College in Dundee produces many of Scotland’s finest artists and also champion’s comic books and animation, so running a competition through them seemed logical. Gary and Tone have a great mix of dynamics and artistry and they have really captured the feel of Scotland and its scenery. It is a very beautiful style and looks different to the traditional Marvel and DC superhero style.

Steve: Did you deliberately want to find emerging talent from Dundee University – which hosted the competition – to help design the concept of Saltire? To make him contemporary as well as rooted in Scottish history?

John: We want Saltire to become quite iconic and recognisable, particularly in Scotland but also into the rest of the English speaking world. We don’t want Saltire to be seen as an old fashioned sword and sandals comic. Our artists will always look to bring a contemporary feel to all the books.

Steve: How did you pick the name for the character – ‘Saltire’?

John: “Saltire” is the name of the national flag but its etymology is ambiguous so we like to think the flag was named after the character in our pseudo history.

Steve: What are your plans with the character following Saltire: Invasion? Will you be continuing on for more stories with him?

John: Yes, the next book Saltire Annihilation is our later this year and is a bit of an epic, set in the dark ages of Scotland and Saltire has to deal with the threat of the Anglo Saxons and the legendary Ban Sith. We have four or five books in development. The script of the third book is almost complete.

Saltire Page 19

Steve: How can people find copies of the book? Are there plans to make it available for a US audience?

John: The book is widely available in book shops and comic book shops in the UK, and is one of the bestselling graphic novels in Scotland. We are looking forward to getting Saltire Invasion released in the US later this year along with a digital version for those unable to pick up a hard copy.  Invasion and Annihilation may end up with consecutive releases for the international market. Currently the book is available online worldwide on Amazon and directly from Diamondsteel Comics.

Steve: Do you have anything else coming up? Where can we find you – and Saltire – online?

John: We’ll be releasing the first book in Scots and Gaelic language editions later in the year, which allows people in Scotland to read the book in all of the countries languages. A lot of people with Scottish ancestry, particularly in North America, are keen to read new material in these languages, so it’s creating a bit of a buzz.

You can find us on Twitter, on  Facebook, and at our website www.diamondsteelcomics.com

-

Many thanks to John for his time! And thanks also to Clare, for arranging the interview! Saltire Invasion is available in UK stores right now.

1 Comments on John Ferguson on Saltire: “He’s Big, He’s Blue, and He’s Ginger” [Interview], last added: 4/4/2014
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11. Granddaughter of Wonder Woman's creator - her first interview

After a talk I gave at a Virginia elementary school in 11/13, one of the teachers, Nancy Wykoff, introduced herself...as the granddaughter of William Moulton Marston, the creator of Wonder Woman.

Naturally I asked to interview her. Luckily she said yes. (Photos may be forthcoming.)

Your grandfather died in 1947 so I presume you never met him?

No, I never met my grandfather.

According to family who knew him, what kind of person was he?

My grandfather was a kind man. He was brilliant. Very bright. He not only created Wonder Woman, but he created the first lie detector. He loved his children and he loved women!

Any funny stories about him? In particular any funny Wonder Woman-related stories?

He died when my dad was 13 so most of the stories came from my grandmother. Stories say that he modeled Wonder Woman after Elizabeth Marston but my grandmother, Olive Richard, claims that Wonder Woman was designed after her. If you ever see a picture of the two ladies, you would see that indeed Wonder Woman was designed after my grandmother. 

Bill Marston had four children with two different women. All the children, three boys and one girl, have Marston as their last name. My grandmother Olive met Bill when she was 19. Bill came home to his wife, Elizabeth Marston, and asked if Olive could come live with them. Elizabeth agreed. Olive was the homemaker and Elizabeth was an attorney for Met Life.


After Bill died, the women raised the kids together and continued to live together until their death. The children were well educated, Andover Prep School and Harvard. My dad was an attorney and Byrne was a doctor. The two children from Elizabeth, Pete and Olive Ann, I am not as close to. Pete and O.A. are still living and live in Connecticut. I am very close to my Uncle Byrne. We see him and his family quite often. He lives in Florida. My dad [came] to Washington D.C. to attend law school, moved to Arlington, Virginia, and I am still here!

Do you know what inspired him to create Wonder Woman?

Bill Marston said that he wanted a superhero that females could identify with. The few that were around then were characters that boys idolized or wanted to be, so he wanted to have a woman superhero. As you can tell, Bill loved women! He certainly created a well-shaped female!

Do you know about any controversy he had to deal with surrounding Wonder Woman?

I don't know if there was any controversy...

Do you what his opinion of Wonder Woman was?

I think he wanted WW to be a female who was strong, self-sufficient, and could help solve the world's problems. She used her lasso to get people to tell the truth (hence the lie detector connection), flew around in her invisible plane, and helped fight crime. What is not to love about that? She came from Amazonia, a land of strong women, goddesses... Remember Bill loved women. Fantasy, strong women, shapely...Wonder Woman.

Is Wonder Woman mentioned on his gravestone? 

I am not sure. My dad spent many years of his life being angry at his father. Since there were two women living in his house, neighbors and peers often teased him about being a "bastard child" of Bill Marston. My dad was really confused and pissed off. I have never been to my grandfather’s grave. To be honest, I am not sure where he was buried. I think New York. That is where they were living when Bill died. I will have to find that out for you.

What is the oldest piece of Wonder Woman memorabilia you own?

We own a few of the first sketches for the first comic Wonder Woman. We have the original script for the first comic and we have the first comic book published. We even have the first lie detector! I know, it should be in the Smithsonian or someplace like that!

I understand that your family still owns Wonder Woman. Does that mean that DC Comics needs the family's approval for all Wonder Woman stories and products?

Yes, they need family approval before any decisions are made.

Have you been interviewed before about this?

Never!

Do you pay attention to the narrative changes DC has made to the character?

We wish they would go back to the kinder, gentler WW. I am not thrilled with the new look.

Who would you like to see play Wonder Woman in a movie? [NOTE: Question asked before Gal Godot was cast for the 2016 Superman/Batman movie...but no matter, she will not be the last actress to portray Wonder Woman.]

I liked Jessica Biel. They also had another choice, a woman from Mexico, I think. She was a good choice. I think he character needs to be young to attract the young girl audience. Too old and you lose that. I can't tell you how many kids at my school have WW stuff. The girls love her!

Were you ever Wonder Woman for Halloween?

Yes! So was my daughter!

What do the kids in the family think of the family's connection to Wonder Woman?

They think it is awesome! They so want a movie to be made. They think it isn't fair that Batman and Superman have had so many movies already. When they tell friends that their great grandfather created WW, most friends don't believe them!

On a side note, my great grandmother is Margaret Sanger. When the kids mention her, then there is total doubt! That is what used to happen to me when I was younger. My friends would say, “There is no way your dad's dad created WW and your great-grandmother started Planned Parenthood!” It is true! 

My son's middle name is Marston and my daughter's middle name is Sanger…so it continues... :)


A stage play about Marston.

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12. Molly Danger - comics in audiobook?

Recently, I reviewed an audiobook version of a comic book.  It sounded crazy to me, but it works!  Below is my review as it appeared in the April/May 2014, issue of AudioFile Magazine.

MOLLY DANGER

Jamal Igle

Read by Olivia DuFord, Robin Miles, Lance Roger Axt, and a Full Cast

Crunch! Kaboom! Pow! A superhero action comic in audiobook format? Yes! With sound effects including crashing cars, screaming citizens, beeping computers, and whirring helicopter rotors, AudioComics brings this new series to life with a full cast of narrators. Likable Molly Danger is a super strong, immortal 10-year-old alien who is never far from action. Orphaned when her parents' ship crashed to the earth, she was recruited by the Danger Action Response Team (D.A.R.T.) to fight the evil Supermechs, who threaten Earth. Quiet music accompanies Molly's sad and lonely backstory scenes, while techno pop and suspenseful music highlight battle and chase sequences. Multiple narrators and excellent special effects make it easy to follow this fast-moving audio comic. L.T. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

Children • 1 hr. • Audio Program • © 2013

Copyright © 2014 AudioFile MagazineReprinted with permission.





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13. Just Following Orders: Thoughts on Agents of SHIELD's First Season

Coulson: You're going to lose Loki: Why? Coulson: It's in your nature. Loki: Your heroes are scattered.  Your floating fortress falls from the sky.  Where is my disadvantage? Coulson: You lack conviction The Avengers, 2012 Sam Wilson: How do we know the good guys from the bad guys? Captain America: If they're shooting at you, they're bad. Captain America: The Winter Soldier, 2014 What a

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14. The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew, 158 pp, RL 5

The Shadow Hero is the new, totally awesome graphic novel from Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew. Besides being completely entertaining, humorous and suspenseful from start to finish, The Shadow Hero is smart. And The Shadow Hero is diverse in ways that, in less gifted hands, could be didactic and boring. In a time when internet voices - from authors to bloggers to educators to booksellers - are

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15. The Big Book of Superheroes by Bart King, illustrations by Greg Paprocki, 287 pp, RL: 3

Bart King is the undisputed master when it comes to writing fact-filled books for kids that are incredibly fun to read - and do. With The Big Book of Superheroes, illustrated by Greg Paprocki, King covers new territory, exploring the ins and outs of this semi-secret occupation. The Big Book of Superheroes is perfect for any kid with a great sense of imagination and drama, but it is also great

0 Comments on The Big Book of Superheroes by Bart King, illustrations by Greg Paprocki, 287 pp, RL: 3 as of 6/13/2014 7:51:00 AM
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16. SMASH : Trial by Fire written by Chris A. Bolton, art by Kyle Bolton, 143 pp, RL 3

SMASH: Trial by Fire, a graphic novel by Chris and Kyle Bolton reads like the handful of superhero middle grade novels that have been published over the last few years, which makes it perfect for an audience reading at a slightly lower level. Jack D Ferraiolo's Sidekicks is fast paced and suspenseful with a great plot twist as well as a poignant look at what it means to

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17. Send for a Superhero! by Michael Rose, illustrated by Katharine McEwen

Send for a Superhero! by Michael Rosen with illustration by  Katharine McEwen is the kind of super fun book that makes you stop and wonder why there aren't more picture books about, starring or including superheroes. Then, when you remember that there are quite a few books of this nature you remember that most of the are forgettable - short of Mini Grey's Traction Man Trilogy. Rosen

0 Comments on Send for a Superhero! by Michael Rose, illustrated by Katharine McEwen as of 6/15/2014 3:21:00 PM
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18. #605 – The Big Book of Superheroes by Bart King & Greg Paprocki

coverThe Big Book of Superheroes

written by Bart King

illustrated by Greg Paprocki

Gibbs Smith    4/01/2014

978-1-4236-3397-6

Age 8+      288 pages

.

“Supervillains started quaking in their boots when they heard Bart King was creating a foolproof handbook that would teach superheroes how to interview and hire sidekicks, customize secret lairs—oh, and how to perfect hand-to-hand and foot-to-butt combat techniques! So, if you have a burning desire to fight evildoers, and a bit of allowance money to purchase this book, grab your battle costume disguise and join the fight for good!”

Opening

“Welcome to the world of superheroes! I have good news. By reading these words, you just became an honorary superhero. Yay!”

So You Want to be a Superhero (aka About the Book)

It begins at the beginning:  you’ve made your decision to become a superhero, fighter of evil, doer of good. Now you need to learn how to act and look like a superhero, starting with your superpower. What will it be? King gives you the 15 most popular superpowers, though there are many, many more to choose from. Then you must act like a superhero. This section gives you situations and asks you to pick the superhero answer. Many answers are further impressed upon your mind through the use of black and white illustrations.

Ways to become a superhero, short of reading the entire The Big Book of Superheroes, includes becoming an orphan, taking your vitamins, and having a rotten childhood. Those are but a few of the ways to shortcut your way to becoming a superhero. Personally, I like “Be a Handsome, Genius Millionaire,” but being hit by cosmic rays works, too. Once you tell your parents you are a superhero, the real training begins.

crayon melt evil laugh

Know when to fight—and with which weapon—and know when to run, I mean retreat. What does a superhero say? The section called “Zingers and Battle Cries—Speaking Superhero!” will help you find a battle cry, a motto, and how to super trash talk. With super training complete, who will be your toughest foe? Rugrats! That’s right, little kids, some of whom may have their own version of a superpower. You can’t just hold these rugrats at arm’s length and laugh. No, you need to know how to control supertantrums.

You need a supername. One suggestion is to find a cool word and spell it backwards, such as El Carim (miracle) or Repus (super). Repus would be a good name for a feline superhero. Add a “p” and get the name Repups, the perfect name for Repus’s canine sidekick. Yep, animals can be superheroes. Your dog or cat might be on a super mission right now. You also need a costume. Maybe a cape would be good with a utility belt to hold your utilities. The Fantastic 4 have great costumes according to King. The Human Torch had flaming underwear, hopefully not as he wore them.

dog hero

Superheroes need to know the difference between right and wrong. They need ethics. Can you learn this? Check out the quiz to see where you stand. If you have a secret identity, keep it a secret along with any super powers you may have. Secrecy is very important to a superhero. On the wrong side are supervillains and ethically challenged people. It’s best to keep an eye out for some of the worst. Those would be the jokers, mad scientists, and high school students (the most abundant).

Review

If you want to be a superhero, start with The Big Book of Superheroes. This book is more like a handbook for good rather than a literary book anyone can find in a bookstore (but you can). This book is the superhero’s bible. Everything you would ever need to know to become a superhero is in The Big Book of Superheroes. I like The Big Book of Superheroes. I had never thought of becoming a superhero, but after reading this book/handbook, it is hard not to want to join up forces with the likes of Batman, Superman, and Super Tot. There is a lot of common sense within the pages of The Big Book of Superheroes, such as,

“The more you know, the less you don’t.”

Who can argue with that? One of the best sections is the “Superpower Activity.” These boxed areas contain activities kids can immediately do, including a list of everything they will need. Kids can add to their super costume by making super goggles, utility belts, and power bands. There is even a sneaky way for superheroes to calm a rugrat using a balloon and one command. Kids will have loads of fun with these silly activities. The pop quizzes are not as abundant as the activities, but they are just as much fun for the superhero know-it-all . . . or do they? All answers are included.

superhero kid and parent

The black and white cartoonish illustrations show kids acting out some portion of the text. They are just what I would expect to see in a book about superheroes. The illustrations help break up the text, add humor, and sometimes help clarify the text. King writes The Big Book of Superheroes using text, lists, asides, blue boxes of comic facts, activities, pop quizzes, and comic illustrations, which all keep the book hopping and kids interested. King’s lists, found in every chapter, include things such as,

The 10 Most Underrated Superpowers,

The 10 Lamest Superpowers,

The Top 6 Tips for Parents of a Superhero.

 

He adds hunks of factual material, such as Superman’s original slogan, and fun comic book facts to teach kids. With Superman’s slogan, King tries to teach kids to come up with their own slogan, motto, or catch phrase. If kids love comics, superheroes, or villains they will love these easy to find snippets by King. These sections are in blue text, making them stand out from the page.

The Big Book of Superheroes, nicely bound in hardcover with bright white pages, is a substantial book filled with enough superhero information to keep a middle grader’s nose between the pages for quite some time. It is the perfect book for kids who love superheroes. Boys may seem the logical choice for The Big Book of Superheroes but girls will like this too. King includes many tidbits and facts about different comic book heroes that I found fascinating. In regards to becoming a superhero by using this book, King wrote,

“Sure, you could read this entire book. But who has that kind of time?”

The same can be said of the book as a whole. No time to read the entire book, pick out the section you want and return later for the others. Readers will not lose any continuity or meaning by skipping around. If more interested in the supervillain, jump towards the back. Interested in superpowers, head toward the middle. Back and forth can become practical. The one thing that bothered me throughout the book is King’s continued insistence on placing the word “super” before other words, making a new word. Some of King’s new “words” include superbreathe, superspeed, superhealing, superhearing, superintelligence, and supergoggles. These words are not supersmart.

superanimal heroes

Kids and adults who like supervillains, DC comics, and superheroes like Batman, the Fantastic 4, and one of my favorites, Wonder Dog, will enjoy The Big Book of Superheroes. It will keep readers entertained for hours. Reluctant readers will find The Big Book of Superheroes a great choice for summer reading. The Big Book of Superheroes can help readers become the hero they would like to become, while learning new facts about favorite superheroes or previously unknown superheroes. The appendix and bibliography are great places to continue learning about superheroes. The large book is entertaining on every page. Super-Kids will love The Big Book of Superheroes, the newest Big book by Bart King.

THE BIG BOOK OF SUPERHEROES. Text copyright © 2014 by Bart King. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Greg Paprocki. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Gibbs Smith, Layton, UT.

Purchase The Big Book of Superheroes at AmazonB&NiTunesBook DepositoryGibbs Smithyour local bookstore.

Read a hilarious review by Erik and Darth Vader, er sorry. An outstanding review by Darth Vader and ThisKid HERE.

Learn more about The Big Book of Superheroes HERE.

Meet the author, Bart King, at his website:   http://www.bartking.net/

Meet the illustrator, Greg Paprocki, at his website:  http://gregpaprocki.com/

Find more books at the Gibbs Smith website:   http://www.gibbs-smith.com/

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**Illustrations by Greg Paprocki, from The Big Book of Superheroes, reprinted with permission of Gibbs Smith.

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ALSO BY BART KING

Bart's King-Sized Book of Fun

Bart’s King-Sized Book of Fun

 Cute! A Guide to All Things Adorable

Cute! A Guide to All Things Adorable

The Big Book of Spy Stuff 

The Big Book of Spy Stuff

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ALSO BY GREG PAPROCKI

The Marvelous McCritterson's Road Trip to Grandmas

The Marvelous McCritterson’s Road Trip to Grandmas

JoJo's Big Tale

JoJo’s Big Tale

Curious George Animals Puzzle Book

Curious George Animals Puzzle Book

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big book superheroes


Filed under: 4stars, Books for Boys, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade Tagged: animal superheroes, Bart King, children's book reviews, gibbs smith, Greg Paprocki, learn how to become a superhero, sidde kicks, super trash talk, superheroes, supervillains, The Big Book of Superheroes

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19. Alvin Schwartz previously unpublished interview, 6/6/06; part 2 of 3

Part 1.

Let me go back to Bill [Finger]’s home for a minute. Did you ever go over there when he was working and see what his workspace looked like?

Oh, yeah, I’ve been in Bill’s place many times.

What was it like?

Ordinaire. Pretty plain. It wasn’t sloppy or anything. He kept his files meticulously. Enormous files.

Was that like a filing cabinet?

Yes, he had it all in—well, you’ve heard about his famous gimmick book?

Yes.

All that stuff was sort of pulled together. I’m trying to remember whether it was in book form or files or what. But in general, Bill was a neat man, personally. He was tidy. He was not very sloppy. He was always well dressed, clean.

Did he have a special place that he would work in his house?

Can’t tell you that. Most of the time, we were just talking and walking just back and forth if we took the typewriters.

Remingtons, right?

So he sets the typewriter anywhere, on a table or with a chair.

Was Bill Jewish?

Yes.

Was that important to him?

Um…I didn’t get the feeling that it was any more than it was so important to me at that time. [sic]

So it wasn’t a factor in his life really?

No, not that I know of.

Were you in touch with Bill for his whole life?

I was in touch with Bill up until he married this dingbat, this bimbo. He was always looking for a romance. He was always in love with somebody who wouldn’t look at him. He married Portia, he wasn’t happy with her, but Portia took care of him and she was the real man of the family. She ran things. I don’t know what the hell he would’ve done without her. She was a good woman. She was not that attractive. She was fat and she was bossy and she had to be.

Bill remarried someone?

He remarried later on. I discovered—I was by this time long gone from comics but I kept in touch with Bill. I was [unintelligible] big stuff in the market research world. I’ve left comics—I figured this is not a place to make a living. I was miserable working for Mort Weisinger. Comics were down very much at that time. I sort of jumped into something else, maybe even using my comics skills. [talks about his successful career in advertising]

At that time, you did not stay in touch with Bill?

As a matter of fact I did stay in touch with Bill. I visited. Now when I moved to Canada in 1968, I didn’t see Bill for some—I had seen Bill at his apartment and Jerry Robinson was always hanging around. And this bimbo that Bill had married was making passes at me. And I know she was making passes at Jerry. She was making passes at any man who walked into that place. Bill didn’t know it. What are you going to do, tell him? Now I have very uncomfortable feelings about what Jerry was doing there. Now by the way I want to say that Jerry’s artwork is something I’ve always admired. Jerry as a person I really don’t know so I don’t have too much to say. He was there quite frequently toward the last—when I left to go to Canada. Well, I’m still in Canada. I came back after eight years and the first person I wanted to see was Bill. I knew right away he probably couldn’t be married to that bimbo anymore so I called Portia. And Portia said “Didn’t you know that Bill has been dead for the last x number of years?” I think five years, she said. Now I knew Bill was having heart problems. I knew about the first attack. I knew about his chicken soup, which was his idea to cure—he couldn’t drink strong coffee. I didn’t drink at work but a lot of us did.

What did you say about chicken soup? I didn’t get that.

Bill regarded chicken soup as the best picker-upper. [He ate?] loads of it. He had to be careful with his heart. I was there at the time of the first heart attack, but I was not there—I missed his—I didn’t know about his death because we didn’t correspond.

Was the chicken soup just after his heart attack?

No, he’d always sort of gone into that. He wasn’t a drinker. He didn’t do it the way most of the other guys did.

You were actually with him when he had his first attack?

No, I was not. He told me about it in detail but I wasn’t there.

Was Bill living in Manhattan when he died?

Yes.

Do you know anything about his funeral? Did people go?

I don’t know anything about it because all I got was from Portia. I had a double shock. When I called Bill I found out he was dead.

Do you know where Bill is buried?

I have no idea. [None of those things?] was I involved in.

Do you have any photos of him?

No I don’t.

Do you know if anybody does?

Nope.

[then talks about how he lived in two worlds, literary and comic book, says the people in that essay he wrote where he and Bill were plotting a Plastic Man story were his friends, not Bill’s]

Was Bill jealous of that?

No, Bill wasn’t jealous of that. We didn’t discuss it much. He himself was always interested in literature, but he never got involved in that world and he wasn’t writing anything that would lead him into it. But I lived in these two different worlds. But Bill’s world was pretty much the comic book world. Bill and I tried to do some other things. We worked on The Mark Trail Show. I have an old script that Bill and I did. That was a radio show.

Do you have anything else of Bill’s as a memento?

All I have is that. It’s on the shelf looking at me.

If there was one thing that you would want conveyed in a book about Bill, what would it be?

I don’t think I can boil it down to that. That’s a journalistic—I would have many things to say in many different ways. I can’t answer that. How do you sum up somebody you cared about, have partial relationship with? Bill in a way was my connection with the comic book world although I didn’t get into comics through Bill. In fact, I met Bill because I had a friend who was in comics who lived in the same apartment house and we all were friends together. Got to know each other. It became a gathering place. And that was John Small who was an artist who worked for Fairy Tale Parade. He’s the one who actually got me into comics.

Was that in Greenwich Village?

That was in Greenwich Village.

Are there any anecdotes about Bill particularly that stick out in your mind fondly?

I think I’ve given them to you.

Anything that you haven’t said? A little moment in passing that defines him in another way?

Well, I remember the fact that when he did come out to visit when he was in this terrible condition, he had Freddie with him. Portia had to do something and he had to look after Freddie. And we went out on an expedition. We took our kids, and every once in a while we had to stop, tie Freddie’s shoelaces, and pull up his pants. And Freddie was about six or seven at this time. And Bill—it wasn’t that he wasn’t paying attention to him. He just wasn’t fatherly enough to think of these things, he didn’t know about being a father. And so Portia had taken over the entire role. It wasn’t that he didn’t care about him. He did.

Part 3.

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20. Alvin Schwartz previously unpublished interview, 6/6/06; part 3 of 3

Part 1.

Part 2.

Were you Bill [Finger]’s best friend?

Bill had a variety of best friends. I think Jerry was a good friend of his at that time. I wouldn’t say that I was his best friend. There were times when we were very close and times we didn’t see each other. I don’t know if Bill had any best friends except from time to time, I know toward the end Jerry Robinson was hanging around there. I know Jerry. He had no need for Bill. Jerry was a self-sufficient artist. He was good. And he’d have only one reason for hanging around and that would’ve been the bimbo that Bill was living with. This was very typical for Bill. Bill would be in love with somebody who wasn’t interested in him at all, who was using him. It wasn’t the first time. And Bill had no ability to understand or relate to women. In other words, he’d never sort of gotten into his manhood. I was embarrassed—she came on to everybody including me.

They were still married when he died?

Who?

Bill and this bimbo.

I do not know. See, I come back and I suddenly find he’s been dead for years. My natural inclination was, who would know really, Portia would know where Bill is. Of course she did.

Were you in touch with Portia and Freddie after Bill died?

No.

Why did Bill never learn to drive?

Good question. I don’t know. Nobody ever answered that question, or asked him. The point is, he never learned to drive. I could give you a psychological answer. [He could never?] take charge, of himself or…a driver’s license is an assertion of manhood, of independence. Bill married Portia as I understand it, as I saw it, to get away from his parents most of all. His parents used to exploit the hell out of him, take his checks, and that was it.

While he was still living at home?

Yes.

And then he moved out eventually though.

He left with Portia.

Was it common at the time for people to not have a driver’s license in New York?

It was pretty uncommon to go through life without a car or a driver’s license. Bill could never escape or go anywhere. He did move out to the suburbs for a while when he had that awful job cataloguing stuff for I think it was a municipal outfit that he was working for. It was a real drudge job.

He wasn’t working in comics at the same time?

He wasn’t working in comics then. He’d been pushed out.

So that was near the end?

He couldn’t deliver. This withholding of the work, being unable to deliver on time, the editors couldn’t wait. It wasn’t that they were mean. They tried to help him. At least Jack Schiff did and Jack understood his problems. But when you have deadlines to meet and major stuff to go out, you’ve got to get it out somehow. If you still can’t deliver you have to give it to somebody else.

Did anything make Bill excited? When he came up with a really good story?

Oh sure. We’d jump around in excitement. We both—all of us, the whole gang, all the comics writers were like that.

Did he feel that he was missing out on something, that his name was not on there and he couldn’t tell people that he was the writer?

Oh, I think he—I’m trying to think of when or where he specifically acted that way. It was just generally known that that was the case. They were doing that to everybody.

A writer at DC, because some of the editors were very decent, that was Whit Ellsworth, if any writer needed money or wanted to borrow, we could borrow enough to buy a house anytime and pay it back in small amounts from his subsequent scripts. And that was something that Whit Ellsworth initiated and that son of a bitch Mort Weisinger afterwards couldn’t stand the idea of the writers being treated so well. I guess you’ve heard enough about Mort Weisinger.

[thanked him, said my goal is make Bill come alive]

He’s a hard one to characterize in a way. There aren’t many Bill Fingers. He had an unusual talent. He was very sharp and focused on one thing. And he could work on any kind of gimmick related story as we worked on Mark Trail, on other things.

Do you remember his reaction to becoming so popular and seeing the Batman movie serials or Batman merchandise?

I don’t know if I was there anymore by that time. I left in 19…let’s see, when did I leave for Canada? I walked out…I invented Bizarro. That was the last thing I did. I walked out in 1957.

What about Bizarro? Do you get royalties for Bizarro?

No.

‘Cause he’s everywhere.

I know he’s everywhere. I went through the idea of a lawsuit at first and then decided after some thought that in a certain way DC had really done well by me as far as I was concerned, considering the times and so on. And after all, yes, the Bizarro was everywhere, but going through court—I did have a lawyer, and I did get a response, and we were about to—I would’ve joined a whole host of other guys who were lined up trying to collect from DC.

Was that in the ‘60s?

It wasn’t so long ago, as a matter of fact. I was living here. I received letters from Levitz telling me, he sent me a copy of the Bizarro doll that they made with a note saying “The son wants to sit on the shelf of his father,” as much as acknowledging completely that I was the creator. They do acknowledge it now. But I told Paul I don’t want to get in line with all these other guys. I’m very happy with what I’m doing. I had some good times doing…I think in many ways, considering that I was able to buy a house, that I could always borrow money, that I didn’t do so badly and that was the nature of the business in those days. Nobody was trying to rob me, except maybe Mort Weisinger. So on the whole I decided I’m not going to make an issue of it. There were ways in which there could be some question about it because it was a spinoff of Superman and I know enough about law to realize that the question of trademark could easily come into it. It wasn’t wholly my invention, in other words. It was a takeoff on Superman. So I decided I’m not going to get into this, I have no time to waste for that.

Are you in touch with anybody who’s at DC now, besides Paul Levitz?

As a matter of fact I’ve been to San Diego. I’ve been invited to San Diego to receive the Bill Finger prize. I just won it.

[congratulated him]

Arnold [Drake] and I are good friends. We talk to each other often. He’s my major contact right now. I talk to Levitz. I went back to comics a little while ago, a couple of years ago, I got a call from DC, they asked me to write the main piece in the Bizarro book, which I did. Two years ago I wrote a Bizarro story. It’s in the new Bizarro book, or the last one they put out.

[he gave me Arnold’s phone number, Arnold lost his wife, has every illness under the sun from bad heart to valves, should’ve been dead long ago, he’s 81 years ago, he carries on, he’s incredible, he’s quite heroic in my mind, not a great intellectual but strong personality; Alvin had to turn down San Diego, getting too old, I’m 89, hardening of the arteries, my wife has problems, it’s just too hard, but besides seeing old friends would prefer to stay home]

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21. Joe Kubert previously unpublished interview, 6/5/06

Joe Kubert was a legendary comic book artist most associated with Hawkman and Sgt. Rock. I interviewed Joe for Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman. He passed away in 2012. 

The interview is transcribed (and slightly edited) from a recording, as I did with all the interviews in this series (Jerry Robinson, Shelly Moldoff, Lew Sayre Schwartz, Alvin Schwartz, Joe Kubert, Arnold Drake, Carmine Infantino, Irwin Hasen).

What was your relationship with Bill Finger?

I don’t pretend to have been a deep friend or anything like that. I can tell you my acquaintanceship was one purely on a professional level and as a matter of fact was also colored by the fact that he was quite a bit older than I. I think I was, when I was first did these things, I think I was about 16 or so, where he was an adult and probably in his late twenties and there was a wide difference in our approaches and in our backgrounds as far as personalities were concerned. He was a nice guy. As you’ve already probably found out, Marc, he had many problems, one of which I brushed up against, which was his not being able to hold onto any of his money. He was always, always in debt. And I learned this to both his and my chagrin simply because he had borrowed money from me and that was after he had done work and the fact that he had even asked me, I was so impressed (laughs) to be able to help him out was a pleasure for me. But that led to a lot of problems.

When was that?

(pause) That was before the war. That was probably in the early ‘40s. Before the war, probably 1940. That was when I was doing Hawkman, things like that. I started out as a kid doing that kind of stuff and Bill was the writer. At that time the property was owned by, oh what was his name, by Gaines, by M.C. Gaines. It was called All-American Comics. Eventually All-American Comics sold out to DC and all those properties became DC’s, which included the Flash and Hawkman and a lot of others of that type of character. During the time that it was owned by Arnold, by Gaines rather, was the time that I was doing the illustrating and Bill had done some of the stories. Now the situation was of course that no writer was assigned specifically to any one of the characters. Whenever they had time they were called in by the editor or they came in looking for work and the editor gave them whatever the next job was, whatever the next deadline that was coming up that had been written and drawn. And that’s the way it worked for most of us, to both writers and artists. It was during that time that Bill did some of the Hawkman stories. I had met him, I had known him, he was a nice guy. But again, as I said, there was no really any kind of deep personal relationship at all.

He borrowed money that he couldn’t repay?

What happened was, I had gotten a check. And the money [came] hard to all of us, but I was a kid and I had no need of money simply because the way I grew up, all the money that I made, all the money that I earned, immediately went into the family pot, which was fine, which was the way it was supposed to be. And so the money held little significance for me except for the fact that if I needed it, I had it, but mostly it was used for the family purposes. I had received a check and apparently Bill knew that I got the check that day or he was in the office at the same time, and he said, “You know, Joe, I could use some dough, I need some money.” I said “Sure, how much do you need?” I think it was $2-300 he needed at the time. This was a lot of money at that time. I said sure. As a matter of fact, I think he asked me for $200 and I asked him if it was enough. And he said, “Well, if you can squeeze out another fifty…” I said sure. “And I’ll pay you back next week.” [something unintelligible, with a chuckle] …standard line. He held off paying me until I finally got out of the army ten years ago [think he meant “later”] and had a, I put people on, I got so angry at this, ‘cause I had contacted him a couple of times, it was hard to track him down. But eventually I got an agency, a collection agency, to go after him, and I think eventually, I did get—but I don’t really recall. [It was a mostly?] sad relationship with Mr. Finger.

Did you talk to him after that?

The only time that I had really seen Bill was when we happened to come together when we went up to the company to pick up a job or something like that. So I didn’t really have an opportunity to get to know him too well. I had heard all kinds of stories about him and it was only after I lent him the money that people said to me, the older guys would say to me “You did WHAT? You lent him WHAT?” He had had that kind of reputation and I knew nothing about that.

Money aside, what sense of his personality did you get or what stories have you heard about his personality?

He was a very pleasant guy. He was a very bright guy. I understand that, I don’t know if you’re, I understand why you’re asking these questions for the purpose of the book that you’re doing, but I’m afraid that all the information that I had about him and the small experience that I had with him were not really upbeat or really good ones. He was a good, he was a nice guy as far as I knew. But I didn’t know him that well. The stories that I heard about him, afterwards, was you never lend him any money. He had some problems—I think he was divorced from his wife, he had problems, I understood, I learned later, he had problems with his wife, ex-wife and kids, all that kind of stuff.

Do you think that his work is a fitting legacy for him, or do you his personal problems tarnished that too much?

I don’t think that his personal problems tarnished the work that he was doing at all. Everybody that I’ve spoken to, everybody that knew him, including myself, admired the kind of work he did. It was a pleasure to illustrate his stories. His stories, the way he wrote his stories, the material that he wrote only enhanced the ability of anybody who was illustrating it. This medium that we work in, the comic book medium that is, is one where unless the writer has a mind for graphics, some idea of what the picture should like towards which he’s writing his script, very often the story can be very slow-paced, very boring. But Bill was capable of writing the kind of story that was intelligent. He tried to figure out little gimmicks, little ideas. I recall one sequence in a Batman story where Batman was in a hole that was dug out for him, almost like a grave-like kind of thing, and there was a huge stone that was placed over the area that was dug out and he was underneath. He could not move that stone. It was so heavy. But what he did was, he had, I think he had some pencils or some round objects, perhaps, like bullets or something like that, and wedged them underneath the stone in order to make it roll. So that instead of actually trying to do it with brute strength, he used his head a little bit. It was gimmicks like that that Bill was really terrific in working out and made it a little bit more unusual, a little bit more interesting, a little bit more interesting in terms of the graphics as well.

Do you think that he knew that he was good? Did he get any positive feedback from anybody?

I don’t think so. I think that his personal problems really got in the way of the kind of relationship that he would’ve had with his editors. I think that he always felt, how shall I say, perhaps a little bit obliged, perhaps a little bit owing, perhaps a little bit too willing to take a little bit of abuse from these guys simply because the jobs and the money that he got from it was so important to him. They really took advantage of him to that degree.

What did he look like? There are so few photos of him out there.

He was not a tall guy. He was not a big guy. I would say in retrospect I think he was probably around, I would say about 5’7” or 5’8”. But he was well-built, he wasn’t, he didn’t go to fat or anything like that. I understood he played a lot of tennis and he was into a lot of sports. Kind of sandy-haired. Not tan but nice complexion, a ruddy complexion, and very pleasant to talk to, very pleasant.

Was he handsome?

I would not call him handsome, but he was a pleasant-looking guy. His features were clean cut. I don’t remember offhand, he didn’t wear glasses as I remember, but I do remember his features were rather even and well-balanced. In other words, his nose was not too big, his face…he’s the kind of a guy that if you looked at him and caught a glimpse of him, you would say “This looks like a pleasant guy.” But there was nothing remarkable about him to cause you to remember really what he looked like. His hair was kind of sandy, not full—combed and cut in the style of the day of that time, which meant that it was kind of short and well kept. He was a clean-looking guy.

Do you know anybody who might have a photo of him or even a drawing?

Gee, I don’t know. I haven’t been able to find any…

[a passage I didn’t transcribe when I explain why I need images and he suddenly remembers one person who might have some but can’t remember the name, only that he did more art than Bob Kane…it was Jerry Robinson, “he saves a heck of a lot”]

In the late ‘30s, early ‘40s, was it the tradition that people would still dress up for work, wear ties?

Not formally, but certainly not the way we’re dressing today. He would usually wear…everything except the tie. Yes, he would wear a jacket very often, but it would be like a sport jacket, not a suit jacket, really.

[I said I got impression guys would put on a tie even when working from home and he said no]

Do you know anything about his relationship with Bob Kane?

No. As a matter of fact at that time I didn’t even know Bob—I met Bob Kane only shortly before he passed away.

Do any other stories that you’ve heard about Bill come to mind that you haven’t talked about yet?

Only that which I’ve told you and I would hesitate to repeat too many of the stories that I might’ve heard fleetingly. Again the guy I think that would probably know much more about things would be Jerry.

[I thanked him]

My pleasure. Not at all. Anything that I can help anybody who is making any sort of an effort to do anything along the lines that comic books or to enhance what we’re doing, I’m for it.

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22. Arnold Drake previously unpublished interview, 6/8/06

Arnold Drake was a writer who co-created DC Comics characters Deadman and the Doom Patrol; both will star in a movie or TV show before long. He was also a compatriot of Bill Finger, so I interviewed Arnold for Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman. Arnold passed away less than a year later; this may be the last interview he gave.

The interview is transcribed (and slightly edited) from a recording, as I did with all the interviews in this series (Jerry Robinson, Shelly Moldoff, Lew Sayre Schwartz, Alvin Schwartz, Joe Kubert, Arnold Drake, Carmine Infantino, Irwin Hasen).

What was Bill Finger’s personality like?

He was a complicated guy. (pause) You know a good deal about his talent, obviously.

Yes. There’s a lot about his Batman work but I haven’t yet found much on his texture as a man, as a person.

I never got very close to him because frankly I was kind of wary of being too close to him. The man was deeply troubled and a decent enough guy but a guy who with all of his talent really didn’t believe in himself. I stayed away because he reminded me too much of things within myself and I didn’t want to get too close to that. I tried to be friendly but I never became a friend as such. His marriage was not a good one. I don’t think his relationship with [his son] Freddie was great but I’m not even sure about that.

When you say he was troubled, in what sense?

Depression, I guess. I think he was a lifelong depressive. I think it had something to do with what in those days we used to treat as a kind of joke, which was his inability to meet a deadline. And the reason for that I think was that he was a perfectionist, which is the other side of the coin of not believing in yourself, kind of. If you’re enough of a perfectionist, you’re going to throw doubt into yourself, you have to, because we don’t any of us turn out perfect product. So you’re going to keep meeting with disappointment and no matter how happy the editor may be you walk away not feeling satisfied. And I think that that constantly happened to Bill. And I think that explains why he keep missing the dates that he had on his stuff, his deadlines, because I think he rewrote and rewrote.

Did you ever see him in a social setting?

Again, not really. He invited me into it several times and I kind of turned away from it and I’m awfully sorry now that I did. I knew some of the people he hung out with, I knew that part of town. He lived in the Village most of his life. [talks about how he knows the Village, how costs skyrocketed and upper middle class moved in and chased artists and writers out, who then moved to the East Village, and the upper middle class followed them almost instantly to the East Village and chased them out of there as well] If Bill were alive today, he would probably be living either under the Brooklyn Bridge or out in Hoboken ‘cause that’s where the artists and writers have gone, again to escape the Manhattan real estate prices.

Do you think he was proud of his Batman work?

I think he was but I think he took it for granted almost. I think he took great pride in almost anything he did. Could be wrong. He was very diligent in his fashion. Took copious notes. He had books full of notes on his characters on ideas that he had and titles that he had.

They were like notebooks?

Yeah.

Did you ever see his workspace or his apartment?

No.

Do you know if he ever read fan mail about Batman?

I don’t know that the editors shared it with him. I think that there was a pretty clear attempt to keep the writers and artists from being in contact with their fans, with their audience. The fans had to find ways of knowing who they were and where they were because DC was not interested in any kind of contact. They didn’t want the writers and the artists to know each other too well. That worked to their advantage. [talks about his attempt to start a writers/artists guild] Finger was involved with us in that. He was one of the organizers in that.

Was he good at that kind of thing, organizing?

Not particularly but he was somewhat enthusiastic about it. I would guess he was a political progressive, so the idea of building a guild made sense to him. A lot of the artists were socially politically conservative. So their attitude was “We’re not workers, we’re artists. Workers join guilds, not artists.” When I would point out to them that the Screen Writers Guild—of which I’ve been a member since something like 1964—had organized all the good screenwriters and that the first ones to join were the most successful ones, they just didn’t want to listen to that kind of junk. Years later, after I left DC there was an [unintelligible]. [talked a bit about how writers/artists have made gains in last 20 years but still need to do more because they’re not organized, can be taken away from them]

Do you know if Bill was discouraged from telling people that he was writing Batman?

I don’t know. When they would give you a rate increase they would ask you not to tell other writers and artists that you had gotten the increase, so I think probably they told him they would not like him to [leave?] that around. Of course they allowed Kane to take credit over and over. He signed his work, he signed other people’s work and called it his and became famous for being the father of Batman. But he was no more the father of Batman than Finger was.

Do you think they should share credit?

Oh, absolutely.

Do you think Finger deserves more than Kane?

I think Finger probably does, but nevertheless I think that they should share the credit. Finger’s been established within the field. I think people know what Kane was, which was pretty phony.

Did you know him too?

I knew Bob very well.

Did you talk with him about Bill about Bill had died?

Yes. It was only after Bill died that Kane was willing to talk about how important Bill was to the Batman legend.

But never so far that he would change his contract to include Bill’s name?

No. He did make public statements. He would stand in front of a crowd of people and say Bill Finger was a major contributor, but he would not say Bill Finger was one of the creators. He just said he made an enormous contribution.

Can you think of any anecdotes about him as a person that might be interesting to younger people?

His background, like many of us from that same generation, a lot of it was in early science fiction. I’m sure he was an avid reader of Jules Verne and A. Conan Doyle and H.G. Wells and the Americans who started coming in in the 1920s in the science fiction pulps. I think he was a big science fiction pulp reader. I don’t know that he wrote any of that stuff. I got in on the tail end of it.

Were you in touch with Bill shortly before his death?

No, I’d been out of DC for a while at that time, so I was not in touch with him at that point. What did he die of?

I believe it was a heart attack. Do you remember hearing about it at the time?

I didn’t know until a little while later. It seems to me I was at his funeral, if I recall correctly. There were like three funerals within a few years of each other. Finger, and Miller, one of the editors—freelance writer who became an editor, and who was the other…

Do you know where Bill was buried?

I think he’s got a military grave but I’m not sure because I’m not sure that he served. I don’t know if Bill served or not. Do you know?

I haven’t seen that he did.

Seems to me he did not.

So you don’t know where his—

No, I don’t know where he’s buried.

Do you know anybody who would know that?

I don’t know anybody who might. Well, there’s one possibility and that’s [onetime writer/editor] George Kashdan [NOTE: neither of us knew at the time, but Kashdan had died on 6/3/06—five days earlier]. But George is in a recovery house kind of place out in California. [Arnold did lot of work for George] Bill died…Freddie came around and tried to get some money out of the company, which is disturbing to realize that they had given Finger so little and that his kid was coming around begging. I think he may have gotten a few bucks. But on his way out, he stopped to chat with me briefly, and he mentioned that he had sold some of his father’s comic book collection. And I said who did you sell it to? So he said, well, you know there are quite a few people who are beginning to collect those things. Now that was new. What year did you say Bill died?

‘74.

This was probably ‘75. In ‘75, that was fairly new. Thirty years ago there weren’t too many people who were beginning to…I’m sure there were a number of people who collected it but did not think of it as being a very active area, marketplace, what have you. But when Freddie told me that, this was when I began to save comics. Up to that point, I’d been giving them to my kid who learned to read from them, and then when she was done with them, I would chuck them. But when Freddie said, no it’s beginning to be a marketplace, I started to save my stuff. I got about 800 books now.

So you don’t have the originals of your first Deadman or Doom Patrol stories?

Yes, I do. I don’t have the manuscripts. I have the original magazines.

Did Freddie look like Bill?

No he didn’t. Freddie was heavier. Bill was always pretty skinny. I don’t know that Bill ate too well. Maybe Freddie ate a little too much. Freddie died young.

I read that he died of AIDS. Do you know if that’s true?

I think that’s probably true.

Was he gay?

Yeah.

Do you know if Bill had siblings?

I haven’t heard of any.

I suppose you don’t know anything about Bill’s parents?

No. I assume that Bill was Jewish.

But it wasn’t a factor that manifested itself?

I don’t think he had any real religion, no. It was a period of being irreligious. First World War, the Depression, all of that that came with it made that generation ask a lot of questions. One of the questions was, why is God letting something like this happen unless maybe there is no God? So I think Bill went through that. It was the intellectual position.

What year were you born?

1924.

You’re a bit younger than him.

I think he was born in ‘14. [yes]

Are you still in touch with any of the guys from your era in the comics industry?

I’m in touch with Alvin [Schwartz], I’m in touch with George Kashdan, as I said. I’m in touch with Carmine Infantino. We have dinner every couple of weeks.

What else do I know about Bill…when Bill was looking for an idea for Batman, one of the tricks that he used was to open up the Yellow Pages in the phone book and just kind of ripple through it. Where his fingers stopped he’d say, “Piano tuner…I wonder if there’s a story in a piano tuner?” And another thing he would do is sit on a bus and drive through the city and look at the signs, the store signs. And all of these were springboards, ways of getting off the ground with something that might never occur to him otherwise. Every writer has his own tricks.

[I said shame those gimmick books gone, Arnold said Freddie might’ve sold them, was pretty desperate, I said they’d be valuable today]

Are you feeling okay?

I’ve had a little trouble with my balance. As you get older, it doesn’t get better. I don’t do a hell of a lot of walking, which is unfortunate because it used to be one of my favorite activities. Now three or four blocks is probably it for me.

[Arnold lived in Manhattan since got married 1951]

Anybody who wrote in that period as I did, they’re not wealthy. They made so much money off of us.

[Arnold relayed how he had just drawn up contract with DC about Deadman and his other characters in case they make movies/shows; he approached them, not the other way around; said his name doesn’t now appear on his creations but it will soon; if you fight for it they’ll do it; took them four months to agree; almost more adamant about the “created by” than the money itself; most concerned about Deadman and Beast Boy, his hottest characters; would be very interested to know if my book comes to pass; he has been doing interviews with people like me for well over 35 years and has collected more than 20 of them and they might form spine of book of his own]

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23. Carmine Infantino previously unpublished interview, 6/9/06

Carmine Infantino was many things to DC Comics over many years. When I was growing up, his greatest significance to me was as the artist of the Flash. Now his greatest significance is that he was a Bill Finger advocate, even before it was trendy to be one. 

I interviewed Carmine for Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman and he was one of the few people to whom I personally delivered a copy. He passed away in 2013.

The interview is transcribed (and slightly edited) from a recording, as I did with all the interviews in this series (Jerry Robinson, Shelly Moldoff, Lew Sayre Schwartz, Alvin Schwartz, Joe Kubert, Arnold Drake, Carmine Infantino, Irwin Hasen). I just love Carmine’s rat-a-tat style of speaking and his candor. 

Thank you again, Carmine. I ought to call you one of the fathers of my research. I wouldn’t be wrong.

How well did you know Bill Finger?

I knew him quite well. He was a lovely man. I came into the company a lot later than the period we’re talking about. I don’t think he was even doing Batman at that point. He was doing other characters at DC.

Tell me what you thought of him as a person.

Wonderful. He was a brilliant writer. I think he created all those villains in Batman. He made Batman, no one else. Kane had nothing to do with it. Bill did it all.

Did he say that himself?

Bill was very upset. Bill had been promised compensation by what-the-hell’s-his-name, Kane. Kane, Kane’s father promised him all kinds of—he never got a nickel out of them, by the way. And also, when Kane settled his suit, he got a million dollars on Batman. And again, Bill got nothing out of that. He ended up doing whatever he could get out of DC. In the original stuff, Bill created all those wonderful villains. He was sensational. He had nothing for it.

Where do you think he was inspired to come up with the things that became signature Bill Finger stuff?

He and Jerry Robinson, there’s an argument about who created the Joker. Bill showed me a drawing—Bill used to go to Steeplechase out in Coney Island, Brooklyn. On there was a character that looked like a joker’s head. Bill went out there one time and Bill showed it to me. He made a copy of that head. And then he said [unintelligible] the villain the Joker. That, the Penguin, the Two-Face, he did them all. Now Jerry Robinson claims the Joker he created, Bill didn’t create that. Who can prove what? I don’t know. Bob claims he saw Conrad Veidt, and that made him create the Joker. So everybody’s created the Joker, but I tend to believe Bill, because [if ?] keep creating characters, and Bill kept creating all those villains, the Penguin, Two-Face, on and on and on. Maybe I’m crazy. Bill died broke.

What did he think of when Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were fighting for their—

He didn’t talk much about that. He may have talked to some other people, but never did it to me. The only thing he was angry about, he talked to me a lot, was Batman. Very angry. He never got nothing out of it. And he was the heart and soul of Batman. He took the character on, he created the kid, Robin, all these characters.

And he was telling you when you in a position of power at DC?

No, no, no. No, no. I was a freelancer. I used to come up there once in a while. There was a room called the writers’ room where all the writers sat and did their work. And we’d hang out there. And they would talk. And of course Billy was very upset. [NOTE: first time I heard anyone call him Billy]

When you guys would sit around in the writers’ room, how did Bill fit in? Was he one of the guys? Did he joke around?

Oh yeah, terrific guy. He sat there, kidded around a lot. He had a problem making money. He had a wife who threw him in jail all the time ‘cause he couldn’t send out the what-do-you-call-it, the divorce money?

Alimony?

He would go into Jack Schiff and say Jack, [unintelligible] he needed a check, always need a check, always running short. He said “My grandmother died,” and Jack said, “She died last week, you told me.” (laughs) He did that all the time. Always short of money.

Did you say jail before?

Yeah, his wife, when he didn’t pay his alimony, she threw him in jail. And they had to bail him out, and then he’d get out and she’d throw him back in again because he didn’t pay alimony. He wasn’t making no money, the poor guy. He had a very sad life. It was unfair what happened to him. Bob walked off with everything, with [$50,000?] a year, plus doing [?] work, and writing. He had the stuff drawn by somebody. He was paying them hardly nothing.

Did Bill have a sense of humor?

Yes. Oh, he was very funny, very funny. He did the Green Lantern, too, he created that too. He was so good. Billy was a very brilliant guy and the sad part of all this, he died broke. And he shouldn’t have.

Did people call him Billy or Bill?

We called him Billy. We were close. We kidded around. Billy had a son, too.

Did you know [Bill
’s son] Freddie?

I don’t know much about—I met him once. Arnold Drake knew him a lot better than I did, apparently. I’m sure Arnold’s story coincides with mine.

Did you go to Bill’s funeral?

No. I didn’t know about it at the time. Isn’t that awful?

Does anybody know where he’s buried?

No. I don’t know. Did Arnold know?

No.

Terrible.

Do you have any photos of Bill?

No.

Does anybody?

No. Not that I know of. He was small. He was not tall. He used to go to the gym, he used to work out a lot, I heard.

Did he used to wear a baseball cap a lot?

No. Maybe once in a while but I never saw him at the office with that. No, he liked to dress well. He’d go to Paul Stewart on Madison Avenue. He used to like button-down shirts.

Long sleeve shirts?

Long sleeve. Button-down. Oxford. Blue shirts, he’d buy. He always had new ideas for different strips. He worked for mostly Jack Schiff. I won’t knock Jack but I don’t think he did a great job on Batman. He couldn’t have because it went to hell. He used to imitate what Mort Weisinger did on Superman. [They] had a Supermite, he had a Bat-Mite. Remember all that junk?

What did Bill think of Bob?

He hated him. We all hated him, frankly.

[talks about how Bob Kane complained to Liebowitz about Carmine’s covers; Carmine on Bob: “He was a real sickie, this guy”]

William [NOTE: don’t know why Carmine switched from “Billy” to “William”—something else no one else called him!] is a genius. I tend to think he created the Joker, too. If the other guys created the Joker, why didn’t they create more villains? Am I right or not? Billy created not only that, but Penguin, Two-Face, he kept coming up with them one after the other. Bill got screwed, period and simple.

[Carmine said Bill’s son died too, Carmine asked if he was gay, even though I already explained why I was interviewing him he asked if I’m writing a thesis, he asked how Boys of Steel did, I said it hadn’t come out yet, tells how Jerry Siegel and his wife and kids used to go to Great Neck to Donenfeld’s, march up and down in front of house with sign “He robbed me,” Irwin used to invite kids in, feed them, and send them out, Carmine never met Jerry and Joe, tells me how Joe was mugged leaving the movie house, got beat up pretty badly]

What would you to be conveyed about Bill in this book?

I think Billy was a frickin’ genius. If it wasn’t for him, Batman would be nothing. Bob created a character, period. But Bill gave it soul. And then he created all those wonderful villains which really gave it its body. He was a genius.

[he talks about a group that used to get drinks, Bill didn’t go that often, mentioned the writers’ room]

This writers’ room, was it just—

—it was just a room, it was nothing special. But that’s where they hung out, they did their writing. A freelancers’ room.

Was it a room where they actually wrote or they just hung out?

They did some corrections there.

There were desks?

Yeah, there were desks. What they did sometimes, at the end, they’d give them changes, so they’d go back in there, and there’s typewriters there and they make some changes and bring them back in. The actual writing they did at home.

Rows of desks, nothing on the walls, just very plain?

No, it was very plain.

With windows?

No. I remember it was a side room.

[thanked him, complimented him, other wrap-up business, told him he gave me details no one else did, he asked like what, I said blue shirts, writers’ room]

He was meticulous about his clothes, by the way. Brooks Brothers, he was a freak for Brooks Brothers. He loved their suits. He’s used to always wear the tie and the shirt.

He wore a tie when we was working?

Yup, yup, yup, yup, yup. He always wore a tie.

Even when he was home?

I don’t know about home, but I know in the office.

Did everybody wear ties though?

No, no. One thing about Bill, I know he wore a shirt and tie most of the time. … He was too nice a man. The guy was a brilliant man. And he got shoved up, well…

Well, the best we can do is keep talking about him.

I know. I’m glad somebody’s writing about him. You ought to call it The Father of Batman. You wouldn’t be wrong.

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24. Irwin Hasen previously unpublished interview, 6/12/06

Irwin Hasen was a comic book artist who co-created Wildcat with Bill Finger. I interviewed Irwin for Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman

Of the eight Golden and Silver Age creators (Jerry Robinson, Shelly Moldoff, Lew Sayre Schwartz, Alvin Schwartz, Joe Kubert, Arnold Drake, Carmine Infantino, Irwin) whose previously unpublished interviews I'm posting, Irwin is the second oldest (after Alvin)—and last one living. 

The interview is transcribed (and slightly edited) from a recording.

What say you about Bill Finger?

Bill Finger was the greatest guy in the business at the time. A very sad character. He was always late. Always needed money.

What was your first impression of Bill?

A nice guy. We had a lot of common. We became friends. We became very close friends. And he was a very sweet guy.

What did you have in common?

Socially. We’d go out occasionally together. I met with his wife, Portia. We were like buddies.

What was he like when working? Was he making jokes?


A very civilized jokester. He was erudite and very, very smart. He wasn’t clever, but he was smart guy.

What is the difference between smart and clever?

He wasn’t a wiseguy. He was just a low-key, lovely guy. Very serious. And we made each other laugh.

Did he ever talk to you about working on Batman?

No, he never did. We worked on the Green Lantern stories, and of course Wildcat, which he and I both created, with Sheldon Mayer. [Irwin doesn’t read comics today, they can’t tell stories, idol is Alex Toth, and Irwin was Toth’s idol, Toth was 12 years younger than Hasen] I hope I’m not talking too much.

[I said of course not, backed up and told him I’m working on book on Bill Finger for young people]

Really? Good for you. Good for you.

[asked about texture of Bill’s life]

The texture of his life was very [vague?] and fleeting. He was never anchored. He was always in trouble financially.

Were you in touch with him until his death?

No.

Did you hear about his death?

I heard vaguely about his death.

But you didn’t go to his funeral?

No, I didn’t. I didn’t know where the hell it was. I don’t think he had one. He was a very underrated guy. … But Bill lived in obscurity.

So if there’s one thing you want conveyed in a book about him, what would that be?

I would say he was probably the most flamboyant creative artist in the stable of writers. He was short-lived and no one gave him that much credit except after he died. Of all of the writers, he was probably the most creative.

Do you have any photographs of him?

No. Isn’t that funny, I really don’t.

What did Bill look like?

A short man. Very good looking. He looked like a college professor.

Did he wear glasses?

I don’t think so, except probably when he worked.

He was well-dressed?

Always nattily dressed. He looked like an elegant professor.

Did you ever go golfing with him?

No, I never did. I never played golf. I played tennis all my life and he didn’t play tennis. … We drank … We weren’t drunks but we drank. We worked our tail off and when we delivered our work we bumped into each other, that’s all.

[I asked if he has any late night anecdotes about Bill]

No, I don’t. He was very secluded with his wife, Portia. I only saw them together, usually. Bill was a very elusive guy. He was only a couple inches taller than I was.

How tall is that?

I’m 5’2”. He was probably 5’4”.

What about Portia, what did she look like?

Very, very heavy. I don’t want to put her down but she was very heavy. Short. She was delightful. Delightful sense of humor. She and I hit it off beautifully. She and I became more friends than he and I.

Were you in touch with her later in life?

No.

Did you know [Bill’s son] Freddie?

No. … Bill was his own worst enemy. He just couldn’t keep up with deadlines and they didn’t want to pay him anymore.

Do you think that he regretted that he was never more assertive and asked for credit?

Possibly. I don’t know. When I did Wildcat, I insisted—that’s one thing I did nice in my youth—I insisted that his name would be next to mine.

[asked if he gets royalties for Wildcat, said no, Arnold Drake is going after getting credit, Irwin went to DC couple years ago cause Nodell got big sum for Green Lantern, approached Paul Levitz gingerly with articles that say he created Wildcat, DC said Wildcat is not a big thing with them, not busy with it, sort of patted Irwin on the head, said Arnold said they might make Deadman movie, he said “Arnold has dreams,” don’t want to risk that Wildcat becomes big, they send him Wildcat statues that are “disgusting”; after more shootbreezing, said Jerry Robinson most talented guy in the business]

Anything else about Bill?

I can’t tell you—he was an elusive character, that’s all I can say. If you can get something out of that, which could be interesting, by the way, it could be an interesting path. An elusive kind of a chap, elegant, he looked like a guy just out of Yale.

He looked handsome in those photos.

Oh yes.

But some people have said he wasn’t handsome.

He was a good looking. Don’t believe them. He had a lovely and refined looking little face (laughs)—little face, I like the way I talk about him. And he always smoked a pipe. And I loved to make him laugh.

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25. Lyn Simmons previously unpublished interview, 2006; part 1 of 3

Lyn was Bill Finger’s companion in the 1960s and his second wife from 1968 to 1971. She was unknown to the comics world before I discovered her.

I interviewed her for Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman and am now posting many of those previously unpublished interviews.

6/23/06

As you probably know, Bill Finger was a major factor in the creation of Batman and never received [official] credit.

That’s right, he was, and he never received enough credit for it. And I feel very badly about that. He was the one—he decided on having the Penguin, giving Batman a cape, and all sorts of different details that I may or may not remember. He was very instrumental in developing the whole image of Batman.

How old are you?

I’m 83. I was born in 1922. Bill was 10 years older than I. [Bill was born 1914]

Tell me what your memories are of Bill as a person and as a creative type.

As a person, he was very, very warm, very sincere, very hard-working, even though he problems meeting deadlines. We were very much in love most of the time. Toward the end it got a little bad. But for the most part he was my big, passionate love affair. We spent enormous amounts of time together. He had a good sense of humor. He was very interested in the theater, and ballet, and classical music. He gave an awful lot of thought to writing. He wouldn’t write any violent comic books.

Did he feel pressure that other people wanted him to write violent stuff?

Well, they would ask him to and he wouldn’t. He was asked to go out to Hollywood to write the Superman script and he didn’t do it. [NOTE: It turned out she was most likely thinking of the 1966 Filmation Superman series of animated shorts.] He liked New York and he didn’t want to leave there. And when we married he was out on Long Island with me but he just held on to the space he had and didn’t like to leave it. So going out to California was a great big step for him.

They asked him to write the script from scratch, or did they want him to edit somebody’s—

I think he would’ve had a partner. I don’t remember—you know, it’s 34 years, or 31 years, since he died. I don’t remember but I know he could’ve gone out and written Superman for the movies. And he just never took up that opportunity. He also worked very hard at getting the right words and the right image for Batman. He worried about it a lot and thought about it a lot. It was real important to him. Personally he was wonderful, I was in love with him, and he was a wonderful guy.

How did you meet?

We met at a friend’s house in the village. She was my friend. It was a couple—they were Bill’s friend and I was there with another friend and we went up to visit. He was there. And that’s how we met.

Do you know what year that was?

Oh God. I would’ve been about 35—that would’ve been 50 years [ago] almost.

When did you two start a relationship?

Right away. We started going out. He called me about two weeks after we met. He took me a foreign film, the first date. Something about the fifth lamb, I forget what it was.

This was in the fifties?

Oh yes.

So he was already divorced from Portia?

No he wasn’t. He didn’t get divorced for a few years.

The first time you lived together was in Great Neck, right?

No, we were together, I lived with him in the Village. We were living with each other on and off. We vacationed together often. We used to go to Cape Cod and up to the Hamptons.

Where did you live in the city?

When I met Bill I was on the island. I have three children.

So you have Eve and Steve…

…and Andy.

Where does he fall, oldest, youngest?

He’s my middle son.

When you lived with Bill in the city was that the 45 Grove Street address?

Oh god…

Or the neighborhood if you can’t remember the address.

No I don’t. He lived alone. I don’t remember that first apartment’s address.

But it was in the Village?

Yeah it was in the Village, it was always in the Village.

That might’ve been the 45 Grove Street. 


[said how I went around city and took photos of where he lived]

I think it’s awfully nice that you’re doing this. I’m so happy for Bill that you’re doing it.

Do you have any photos of Bill?

I think I had a couple. I’ll have to look through my books. We weren’t photo people so we just didn’t take many photos.

[she said she had just gotten back from New York and she’s tired so can we continue tomorrow, then: Could you tell me what you said about things you’d do for Bill?]

As I understand it, he was buried on Hart Island so he doesn’t have a gravestone. Do you know about that?

I was in California [when Bill died] and my son was having a very serious operation. He has no gravestone?

I’m almost positive.

Oh god.

The friend of his that told me about you whose name is Charles Sinclair—

Oh yeah! Where is Charles?

In Brooklyn. I could put you guys in touch.

Yeah, I’d like to be in touch with him again.

[she said let’s continue tomorrow, I said if the book does well I’d like to get Bill a proper gravestone and she agreed]

I’m so glad, I’m so glad you’re doing this. I came out here 35 years ago to take care of my son Andrew who had a very bad accident and injured his spinal cord and he’s in a wheelchair so I took care of him out here for 12 years. When Bill died, well that’s another story that might interest you, Charlie said I was psychic, but it was very strange thing that happened, but I’ll talk about that tomorrow.

Part 2.

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