Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Thank you again, Maryland State Arts Council

In times of strife, we turn to art. For the second time during the pandemic, my work has been supported by the Maryland State Arts Council. Thank you, MSAC!


Learn how the Maryland State Arts Council positively impacts Maryland and the arts in general.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

"10 Real Life Heroes Who Helped Bill Finger Get Credit" (Screen Rant)

On Screen Rant, Tim Davis has posted an unranked list of people who helped Batman co-creator Bill Finger receive official credit in 2015 (41 years after Bill died and 76 years after Batman debuted). 


The list:

11. (honorable mention) Bob Kane (with a nod to Thomas Andrae); mention is fine, honorable doesn't track
10. the one I live with (see below)
 7. Jerry Robinson/Carmine Infantino
 4. Travis Langley
 3. Alethia Mariotta

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Bob Dole Institute of Politics interview about "Thirty Minutes Over Oregon"

Audrey Coleman, the museum director of the Bob Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas, kindly interviewed me about Thirty Minutes Over Oregon: A Japanese Pilot's World War II Story (on Veterans Day, no less).



The institute promotes public service, civil discourse, and bipartisanship inspired by the legacy of Senator Bob Dole.

Audrey: "Both WWII history and your book's central question about courage, fighting, and unity are the foundation of our mission."

(Sorry for my Zoom face. If that is not
already a term, it should be.)


Thank you again, Audrey!

Saturday, October 31, 2020

First official credit for various DC Comics superheroes

Superman debuted in 1938. Batman in 1939. Wonder Woman in 1941. And starting with each of their first appearances, writer/artist creators were credited in-story. (But not always all the creators. Exhibit B. Exhibit WW.)

With respect to creator credit, what ended up being the DC trinity ended up being exceptions rather than rules. The majority of DC superhero characters who debuted in the Golden Age (1938-1956) and Silver Age (1956-1970) of Comic Books did not receive a “created by” credit from the get-go. 

Once you get into the Bronze Age (1970-1984), mileage began to vary. Some characters (Black Lightning, Booster Gold) were explicitly credited while others (Mister Miracle, Swamp Thing) weren’t. By “explicit,” I mean some variation of the words “created by” were used. The creators of Mister Miracle and Swamp Thing were credited as writers and artists, but not identified as creators. 

I’m referring in particular to characters who headlined their own title as opposed to characters who first appeared as part of a team (Power Girl, Katana) or as a supporting character (Vixen, Lobo). Those characters typically would not receive a creator credit till they got their own series or mini-series, and sometimes not even then (Red Tornado, Elongated Man).

Sometimes a creator credit appeared once, or for one mini-series, then not again for a while. There is also an inconsistency—though the logic is surely delineated in a contract unseen by the public—to when regularly credited characters get credited outside their own books. In some group titles or crossovers, the creators of certain characters are present and accounted for, but in other instances, creator names are as visible as Clark Kent when Superman is on the premises.

A handful of A-list characters still do not have creator credits:

  • Robin (Dick Grayson)
  • Flash (Barry Allen)
  • Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)
  • Green Arrow
  • Black Canary
  • Supergirl
  • Batgirl

Below is a roundup of first known creator credits for many of the rest of DC’s most popular characters. Farther below are comic book pages (and their corresponding covers) doing the honors of announcing the creators themselves.


Winner of the longest spell from creation to credit: Aquaman! (Actually, he’s the runner-up to Batman. Writer Bill Finger co-created Batman in 1939 and was not credited till 2015—76 years later. And when artist H.G. Peter, Elizabeth Holloway Marston, and Olive Byrne are finally credited for Wonder Woman, she will take the top spot.)

The credits in their natural habitat:


Dr. Fate debuted 1940, credited 1978


Aquaman debuted 1941, credited 2003


Martian Manhunter debuted 1955, credited 1988


Atom debuted 1961, Hawkman debuted 1964,
both credited 2010


(Atom’s inaugural credit appeared
in two titles the same month)


Zatanna debuted 1964, credited 1987


Metamorpho debuted 1965, credited 1986


Plastic Man debuted 1966 (DC), credited 1980


Deadman debuted 1967, credited 1989


Swamp Thing debuted 1971, credited 1982


Shazam debuted 1973 (DC), credited 2019


Firestorm debuted 1978, credited 1978


Nightwing debuted 1984, credited 2011

* The Dr. Fate creators are cheekily if obliquely referred to as “original archivists.”

** Only original Aquaman artist Paul Norris is credited. Original writer Mort Weisinger is not.

*** Oddly, in Martian Manhunter #4 (1988; the first series he headlined), the creator of his logo (Alex Ray) is credited, but not the creator of the character himself. 


**** The 1987 one-shot was the first comic Zatanna headlined. In 2014, in Black Canary and Zatanna: Bloodspell, the Zatanna credit was amended to add Murphy Anderson.


***** Plastic Man debuted in Police Comics #1 (1941), then got his own title in 1943, both published by Quality Comics; in Plastic Man #1, the sole credit is “By Jack Cole.” Later, DC acquired the character. DC first published him in 1966, but without credit, which is why I start the credit countdown clock at that year.

****** In 1989, Deadman was credited to Arnold Drake and Carmine Infantino. The next time the credit appeared, in Wednesday Comics in 2009, it included only Drake. (At least five Deadman series or one-shots came out between 1989 and 2009; none gave credit.)


******* Nightwing’s secret identity Dick Grayson (and original superhero identity Robin) debuted in 1940.

Thank you on infinite earths to the immeasurable John Wells and Bob Hughes for taking the time to help me compile this information. 

If any readers find any mistakes—or would like to suggest characters to add—please let me know in the comments.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Interview: Laura Wardle (stand-in for Sarah Jessica Parker/Dianne Wiest in “Footloose”)


What were you doing professionally prior to Footloose

I was working on an MFA in Acting at Brigham Young University. All of my experience prior to Footloose was in student films and in university and community stage productions.

How did you become involved with Footloose

I auditioned for Cate Praggastis, the local casting agent for the film. I did not get cast, but Ric Waite, the cinematographer, saw my audition and hired me as a stand-in for Sarah Jessica Parker and Dianne Wiest.

Is there one story about your Footloose time you tell more than any other? 

I was sitting in a booth at the Hi-Spot with Kevin and Sarah Jessica. It was a late-night shoot and everyone was getting a little silly and tired. Kevin and Sarah Jessica started carefully examining my nose. They both decided that I had a perfect nose and they wished they had my nose. I don’t see it personally, but it’s nice to remember that once upon a time two famous movie stars thought I had a nice nose.

Sarah Jessica Parker and Liz Gorcey

While working on it, did it seem like just another script to you, or did it feel like something special? 

I have always been a film buff so even before we started filming I was impressed by the crew that was assembled for Footloose. When I wasn’t needed on set, I would hang out with the camera crew (Ric Waite was already known for his great work with long lenses) or, if nobody was in the make-up trailer, I would ask Daniel Striepeke to tell me about his make-up work on Planet of the Apes and the Mission: Impossible television series. I was also very impressed with the work that Kevin Bacon had done in Diner so I was in awe of everybody and more than a little nervous around all of them.

cinematographer Ric Waite

What do you remember about your impression of Kevin Bacon? 

Kevin was always very professional but friendly and full of energy. I must have made an offhanded comment that Kevin looked good without a shirt. One day, Robbie Robinson, the film’s still photographer, had a shirtless Kevin Bacon come up and wrap his arms around me while Robbie took photos. I look like such a dork in the picture but it’s a great memory.


Chris Penn and Kevin Bacon

Chris Penn?

Chris was a sweetheart. He was so nervous about his dancing. He practiced constantly. I was very sad when he passed away at such a young age.

Lori Singer?

Lori did a kindness for me that I will never forget. The stand-ins were paid in cash in the morning for our previous day’s work. I was in college and the money was very important to me. The stand-ins shared a small dressing room in a honey wagon. It was never locked but we had to leave our personal belongings in there while we were on set. 

One day they paid us for three or four previous days, and someone went into my purse while I was on set and stole all my money. Rent was due—my husband Tom and I were both students paying our own way through school—and I just burst into tears when I discovered the theft. 

A little while later Lori came up to me with a wad of cash in her hand and said something like “I never spend all my per diem. I want you to have it.” I think I said “no” but she stuffed it in my hand and walked away. It was completely unexpected and such a kind gesture from a leading actress to a member of the crew.

Lori Singer (in sweatshirt given at end of production) 
and her stand-in Heather

John Lithgow?

He was very quiet, but he would often sit next to me at lunch or dinner and he always asked questions about my life. He was a true gentleman during the entire shoot.

Dianne Wiest? 

The job of a stand-in is to watch the actors rehearse so that you can reproduce their blocking for the cinematographer and camera crew after the actors are released. I loved watching Dianne rehearse. She is such an amazing actress. Observing her was a great learning opportunity for me. Dianne also loved her dog. He came to the set every day and stayed in her dressing room. 

Sarah Jessica Parker? 

I probably spent more time with Sarah than anyone else in the cast. She was funny and extremely intelligent. She also did something very kind for me. She knew that after graduation that I was headed to Los Angeles to pursue acting. She somehow convinced Herbert Ross to put me in a few scenes so that I could get my SAG card. Being a member of the union makes a big difference when you are starting out and trying to get an agent. She didn’t have to do that for me and I have always appreciated it.

Sarah Jessica Parker

What did you do after Footloose

I had a career of small and insignificant parts in film and television in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 1994 I had the opportunity to work for Jack Valenti at the Motion Picture Association of America where I served on the Ratings Board—the 12-person panel that applies the ratings to more than 600 films per year. [When] our family moved to the East Coast in 1998, I did not have any association with the film industry for many years. 

Since moving back to Utah a few years ago, I have started acting again. I do mostly voice over work for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but I have [also] appeared in several commercials and film projects. My favorite is a little spot called “Going to Grandma’s,” which I had the pleasure of doing with my daughter and granddaughter.


Where do you live? 

Midway, Utah.

If you have children, how many and ages? 

We have two children and five grandchildren.

When was the last time you saw a member of the cast, and was it on purpose or by chance?  

Sarah Jessica Parker and I kept in touch via letter for a year or so after the film shoot. The last time I saw her was in Los Angeles at the party for the premiere of Franco Zeffirelli’s Hamlet (Mel Gibson, Glenn Close; 1990). She was with Robert Downey Jr. at the time and we just exchanged a quick hello. Kim Jensen and I have remained friends and I see her several times a year.

When was the last time you watched Footloose? How did you think it held up? 

If I’m ever channel-surfing and I come across it I will stop and watch it for a bit. It’s always an odd feeling to be transported back to the summer of 1983 and have so many memories about filming each scene, but there is little to no evidence of me in the film.

Laura is in the lavender dress

Do you have any mementos from the experience such as set photos, a script, or anything from the set? 

I have a number of photos. I think I wore my cast and crew Footloose sweatshirt and socks until I wore them out. They are long since gone.

How do you look back on your Footloose experience? 

Footloose was a fabulous experience for me. I was initially very disappointed that I was not cast, but working every day as a stand-in for a major motion picture taught me more about acting for film than anything I learned in college.

Kevin Bacon and his stand-in Blair Treu

If the experience changed your life in any way, how? 

Not long after arriving in Los Angeles, Bob Stone (First Assistant Director for Footloose) cast me in a national Ford truck commercial that he was directing, which then led to a McDonald’s commercial for me. Without Footloose I would never have gotten either.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

New "Lieography" book series by Alan Katz...and how his author friends react

Alan Katz is one of the nicest authors who will ever show up at your door unannounced. But he caught some fellow authors at a bad time... 


Despite my behavior captured on video, I had a blast being a part of this. That's no lie.

Speaking of which, best of luck with the Lieography series, Alan!

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Tropes in "The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra"

At one point or another, most writers researching, exploring the possibilities of their craft, or simply procrastinating end up on a site about narrative tropes, such as TV Tropes.

I take it as a badge of honor that The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra now has an entry. (My bar for badges of honor is not necessarily rigorous.)



There are so many tropes in storytelling and I didn't consciously employ any of the ones named at that link—doubtful I could have even named any of the ones at that link—except for "Shout-Out." I love "Balloon Belly" and "Big Shadow, Little Creature."

I find it curious that "Dedication" is classified here as a trope. Does this site also consider other standard elements of books (table of contents, index, flap copy) tropes?

Monday, September 21, 2020

"Batman & Bill" aired in France

Vive la Finger!

The latest country I am aware of to show Batman & Bill is France, where apparently I am known as Marc Tyler. When I took French in high school, I went by Jean-Marc. Or maybe not. It's been quelque temps. 



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