Monday, December 22, 2008

Onward to 2009

This will most likely be my last post of the first year I have blogged.

Thank you to those who come here regularly. I appreciate the support you've given.
Professionally, 2008 was the year of Siegel and Shuster for me. I am determined to make 2009 the year of...

In the New Year, I will share more research discoveries, promotion gambles, and assorted other adventures in publishing.

The expedition is just beginning.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

School to store to fair to store

On Friday, December 12, I spoke to an energized auditorium of students at an elementary school in Alexandria, Virginia. I got up at 4:30 a.m. to get on the road and believe me, they kept me awake that afternoon.

The next day I signed copies of Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman (and ate two pieces of cake for "Superman's birthday") at Hooray for Books, also in Alexandria.

photo courtesy of Michael Rhode

Events in out-of-town bookstores are often opportunities to catch up with people I have not seen for a while, this one being no exception: attendees included a friend I met in a high school youth group and who grew up in Belgium but lives here now, a friend I worked with in college, the friend who got me my first job out of college, and the woman who was once the girl I took to my senior prom.

In this case, I also had the chance to catch up with a person I have never seen
—my second cousin (our grandfathers were brothers), who lived one town over from me growing up but whom I have never met. Family business can be funny business for sure.

Sunday I had back-to-back appearances back in Connecticut. First was at a school book fair, second at a Barnes & Noble.

From Superman to salesman.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Hometown advantage

On Friday, December 5, I was among distinguished company signing books at the 3rd annual Literary Lights book event, which happened to take place in my town. In its first two years, I attended as a customer. It was fun to also go as a participant (while remaining a customer). Then I grabbed a burger and beer with two of my fellow signers.

Photos are

Saturday, December 6, 2008

"Moved me to tears...a huge achievement"

Robby Reed at DIAL B for BLOG posted what must be the most detailed and complimentary—not to mention longest—review yet for Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman.

The message board responses that have started to come in are equally disarming. Here's my favorite so far, from Happy Sam:
...the Man of Steel first appeared 70 years ago...and what did DC produce in 2008 to celebrate it? (cue crickets...) Marc Tyler Nobleman's BOYS OF STEEL (ably illustrated by Ross MacDonald) IS the best tribute to Superman and his creators...this year, and in many years!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

"Word travels fast"

I just stumbled across this lovely and humbling comment at The Miss Rumphius Effect, the kind of little story an author would rarely hear before the blog era:
My boys love this book. It is always in someone's book bag. When I first got it, a couple of boys from downstairs came up to me and asked "Mr. Kimmal, can we read your new Superman book?" It had only been in the building for a day. Word travels fast.
Maybe faster than a...well, you know.

Monday, December 1, 2008

First day of filming

Today, to my own great surprise, we filmed the first interview. For what, I can't say yet. Here's a photo taken after:

Who she is, I can't say yet. By name, anyway. But she was Bill Finger's second wife.

(NOTE: I added her name as a label for this post not when it originally posted but later, after I had revealed it in another post.)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

"Rousing...enormously appealing"

The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer has finally acknowledged Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman. I was never given a guarantee that it would but I did assume that if only one newspaper in the world would take notice, it would be that one, the daily of the city where the story took place. It's a nice review.

Today I also learned that the book did not make the holiday round-up in People, though they did consider it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Three C's for "Steel"

On her School Library Journal blog, Betsy Bird called Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman "ultra-cool." (This on top of her kind official review from earlier this year.) Even though kids immediately recoil from anything adults call any kind of cool, I will gladly accept her compliment. (Besides, of course, kids are not reading her blog.)

Random House made flash cards to showcase recent picture book biographies, and Boys of Steel is included. I believe they send these to schools and maybe even bookstores.

Boys of Steel has been nominated for a Cybil. The Cybils are the "premier Web awards for children's literature," run by bloggers. In their third year, they are already established enough that publishers submit books for consideration. A lot of books in my category (nonfiction picture books) got nominations, which makes me struggle to think of a nonfiction picture book released this year that was not nominated...but it nonetheless is an honor to be nominated! If even a fraction of the number of books were nominated, it'd still be stiff competition, so I am eager to see what happens. (I don't yet know how the process works or precisely what it means.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Perhaps the nation

Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman was named to the Kirkus Reviews list of the Best Children's Books of 2008. It's on page 12 of this PDF. [5/18/11 update: This link is now inactive. I am waiting to hear if the list has been posted elsewhere since a quick search didn't reveal it.]

The write-up describes the book as celebrating "the birth of an American icon that reinvented the comic book and, perhaps, the nation itself."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Photos from a mini-book tour

Cartoon Art Museum, San Francisco, 10/26/08

Top billing: baked goods. Technically, unbaked goods.

Sequoia Middle School, Pleasant Hill, CA 10/28/08

Sequoia interior photos courtesy of Nancy Brenner

Bancroft Elementary, Walnut Creek, CA, 10/30/08—no baked goods!

books to sign

Mazza Museum of International Art from Picture Books, Findlay, OH,
"Funday Sunday" (event held every first Sunday of the month);
Superman theme, 11/2/08;
volunteers wore homemade Superman outfits, author did not

Kids (and adults) "signed in" on a window on a Metropolis cityscape drawing.

I did not drink this.

Superman and Lois Lane

Clark Kent and (another) Lois Lane

This actually gives me a better hairline.

Kids could design their own blue, red, and yellow cookies.

certain Mazza photos courtesy of Diana E. Hoffman

The Cleveland Public Library made a spiffy handbill for my two 11/6/08 talks there.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Flying Colors

When in San Francisco, I stopped by Flying Colors, a comics shop that I'd heard is particularly savvy about marketing. Everyone there was more than nice, and Joe, the owner, was easy to talk to. They have a blog, too, and since you know how much I like proof, here is proof I was there.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Siegel, Shuster, and Obama

On Thursday, November 6, something happened in a small room at the Cleveland Public Library, Glenville branch, that made me even more excited about politics than I already was last week. Except it wasn't really about politics at all.

Glenville is the neighborhood where Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster lived when they created Superman in 1934. At the time, it was predominantly Jewish. Today it is predominantly black and poor.

Earlier that day I had spoken at the main branch, downtown. The audience was mostly young black people. I was expecting the same in Glenville. Instead I was ushered into a room where about 35 or 40 members of the adult community leadership organization were finishing up a meeting. They, too, were almost all black. Some of them were holding Obama signs—two days after the election. The purpose of the signs had switched from tool of persuasion to badge of honor.

I gave my presentation, hoping they would feel pride for the seminal event that had occurred in their neighborhood. They did seem moved by the story, which some had not known before.

Then my friend Tracey Kirksey, head of the Glenville Development Corp. and almost certainly one of the ten kindest people in the world, asked if she could say something. I said of course.

She proceeded to emphasize how Jerry and Joe were underdogs who had a vision and worked hard to see it come to pass. In succeeding, they bucked the odds and made history. Then she unexpectedly compared them to Barack Obama in spontaneous words so eloquent that I wish I had recorded them. The essence was that she felt she could tell her children that they could be president one day
—only now, she finally fully believed it to be true. The others, of course, reacted with jubilation.

Of all the
Boys of Steel experiences I've had since the book came out, this was by far the most profound. I felt so lucky to be in Ohio, in Glenville, for that moment.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Ping-Ponging around Ohio

After five days in California, I flew to Ohio on Halloween morning. This is the state where Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman took place. Highlights so far:

- The Buckeye Book Fair in Wooster on 11/1 was an exceptionally well-run event. Patient and efficient organizers, brisk attendance, even great signage. I sold more copies there than at any other single-day event I've been to so far.

- For months, other writers have told me to expect enthusiasm of a higher level when I appeared at the Mazza Museum of picture book art in Findlay. Despite that, I was still not prepared for what greeted me there when I came to speak and sign on 11/2. I will be posting photos and a rundown next week once I'm home (and reunited with my camera cable).

- On Monday, 11/3, I had my first school visits in Cleveland, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they were all in Glenville, the neighborhood where Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster lived when they created Superman. In fact, the host school (two other schools came there for the presentations) runs along Parkwood Avenue, the street Jerry ran down to Joe's apartment in 1934 to share the fanciful idea he'd had the night before. It was so meaningful to me to share the story with these kids. I wish I knew how they processed it. I wanted to know if it meant something to them to learn that they live where America's most iconic fictional character was born.

After, I had the pleasure of meeting the head of the Glenville Development Corp., the tireless Tracey Kirksey, who has done so much for the community and has been a great ear for me this past year as I've pitched her various ideas to assist the Siegel and Shuster Committee in revitalizing the neighborhood and boosting its Superman heritage. She gave me a slate tile from the roof of Jerry's former home, which has been redone thanks to Brad Meltzer's successful fundraising campaign. This tile dates back to the beginning of the house, so it was over Jerry's head the night he conceived Superman.

- On 11/4, I enjoyed being in a swing state on a presidential election day. There's a different energy here than what I'm used to in Connecticut, which of course has not been a swing state as long as I've been voting, if ever. Another first for me today was speaking at a hospital (the Cleveland Clinic) to children in the pediatric ward. This is the only time I have gone into a presentation hoping for a small audience. The kids and their accompanying parents or caretakers were engaged and seemingly wowed to learn that Superman comes from their hometown. I even broke my own rule and drew someone else's character for them.

Guess who.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Say my name

I was asked to add my voice to a site that offers "the first-ever online audio collection of illustrators and authors pronouncing their names." I will have to call a number and introduce myself. They record and post it.

I can't imagine that there was a demand for this but I am happy to join the chorus...

11/25/08 addendum: Here it is. You'll hear that they also ask us to include a little story about our name.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

California and Ohio

No, not battleground states...okay, well, one is, but...still no.

From October 26 to November 10, I will be talking...a lot. First I'm appearing at various venues in the San Francisco area, then from Halloween on, I'll be bouncing around Ohio. Please check my list of appearances to the right and if one happens to be near you, come see me.

Friday, October 24, 2008

800 books, 800 volunteers

On October 23, I had the privilege of participating in a special program that shows how nurturing a school district can be. It's called, simply, Read Aloud, and this year's was the 23rd annual. The event takes place in Bridgeport, Connecticut, a city with a significant population of low income families.

A group called School Volunteer Association organizes Read Aloud. Each year, they review dozens of picture books, choose one title for each elementary grade, and buy a copy for every classroom of that grade. This year, they chose Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman for sixth grade, meaning they bought about 70 copies for the about 70 sixth grade classes in the city.

The SVA's generosity doesn't end there and the generosity in general doesn't end with the SVA. With tremendous effort, they recruit a volunteer for every classroom in the city and each volunteer reads a book to a class on the same day. That is 800 volunteers, and yesterday, every single one showed up for duty. I met lawyers, doctors, even a delightful retired commercial airline pilot. Two of the volunteers were the authors of the books they read, and one of those authors was me.

My class at Columbus Elementary was engaged and curious, and I learned afterward that their teacher, Steve Taylor, is up for Teacher of the Year. I am not surprised based on how he welcomed me and interacted with his students. Without knowing the competition, I think he's going to clinch it.

At the lunch that followed, I learned something helpful. The committee members said they chose my book unanimously, which is an honor indeed. However, they also said that it is extremely hard to find a suitable picture book for sixth graders—especially one that appeals to boys. (And yes, that age does still like to be read to.) So though I was the unanimous pick, it doesn't seem I had competition as tough as Mr. Taylor probably does!

This is helpful because I've found the idea of picture books for older readers is still met with mixed reaction from editors, even though it's not a new concept. Hearing that there is a need for books like this is ammo for me as I pitch new projects, many of which are picture books for older readers. I have seen or heard of a section for this category in more than one library, but I suspect there is still some market resistance to it. I believe one solution to that is choosing subjects that appeal to older older readers—adults. I consider Boys of Steel a crossover book and I wrote all my subsequent nonfiction picture book manuscripts with the same intent.

To the 799 other volunteers yesterday, see you next year.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A "Boys of Steel" first

In Missouri, a new library recently opened, and the first book donated was Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman:
David Easter had a surprise he had been saving for more than a month.

“I gave them their first new book in the new library,” he said.

Easter, who owns Not Just Comix, gave the library a children’s book, "Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman” by Marc Tyler. The book tells how the comic book character was created and includes the latest legal struggle over the character’s ownership.
I just hope they don't "alpha by author" it under "T."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Late-night radio interview

This past Friday night, while you were out partying, I was giving a live, thirty-minute interview about Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman for a New York radio show called Destinies. It didn't start that late, but I sure sound tired...

Click here and scroll down to the book cover.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

"Impressive, thorough, highly readable"

Earlier this year, the Junior Library Guild chose Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman as one of their titles; now they have reviewed it. They charge to access their reviews online so I hope you'll take my word for it that the following excerpts are from the their October/November print catalog:

", exciting, and carefully researched..."

"...impressive, thorough, and highly readable afterword..."

"This fine book is a must-read..."

Also, a librarian with pink hair wrote that the book got her "all choked up."

Monday, October 6, 2008

Goodbye, Columbus

Thank you to all at the Mid-Ohio Con this past weekend who bought Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman, and thank you again to Gary, Jeff, and Lloyd of Laughing Ogre Comics for partnering with me at the last minute to offer it. More copies sold at this show than at the biggest one, Comic-Con International.

Thank you also to James Henry for bringing me in to speak and sign.

A few notes from this first comic book convention I have appeared at:

- Wearing a button-down shirt probably made me look like the stiffest person there. However, I refuse to wear a T-shirt picturing a cartoon character
yes, even Superman.
- I may know a lot about Siegel and Shuster, but (to the disappointment of some) I know comparatively little about other aspects of Superman. (Sorry, but no idea who wrote Action Comics #729 or how many kinds of Kryptonite exist. My research has its limits.)
- An apple is a more energizing afternoon snack than a cookie, and actually less sticky.
- There are people who have not heard of you or won't buy your book yet still want your signature.
Superman home state pride: more than I expected, far, far less than for Ohio State.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

How you found me: part 1

Lots of click-throughs to this blog result from straightforward searches including "Jerry Siegel," "Joe Shuster," and "Bill Finger."

Here are some of the more fun (or downright bizarre) search phrases
—all verbatimthat have led people here:
  • superman dog capes
  • superman vs. nazis
  • marc tyler nobelman
  • mark tyler nobleman
  • marc tyler wooster
  • five letter word that means noblemen
  • send multiple noblemen
  • how many people normally live in the nobleman's house
  • what is the correct spelling of superman
  • what is the correct spelling of celebration
  • double S superman tattoo
  • superman emblems for letters other than s
  • why was super man created and why
  • fun biography
  • three biographies by any children's author or any other people
  • picture story book on healthy lifestyle
  • companies that give away free books as promotions
  • book about the people who sell books on 6th avenue nyc
  • all of world war two costumes for boys
  • wife of william ross beachwood ohio
  • broke her foot

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Con one, Con all

I will be signing copies of Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman and giving a presentation at the Mid-Ohio Con in Columbus on October 4 and 5. I think this is the largest comic convention in Ohio. Thank you to Gary Dills at Phoenix Comics and Toys for partnering with me on short notice.

In the past ten days or so, I have also been invited to speak at a young authors conference in May 2009, a symposium (my first—what exactly is a symposium?) in don't-know-yet, and a chamber of commerce event in August 2009—all in Ohio. Plus in early November (this year), I'm spending ten days leapfrogging between Cleveland, Wooster, and Findlay (all Ohio).

I'm all for maximizing the Superman/Ohio connection, but at the same time, is anyone looking for a speaker in a state I have not been to?

Monday, September 22, 2008


The Boston Globe reviewed Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman:

"...reveals a whole new side of Superman—one both heroic and surprisingly touching"

"...a well-crafted afterword..."

"The illustrated section of Boys of upbeat, entertaining, and informative...the afterword shows the shadow side of the great American dream. ...Nobleman is equally adept at both stories. Illustrator Ross MacDonald creates a strong visual counterpart... Together they do justice to their subjects' remarkable journey."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The death of Jerry Siegel's father: part 3 of 3

Here is the third of three documents about the death of Michael Siegel that I will post—not technically an obituary but rather an article about the incident. Again, to see the death certificate, keep an eye on Brad Ricca.

Cleveland Press 6/3/32

Sunday, September 14, 2008

"Most excellent...boldly told"

The Globe and Mail, the largest-circulation national newspaper in Canada reviewed Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman with kind words.

Unlike the reviews in several American publications, this one did not fault me for failing to mention that Joe Shuster was born in Toronto—the city where the paper is based.


Friday, September 12, 2008

The death of Jerry Siegel's father: part 2 of 3

At least four documents show that Michael Siegel (father of Jerry Siegel, co-creator of Superman) died not from gunfire as stated in Men of Tomorrow and elsewhere but from a heart attack during a robbery of his clothing store in 1932. Earlier, I posted one of those documents, the coroner's report.

Here is the first page of the second, the police report. I am not posting the second and third pages—to see those (as well as the third document, the death certificate), you will have to wait until my friend Brad Ricca's book comes out. As for why I am doing it this way, see below.

property of the Police Department, City of Cleveland

Page 1 (above) is titled Casualty Report. It specifies "heart failure." Here is my best shot at a transcription of the rest:

"when Michael Siegel became excited when three unknown Negroes entered his store at 3530 Central Ave and one of them walked out with a suit of clothes. through the excitement Michael Siegel fainted and fell down on the floor causing his death"

Page 2 is titled Criminal Complaint. Page 3 is Departmental Information. They both have some great details so check Brad's blog for announcements.

Obtaining this police report was a fortunate fluke. Before Brad and I discussed the police report, he had already tried to get it. The police department told him if he could find it, he could have a copy. (Apparently, and oddly, they could not find it.)

Meanwhile, when I requested the coroner's report, which set me back 20 cents, I was told that the police report was attached to the coroner's report, but the coroner's office was allowed to send me only the coroner's report. I asked Brad if he could ask his police contact to authorize the coroner to send him the police report
—and it worked. Teamwork triumphed, problem solved, report received.

Concluded in part 3.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

First grade for "Boys of Steel"

The A.V. Club (the entertainment review publication of the parody newspaper The Onion) called Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman "charming" and gave it an A-minus. My first grade since college.


Monday, September 8, 2008

A contest it's too late to enter

Only this morning I learned that a cartoon caption contest to promote Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman went up on Saturday at mental_floss—but has already ended. Sorry for the no notice!

Thank you to the 130 entrants. Of the ten finalists I am about to choose, readers will vote for their favorites. At least I am not too late to tell you about that. The top three will win a copy of the book.

Also, thank you to the 82 entrants and congratulations to the four winners (announced last week) of the Superman Homepage contest in which readers were asked to explain what Superman means to them in exactly seven words (one for each of his seven decades). I am sure those were a challenge to write and they were really fun to read.

For future reference, though it's not likely this will ever come in handy, two types of entries stood no chance of winning—a straight list of nouns or adjectives (i.e. "strong, brave, moral...," etc.) and any variation on an existing Superman phrase (i.e. "truth, justice, and the American way...") I was looking for originality!

9/12/08 addendum: Here are the ten finalists. The top three will be announced today.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The death of Jerry Siegel's father: part 1 of 3

Brad Meltzer's novel The Book of Lies came out this week. Other Brad Meltzer news also came out—he has started a foundation the first task of which is to raise money to restore Jerry Siegel's former house in Cleveland, which is in a state of alarming disrepair.

I've already covered the 1932 death of Jerry Siegel's father Michael here and here, but since it's a key plot point in The Book of Lies, it is opportune timing to share some of the documentation.

[NOTE: Jerry's father is called Michael Siegel on his death certificate (spelled "Michel"), on his police report, in his obit, and in his wife Sarah's obit. Gerard Jones, author of Men of Tomorrow, wrote me "His name was Michel in the old country, officially Michael in the U.S., and his nickname Mitchell."]

In sum, sources including Men of Tomorrow reported that Michael was shot to death during a robbery of his clothing store. He did die during a robbery, but due to a heart attack.

Here is the coroner's report:

property of the State of Ohio

Here are my transcription notes:

phrase "supposed to have come to his death from violence" in boilerplate
store not named
hazel eyes
gray hair
no beard, mustache
light complexion
65 inches high
150 (maybe 160) pounds

"no wounds" (on body)
"ears & nails cyanotic" (a bluish discoloration of the skin and mucous membranes; a sign that oxygen in the blood is dangerously diminished, as in carbon monoxide poisoning)
"came to his a room? or a store or place of business by the said Michael Siegel - where he collapsed and died ? as the result of natural causes following the theft of a suit of clothes by ? Negro; death due to 1 - acute dilatation of heart, 2 - chronic myocarditis"

Continued in part 2.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Teachers: send me words by 9/30/08

I am doing a second version of my Scholastic book Vocabulary Cartoon of the Day. That was for grades 4-6; the new one will be for grades 2-3. The concept stays the same: 180 cartoons, each including a vocabulary word. To get the gag, kids have to learn the definition.

For the first book, I compiled the word list. This time, I want teachers' helpthey know best.

Teachers (2nd or 3rd grade only): please suggest as many age-appropriate vocabulary words (nouns, verbs, or adjectives) as you would like. Simply e-mail them to mtn at; please do not post them in a comment here on the blog. Include your full name, grade taught, school, and town. I'd be grateful if you'd post this "call for entries" on relevant teacher message boards and forward to other teachers.

I need a final list by September 30. All teachers who contribute words that are used will be acknowledged in the book and notified.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

On the radio 8/28/08 and 8/29/08

I will be on the radio Thursday 8/28/08 at 5 p.m. EST. Listen live. UPDATE AN HOUR LATER: The host broke her foot. This will be rescheduled next week.

I will be on a different station on Friday 8/29/08 at 9:10 a.m. EST. Listen live.

Lastly, Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman was in USA TODAY on 8/26/08. Sorry to repeat myself—I'm holding on because it may never happen again.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"Boys of Steel" in USA TODAY - front page!

Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman is featured in the cover story of the Life section of USA TODAY...and appears in the top right of the front page!

The online version does not use the same art (unfortunately, that means no art from the book) but I think the text is unchanged.

The key point here is that my book is the first to correctly describe the death of Michael (known in the family as Mitchell) Siegel, the father of Jerry Siegel, co-creator of Superman.

Others have written that he was shot to death during a robbery of his clothing store.

He did die during a robbery, but because of a heart attack, not a gunshot. At least according to the police report, coroner's report, death certificate, and obituary.

And this was in 1932—six years before the fame of Superman—so there would be little reason for a cover-up. Just another tragedy for just another merchant in the pit of the Great Depression.

I tip my research hat to documentary filmmaker (and later author) Brad Ricca, who discovered the truth about Michael Siegel's death before I did. However, I discovered it for myself before he told me he had, too!

If you thought your kids couldn't be any cuter...

...think again: Euro-A-GoGo.

Friday, August 22, 2008

On the radio Saturday 8/23/08

I'll be a guest on Live with Lisa on Saturday, 8/23/08, sometime between 10:30 a.m. and noon. Listen here.

I was asked just last night so I am guessing I will be the third of three guests and therefore will go on probably no earlier than 11:30.

Before we go live, I plan to ask Lisa if I can ask on-air for listeners who buy the book because they heard me on the show to e-mail me. It's virtually impossible to quantify radio exposure—and this tactic is hardly scientific—but it could be a fun experiment.

8/23/08 addendum: Typical. I was first, not last. If you missed it, the show is archived at the link above.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sidewalk selling in photographs

Selling and signing Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman outside Bryant Park in New York City before a screening of Superman: The Movie was time well spent. Thanks again to Peter Glassman and his staff at Books of Wonder for their last-minute willingness and their hard work.

photos courtesy of Kevin Danenberg

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sidewalk selling in NYC on August 18

Tonight, Monday, August 18, Superman: The Movie will be screened in Bryant Park, between West 40th and West 42nd Street along 6th Avenue in New York City. The park opens at 5 p.m. for picnicking and the movie starts at dusk, sometime between 8 and 9 p.m.

This is the final movie of the Bryant Park outdoor film series and they are expecting 10,000their biggest crowd of the summer. So meanwhile, at a little table on the sidewalk across 6th Avenue, the bookstore Books of Wonder and I will be selling signed copies of Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman. We are expecting a crowd of, well, hopefully at least 92 (which is how many books we'll have).

It was Superman: The Movie that led me to Superman which (more than 20 years later) led me to write to the book, so hopefully today the movie will again lead to the book, in another way.

Come by. I will stay until we sell out of books, the bookstore wants to leave, or the police ask us to leave, whichever comes first.

The first "Boys of Steel" interview

Here is the first interview I gave about Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman; it is from April. Despite how it looks, I did have hair at the time.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Unhappy endings

The story proper (i.e. the illustrated portion) of Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman spans the years 1930 to 1940—thus ending before the decades of friction between the Boys of Steel and DC Comics. I address that in the three-page, text-only afterword.

Until now, any review that mentioned my decision to structure the book this way did so positively. Among the comments:

“…to Nobleman’s credit there’s an afterword that details their struggle to be recognized as Superman’s creators” – Firefox News

“…Nobleman tells his story swiftly, focusing on key dramatic moments, with a detailed afterword showing his intensive research” – Interesting Nonfiction for Kids

“In the afterword—three solid, totally engaging pages of text—Nobleman acknowledges the legal and financial woes that befell Siegel and Shuster” – Fairfield County Weekly

“The narrative ends on an upbeat note, but the detailed, candid afterword clues youngsters into the creators’ bitter compensation battle with DC Comics.” – Booklist

“A fascinating author’s note follows the story of Jerry and Joe until their deaths and explores the business side of the comic industry.” – Horn Book

“Those last three pages are a killer. Comic book aficionados are all too familiar with the second half of Siegel and Shuster’s tale, which Nobleman concisely relates in the afterword. … Nobleman cannot relate all the details, nor should he in what is very definitely a kids’ book” – PLAYBACK:stl

“Pay particular attention to the insightful afterword” – Cool Cleveland

Yesterday, I discovered a review that was critical of this approach:

“I had a little trouble with this book, namely because it avoids talking about the creators’ horrible treatment by DC in favor of a ‘Your dreams can come true’ ending, with only a lengthy afterword divulging the sad truth. Considering how poorly these guys were ultimately treated, that strikes me as a little dishonest.”

Dishonest? It’s there, isn’t it? Just not illustrated all pretty-like. But I do see his point. And for the record, I do believe children’s stories don’t always need a happy ending. In fact, my Bill Finger book won’t—can’t—have one, at least not as things currently stand.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

On the radio today

I'll be a guest on The Frank DeCaro Show on Sirius Satellite Radio today (Tuesday 8/12/08) 1:15 p.m. EST.

You remember radio. It's that thing you used to listen to before MP3s and CDs. Yes, it still exists.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The first "Boys of Steel" tour

It's been just over two weeks since Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman came out, so it's a good time for a book tour.

I don't mean me hitting the road to promote it (that will start in September) but rather me touring you through the book itself, pointing out behind-the-scenes details.

The pages aren't numbered. (Publishers fear that could turn off readers by reminding them how short picture books are.) So I'll reference pages by their first few words.

"But Tarzan, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers..."

attention to detail - The coroner's report for Jerry Siegel's father Michael stated that one man robbed Siegel's clothing store. His death certificate stated two men. Both the Cleveland Press obituary and the police report stated three. That left us with no way to accurately reflect all four reports, but showing two robbers covered us for three of the four reports (if there were three robbers, one is simply off-frame here).attention to detail - Both the police and coroner's reports identified the robbers as "Negro."
attention to detail - The coroner's report indicated that Michael Siegel had gray hair.
attention to detail - It is unlikely that the store was named "Siegel's" as there was another store in town with that name.
misbelief corrected - Men of Tomorrow was the first published source to address the tragic end of Michael Siegel—but the book got a crucial detail wrong. Siegel did die during a robbery of his store, but not by gunshot. His heart failed. No wounds were on his body. A key plot device in Brad Meltzer's novel The Book of Lies (which I have not read) is the missing gun that allegedly killed Michael Siegel—but none of the four reports invoke the possibility of murder. According to the police report, "At no time were any blows struck or any weapons used."

"Jerry read amazing stories..."

attention to detail - I try to avoid the word "amazing" (and other toothless adjectives including "wonderful" and "fantastic") in my writing, but I broke my own rule here as a nod to a pulp magazine called Amazing Stories. We depicted the influential August 1928 cover because the flying man was an image that stuck with Jerry.

"Jerry also wrote his own..."

attention to detail - The window and the view out it are depicted as they actually looked.

"Jerry was shy..."

attention to detail - "Weird tales" is another phrase I incorporated because it was the title of a pulp.

"Jerry and Joe could've passed..."

attention to detail - I can't recall seeing any photos of a young Joe Shuster wearing glasses. I read that he always took them off before being photographed. However, he is wearing glasses throughout the book since he was not posing for photographs in any of the scenes.

"But he did it with pictures..."

attention to detail - Joe was left-handed.
attention to detail - Jerry and Joe were Jewish. I wanted to indicate that but did not find an organic way to do so in the text. That's why we show Shabbat candles here. (I also mention their Jewishness in the afterword.)
attention to detail - That's a likeness of an actual drawing of Lois Lane that Joe did.

"Jerry managed to save..."

attention to detail - That's a likeness of the actual cover. Notice what Jerry's strategically positioned arm blocks.

"The character would be like..."

design - Early on, I decided I didn't want the whole book to look like a comic book. I felt that would be too obvious. Instead, I wanted just this spread to be in comic book format. This is the moment of Jerry's epiphany, the moment that his mind turns into a comic book, and I wanted that to stand out visually.

"Before dawn..."

misbelief corrected - Some articles and interviews state Jerry ran twelve blocks to Joe's. Nothing groundbreaking about this, but I measured it personally and it's exactly nine-and-a-half blocks.

"Just as Jerry had written all night..."

attention to detail - This scene takes place later the same day as when Jerry ran to Joe's wearing his clothes over his pajamas, yet his pajamas are not shown here. I didn't notice this till after the book was printed, but I can conveniently explain it away: it was hot so it's fair to assume that, at some point, Jerry would have taken off the pajamas at Joe's.

"The boys thought this hero..."

attention to detail - I am still conflicted that I wrote that the boys "happily" agreed to convert their comic strip to a comic book. Some sources give the sense that Jerry and Joe felt it was a step down. Comic strips were highly regarded at the time whereas comic books, in their infancy, were not. However, Jerry and Joe had turned down at least one previous offer for Superman (because they didn't feel the publisher could handle it properly), suggesting they did have some restraint and business savvy.

"One of the owners..."

attention to detail - That's a likeness of Harry Donenfeld.

"The Great Depression had lasted..."

attention to detail - Normally I would not use a phrase like "powers and abilities" because it's redundant, but as you've probably already observed, it's one of several phrases associated with Superman sprinkled throughout the book; others include "faster than a speeding bullet" and "up, up, and away."
attention to detail - There will always be dispute as to which character deserves the title of the first "true" superhero
—The Scarlet Pimpernel (1903), Tarzan (1912), Zorro (1919), Buck Rogers (1928), Popeye (1929), The Shadow (1930), The Lone Ranger (1933), Flash Gordon (1934), The Phantom (1936)?—but in terms of worldwide familiarity and overall influence, I'd give it to Superman.
attention to detail - In the first version of this spread I was shown, the movie was in full color. When I saw the finished book, I didn't notice right away that it had been changed to black and white. Technically, the former was correct. The first Superman movies (which is what this illustration is representing) were the Fleischer animated shorts that debuted in 1941
—and they were in vibrant color.

afterword, page 1

misbelief corrected - Despite what Men of Tomorrow and various other sources state, there is no known evidence and little likelihood that Adolf Hitler or Joseph Goebbels personally banned Superman at a Nazi gathering. I consulted multiple professors who specialize in Nazi history and work at top institutions and none knew of it. None of the thick books on World War II that I checked mentioned it either. I explain in the text where this misconception probably came from, a theory courtesy of Dwight Decker.

afterword, page 2

attention to detail - I state that Jerry's 1975 press release was nine pages. Other sources state that it was ten. However, because the first page is not numbered and because it reads, "Full details are in the enclosed news release," I (and apparently Jerry) considered it a cover note. The second page is also not numbered and the third page is numbered "2." (Are you in awe of this hard-hitting investigative analysis?)

afterword, page 3

attention to detail - Can you find the typo on this page
the only one I've noticed in the book? Clue: it was a last-minute typo...

This concludes our tour.

8/20/13 addendum: A tour of Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

"Super, bouncy, fun, and interesting"

Fairfield County Weekly (a Connecticut arts newspaper) ran an article about/review of Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman. Couple of typos, couple of minor factual goofs, but I'm willing to overlook them for three reasons:

1 - I am appreciative of any press my work gets.
2 - The writer, Drew Taylor, is a really nice guy.
3 - The title of the article (a) is genius and (b) has not been done elsewhere. [5/18/11 update: The article is apparently no longer online; it was titled "Steel This Book."]

Incidentally, this is the first I'm learning that I'm wiry.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

"A lively read"

The Connecticut Post ran a piece on Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman, calling it a "lively read." The Tulsa World also covered it today.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Superman in seven words

The definitive Superman site is running a monthlong contest beginning today.

The challenge: write what Superman means to you in exactly seven words (one for each decade of Superman's existence)

The prize: a signed copy of Boys of Steel (four will be given out)

Thirty-seven entries the first day. As of now, two of them are contenders. Give it a try!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Grandma Lois Lane

Over the decades, multiple women have claimed to be the inspiration for Lois Lane. One name that seems to pop up more than most others is Lois Amster, who went to high school with Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Various sources report that Joe, Jerry, or both had a crush on her. It was ultimately a Mr. Rothschild who won her heart.

Since July 22, I've been announcing the release of
Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman to my network. If you've ever met me, you have probably heard from me within the past week. Yes, even you, the guy I small-talked with in line at the bagel place on 1st and 23rd in NYC in January 1996.

Another person on the list is a friend of mine from BBYO, the Jewish youth group I belonged to in high school. His name is Jason Rothschild. If you've paid attention, you may already know where I'm going with this.

Jason responded to my e-mail saying that Lois Amster (now Rothschild) is his grandmother, now age 92, still in Cleveland.

Yes, the love of Superman's life is my old friend's Nana. That's one version of it, anyway.

Even though Jason remembers that I was a superhero buff, somehow his alleged Lois Lane link never came up back then—or it did and I somehow forgot.

Yet another sign that you may never really know who you know until you do an e-mail blast.

Update: Lois Amster Rothschild passed away on 4/24/14 at age 97.