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!