Saturday, January 30, 2010

Reactions to "Boys of Steel" -- post-presentation

If writing a book on any particular subject is a test of passion, the final exam requires you to be able to give a presentation about that subject for at least an hour...many, many times.

I've now been spreading the gospel about Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman for about a year and a half. I can easily see myself continuing to do it until, well, people stop wanting to hear about Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. That is, hopefully, a point that will not come in my lifetime.

Once you speak on a subject a certain number of times, you start to hear certain comments and questions repeat. Here are some of the ones I find most compelling:
  • People in their seventies or older telling me that they remember having a copy of Action Comics #1, but their moms (always the moms) threw it out. Had they kept that debut appearance of Superman, it would have been worth at least half a million dollars today, and several of the 100 copies known to still exist have sold for more than a million. Don't fault the moms. Moms know a lot, but how could they have predicted this?
  • People who haven't read a comic book in decades, if ever, telling me that they find the story of Superman's creators fascinating. (I don't mean my telling of it—just the story in factual terms.) This makes sense. I'm not a "fan" of, say, spelling bees, but upon hearing rave reviews for a documentary called Spellbound, I saw it—and loved it. The point is we should not be drawn only to subjects but also to stories.
  • People seeing the story through different lenses. To some Jewish people, it's about overcoming prejudice. To some businesspeople, it's about moral obligations of companies. To some children, it's about the love of storytelling. To Clevelandites, it's about hometown pride. To all kinds of people, it's about the importance of persistence.
If a mere forty pages generates this diversity of reaction, no wonder I look forward to each new speaking engagement.

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