Thursday, January 31, 2013

"Geek" Magazine goes to bat for "Bill the Boy Wonder"

There once was a Geek who liked Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman. He went away and a new Geek stepped in to replace him. That Geek likes Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman

Bonus: In the related article below Bill, look which Batman co-creator is listed first:

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The cold open of Matthew Cordell’s picture book “hello! hello!”

In March 2011, I posted an explosive series that peeled back the curtain on the enigmatic process of picture book writers and artists. Well, it wasn’t exactly explosive. And maybe the process isn’t all that enigmatic. (But it was a series.)

One of the posts discussed the cold open, a device commonly seen in television. As an example, I showed the pre-title page sequence of The Enemy by Davide Cali and Serge Bloch.

That post prompted one author to introduce himself to another—and in an unexpected reversal, I was not the one doing the introducing. (In other words, I’ve been known to force myself, digitally speaking, upon fellow writers whose work I admire.)

The talented author/illustrator Matthew Cordell kindly let me know that he enjoyed the post, both by e-mail and by comment underneath it.

Six months later, Matthew e-mailed with fun news. “I'm working on final illustrations for a picture book that makes use of a delayed opening (my very first!). Inspired by your blog post and, of course, a personal fave,
The Enemy.”

Flash forward a year, and hello! hello! is amassing raves and fans in equal stride. I take full credit.

Well, not exactly full credit, but partial credit. Actually, just a fraction of a square root of partial credit. Technically, that works out to no credit at all. 

In seriousness, I’m thrilled for Matthew on the success of the book. I asked him to reflect on the genesis of his cold open and he graciously obliged:

The idea of doing a cold opening in one of my picture books had not really occurred to me for some time even though I probably encountered this play in form with many favorite picture books. I guess it pretty much went unnoticed. I’d always gone with the typical approach: endsheets-copyright-title-story-endsheets.

Then one day I picked up what would become a favorite picture book, The Enemy by Davide Cali, illustrated by Serge Bloch. I’m a big fan of Bloch. The design of this book is very clever and sophisticated. And it uses a cold opening. It really became clear to me that this could be a cool thing to do.

Then I saw your blog post pointing out cold openings in some of your favorite pic books, and that pretty much sealed the deal. I had to do it. Some time later, my idea for hello! hello! came along and I knew this had to be the book to explore a cold opening. Early on, I had plans for weaving in many layers of subtle intricacies with the design of this book, so it was immediately obvious to me it could also benefit from this little tweak to the form.

I may be taking this a step too far, but perhaps this is why the book is named “hello” twice. The first “hello” kicks off the cold open, the second the story proper.

No, no?

Congrats, congrats, Matthew, and thanks for sharing a bit of your process.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Trivia countdown: a school needs your help

On 2/8/13, I am scheduled to speak at Sunrise Elementary School in Aurora, CO.

Sweetly, in this month leading up to it, they have been building excitement for the visit with a daily trivia countdown…and they’ve asked me to ask my blog readers to provide the last three tidbits.

The countdown so far:

31 days out: He’s the author of more than 70 books.

30 days out: Bill the Boy Wonder was named to the “100 Magnificent Children’s Books of 2012” list on School Library Journal’s Fuse #8.

29 days out: He says he owes his writing career to Michael Jackson…tune in tomorrow to find out why.

28 days out: When he was 16 he wrote a spoof of Michael Jackson’s song “Bad.” It was so popular that he was asked to perform it at every sweet sixteen party he went to that year.


25 days out: He is also a cartoonist. When he was 7 years old he drew pictures of Scooby-Doo nonstop.

24 days out: When he was in fourth and fifth grade, his favorite novels were The Mouse and the Motorcycle and The Cricket in Times Square.

23 days out: He did not like math in school. When he got to middle school and got his first schedule he was so excited that math wasn’t on it. Then one of his friends said, “Marc, algebra is math.”

22 days out: He loved school. It’s where he learned everything he needed to be a professional writer—writing, public speaking, and typing.

21 days out: The number one thing that has helped him overcome hardships in his life is the desire to succeed. If you want something badly enough, and work hard enough at it, you can succeed at anything.


17 days out: If he could have any pet, he would choose a gorilla…but only until it grows up.

16 days out: If he could have any superpower, he would choose flight…because airfare is so expensive.

15 days out: He had lots of fun in college. Some of the things he did were join a comedy troupe, write and direct a play, and report for his campus news show.

14 days out: He tried for 12 months to write for Nickelodeon magazine before they finally gave him a chance. After selling his first pieces, he wrote for them for 7 years.


11 days out: He loved the Hardy Boys books when he was a kid. He remembers taking them to his grandmother’s house to stay up late reading them…but in reality he probably stayed up only until 9 p.m.

10 days out: His first struggle in school was in kindergarten…using scissors. As a matter of fact, he had such a hard time using scissors, his teacher even wrote about it on his report card.

9 days out: He recently wrote a spoof of the popular song “Call Me Maybe” called “Call Bill Finger,” after the secret co-creator of Batman in his book Bill the Boy Wonder.

8 days out: He has been told he looks like people including Ferris Bueller, Seth Meyers, Steve Nash, and High Jackman as Wolverine.

7 days out: He rounded up a series of pictures of authors as kids dressed as superheroes. He even has a picture of one of the authors who visited Sunrise—Bruce Hale—as Tarzan.

4 days out: He wrote his first play when he was in college. It was based on the novel and classic film about the Frankenstein monster. He called it Frankenstory.

Now it is your turn. 

In the comments section, can you please provide a piece of trivia that hasn’t been covered?

3 days out...

2 days out...

1 day out...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

"Intriguing...inspiring" - International Reading Association on "Bill the Boy Wonder"

The International Reading Association kindly reviewed Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman.

An excerpt:
Tantalizingly, there is a story behind the story of the birth of Batman that is every bit as intriguing as the caped wonder. … Not only is this thoroughly researched story of artistic injustice intriguing and almost worthy of a comic itself, but the description of how hard the author worked to uncover details about what happened decades ago is inspiring. He even managed to locate Finger’s granddaughter by following every possible trail, even the most unlikely ones.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Saved some controversy for my blog

Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman contains several revelations, one of which particularly stunned comics fans—and even some regular people.


But the full story is not confined to the book. In our post-paper era, I left out some choice discoveries, with the intention of posting them here.

Two of the most compelling: the almost-successful campaign by Bill’s second wife to get his name into the credits of Batman (1989) and the evidence that Bill—at least once—stood up to Bob.

Some notable outfits picked up on these controversial topics:

The Beat (formerly part of Publishers Weekly; The Beat also addresses a third Big Issue I blogged about: are Batman and Robin gay?)

Blastr (part of SyFy, formerly known as the Sci-Fi Channel)

Bleeding Cool

Comic Book Resources 

Earlier post with similar bent.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

“Defies the odds…stellar, surprising” – Children’s Literature Network on “Bill the Boy Wonder”

In July, September, and November 2012, the Children’s Literature Network covered Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman in varying ways. Working backwards:

The November piece was a review; a flattering excerpt from a humbling assessment:

Defies the odds…stellar, surprising…Nobleman distinguishes himself as a four-leveled talent…he sparkles as an author.  … Be sure to read to the last page. The revelation is a true-to-life happy ending that would make even the Caped Crusader smile.

The September piece was more of an essay on the reason behind and the themes of the book. Excerpts:

Beside the fact that this book is about Batman…this book is about copyright and attribution and acknowledgement, something we all try to teach in our classrooms. While the Internet makes it so easy to pilfer someone else’s work and not give [him/her] credit, Bill the Boy Wonder delves into the effects that has on one man’s life. It’s easy to extrapolate how it might affect others. An extensive bibliography and author’s notes are just as interesting to read as the narrative. Nobleman describes his research, showing that he’s just as much a detective as Bruce Wayne.

High school and middle grade classrooms will value this book for its readability and its discussion-generating possibilities.

The July piece was a short interview—only two questions—with me.

Thank you to the CLN for so much real estate and for the thoughtful analysis of my work.

9/30/14 addendum: The Childrens Literature Network has shut down, so the above links no longer work.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

NPR cutting room floor

After I was interviewed on NPR, Seth Kessler, my longtime friend (and Easter Island traveling companion), somehow got a hold of part of the segment that did not make it on air. He is resourceful that way. 

Here is the transcript:
NPR:  Wonder Woman? The Lone Ranger? Pokemon?

MTN:  Yes, Bill Finger created all of them.
NPR:  Cucumbers?
MTN:  Yes, Bill Finger should get most of the credit for that vegetable.
NPR:  That crumb on your face?
MTN:  Yes, it was Bill Finger’s idea to put it there on my face.

And you thought you knew the full extent of Bill’s cultural impact.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Bill Finger died 39 years ago today

A few tributes:

Entertainment Weekly held a superhero showdown. In the end, unsurprisingly, it came down to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (Superman) vs. Bill Finger (Batman). Jerry and Joe may have “won” in life (i.e. they got credit and money before they died) but here, Bill won in legacy:

The title bout:

Bill won in this way, too.

Meanwhile, I asked Siri who created Batman. Look whose name came up first.

Yes, probably only because it’s alphabetical, but let’s pretend it’s because it is a smartphone.

Finally, a comic book from my youth whose cover is a vivid memory is The Brave and the Bold #177.

Revisiting it recently, I saw something I had forgotten about. I was heartened how writer Mike W. Barr (a Finger proponent elsewhere as well) closed his tale:

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Betsy Birds of a feather

Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman made a list entitled “100 Magnificent Children’s Books of 2012,” compiled for the School Library Journal blog Fuse #8 by Betsy Bird.

It is only appropriate. Two of her kind (Robin and Penguin) are in my book.

The Betsy nod is honor enough, yet enhancing that is the company including Don Tate, Gary Golio, Peter Brown, Raina Telgemeier, Mike Rex, Name Dropper, Michelle Markel, and Lemony Snicket. The list also unknowingly contains a hint about an upcoming book of mine. Think Tink.

Thank you Betsy.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Small comment, big effect

The book:

The comment (on Good Reads):

“I just HAD to read this book. It had a GNOME on the cover!”

Gnomes are small. 

Every book cover could fit one.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I Want My Cat in the Hat Back

With thanks to ace designer Tim Connor.

With appreciation (and, if applicable, apologies) to Sirs Seuss and Klassen.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Baby of Steel

I’m going on faith that this was a moment of bonding, not a desperate, 3 a.m. attempt to bore a fussy baby back to sleep.

 Arvi and Zoe; photo courtesy of my friend (and the mommy) Alyce Bybee

Sunday, January 13, 2013

TED 2013: 7 out of 31 from New York

In 2012, TED conducted a global talent search in 14 cities. I was honored to be one of the speakers at the NYC stop.

I don’t know how many people total participated in the talent search, but 34 of them have been asked to speak at TED 2013. Of the 31 impressive people/groups from my night, seven have been asked to speak at TED 2013. Those seven are 21% of all chosen via the talent search, 23% of my night, and more than were chosen from any other city. 

Congrats to all—especially my friend and fellow mystery-hunter Joshua Prager.

Joshua will open up about the bus accident that caused him serious injury.

Jack Andraka will describe a promising pancreatic cancer test...that he created. Oh, he’s a teenager.

John McWhorter will argue that that texting is a language with value like any other.

Phil Hansen will talk about his unusual art process.

Orly Wahba will reflect on the power of kindness.

The Sleepy Man Banjo Boys will bedazzle by bluegrass chops.

Daniel Ogilvie is a philosopher.

Congrats to all. Wish I could come hear you again.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Sea World: The Sequel

On 10/5/12, I went to 1977.

Actually, I went to Florida. But I went because of 1977.

I went to meet people who, in 1977, were water skiers in the groundbreaking superhero show at Sea World in Orlando (and Ohio).

And whom, in 2010 and 2011, I tracked down. After interviewing more than 40 of them, I posted an oral history of what some call the most accomplished water skiing show ever mounted.

During the ski show, most of them were teenagers or in their early twenties. Their recollections were entertaining and often moving, frequently unique (how many people you know got paid to water ski?) yet familiar to anyone who has had a summer job or a summer crush. Many had not stayed in touch with anyone else from the show, and through my series, some found themselves reconnecting. It wasn’t a surprise to me when talk of a reunion surfaced.

Thanks to the initiative and considerable efforts of former superheroine Betsy Maher and those she recruited, a reunion did indeed come into being, just over a year after the final entry in my series went live. The superhero show closed in 1979, making this the 33-year reunion…and making Betsy a superheroine still. As we all know, reunions are a lot of work to organize.

I was honored to be invited but hesitant to go. After all, I wasn’t in the show. I haven’t water skied since the mid-1980s, and when I did then, it wasn’t performance caliber. (In other words, I could barely keep upright.)

But I developed friendships from afar with these people, and some of them encouraged me to get over my hang-ups and show up. 

So I took the plunge.

The two-day affair (of which I was able to be present only the first day) was the second time in two weeks that my blog series had led to a real-world event. (This one, however, was the first that I attended.)

I went down just for the night so I traveled light. That’s a genteel way of saying I didn’t bring a change of shirt or pants. Or an umbrella. Which is foreshadowing to this: it was pouring. S
o much for holding the cocktail kick-off outdoors, the most appropriate setting for such a reunion. My clothes got drenched in the mad dash from the parking lot to the Caribe Royale lobby; luckily, they dried before the party.

But we didn’t need to watch a Florida sunset to make this party glow. And my welcome was Florida warm:

The turnout was stellar; I would say no fewer than 150. I thoroughly enjoyed watching old friends bear hug, laugh heartily, go back in time. Many recognized me and came up to thank me for inspiring the reunion. I said they inspired me, so if anything, they inspired their own reunion.

superheroes reunited

Randy Messer, one of the skiers who had been particularly forthcoming and generous, thoughtfully brought a copy of Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman, so I signed a Batman book to Green Lantern (the character I most associate with Randy—and a character also first written by Bill Finger). Other skiers asked if I brought copies to sell (which I never would have done though I was flattered that they asked).

Diane Smith, one of the few skiers I’d met prior to the reunion, brought something way cooler than my book—her original Sea World nametag:

Diane Smith, Kerry Lloyd, Betsy Maher

Debbie Blake, Sherry Runion, John Macqueen, Woody Johnson, Wes Stone, Tom Ingram, and Donna Dewerdt Jarvie sweetly apologized to me for not responding or participating in the series. I understood. Some were dealing with personal issues, others thought I was a crackpot. Both legitimate reasons! (And Sherry, you did participate, just under the wire!)

A highlight of the evening was when Tom Weber took to the stage to welcome everyone. He reminisced eloquently and then began a story from the summer. It was hard to hear but I did make out my name. At that point, someone gently shoved me onto the empty dance floor. Tom gestured for me to come on stage, which I did.

While driving and listening to the radio, Tom continued, he caught an NPR story about Batman and a writer named Bill Finger. Tom quickly realized that the guy telling that story was the same guy who had bugged him the year prior to answer a bunch of questions about the Sea World superheroes show.

Tom expressed gratitude on behalf of the group for my inadvertent role in getting the old gang back together. I was, yet again, touched.

I came observing bear hugs and I left receiving them. That’s a successful reunion. See everyone—and more—at the 34th?

 Steve Fontaine, Gay Schwartz, Sharkey Schwartz (no relation)

 Dave Madeline, Sheri McNary, Steve Fontaine, Brad Whitmore

 Mary McMurtrie, Kaci Whittenton, Karen Weber

 Lori, Doby Beusse, Tom Weber

 Randy Messer, Paula Nelson

 Jeff Parnell, Kerry Lloyd, Brad Whitmore, Andy Hansen

Bubby Snow, Dave Madeline with some of Diane Smith's superhero collectibles

And look what I passed heading back to the airport...


Friday, January 11, 2013

Captain Marvel meets his fans

On 9/22/12, the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills and the Warner Archive Collection hosted a screening of the 1979 TV special Legends of the Superheroes as part of the two-day Retro Action-Adventure-Thon.

LOTS is one of the cult classics I covered in my extensive “Super ‘70s and ‘80s” series.

A star of that show—and my series—was Garrett Craig, AKA Captain Marvel.

I was more than thrilled that Garrett was invited to participate in this rare public screening. He’d been out of the spotlight for decades and when I found him in early 2011, he did not know how fondly people remembered the show. He had never met any of his fans. (This is the third time I know of that someone interviewed for my series has then been asked to appear at a real-world event.)

Garrett kindly allowed me to interview him again, this time about his Paley experience.

How did you find out about the event?

Nobody knows better than you, Marc, I am the Loch Ness Marvel of superheroes! You’re good…and it took you a year to find me. The Warner Archive team told me in the backstage green room that they had strategized getting me for the event, but who knew where Waldo was? Then my phone rang and it’s Richard F. Lee, my friend and Hollywood insider, asking if I knew about the premiere.

I tried calling anybody and everybody at Paley Media…and got [no] answer. Then, Marc, you email me. When you called the guys at Warner Archive for me—they said with only hours to go—they were shocked I was still alive!

If it weren’t for you and Richard…

Was this held in an auditorium?

It was in the John H. Mitchel Theater, inside the Paley Center. (That weekend they [also] had appearances by Patrick Duffy from Man from Atlantis, Ron Ely from Tarzan, and Michael Gray from Shazam.) The theater held about 100 people, all very enthusiastic fans!

Lightning struck one or two more times during the evening. By a perfect blessing, Patrick Duffy showed the episode that I had the privilege of working with him as the heavy. You knew I was a bad guy by the size of my mustache.

Matt Patterson and Daniel Ferranti of Team Warner introduced me to Michael Gray, [who played] Billy Batson on
Shazam. A sincerely nice guy who very much values entertainment that holds to good family ideals and [features] role models for children.


How were you introduced [to the audience]?

Mr. Rene, the very courteous liaison assigned to me, said my entrance was bland [even] by Ozzy Osbourne standards. Matt and Daniel are rockin’ the iPhones with their considerable talents, doing a streaming highlighting my Marvel history. Fans asking for autographs and pictures. Heads do a double take and the murmurs and pointing from fans with lightning bolts on their shirts become stronger.

“Tonight we have a special guest,” Matt said smiling, like he had been rehearsing all day and not for just the last four minutes! Matt hit LOTS history, secrets, and humor with rapid-fire precision. When he said, “Ladies and gentleman…Garrett Craig…your Captain Marvel,” I don’t think he knew that my intro would have the same kind of irreverent style and tempo. 

It was a surprise for the fans, right?

Actually, because you had called, Marc, they had announced the night before to the faithful that I would be there. Matt had read your interview with me, so he knew the circus was coming to town. [Marc smiles.]

The fans could not have been a more perfect audience. They knew all the characters so everyone was in on the jokes! When I told my first secret about Adam West, every iPhone [was] flaring [and] tweeting the secret nugget. Later, Matt and Daniel told me that they had been to over six of these LOTS premieres, and, in their opinion, the audience at this screening had the most fun because of the tone set. And they are hoping we can do it again…maybe with 10 minutes to prepare!             

Did you meet and greet with fans after your stage appearance, or after the screening, or both?

Before, after, and during! These fans were absolutely amazing! When I entered the lobby, people slowly (so not to freak me!) started surrounding me. I just got off the elevator from 30 years ago and somehow they knew me? They had brought TV Guides, pictures from the net, pictures their kids had drawn. They wanted pictures, hugs, stories! It was my great pleasure to meet and learn a little bit about each of them and share stories from a more innocent time. Thank you, my friends, for all your kindness!

Had any, by chance, seen my interview with you?

Very definitely! It provided a lot of conversation openers about my questionable sanity and the LOTS actors/inmates I shared a prolonged recess with on set. When they asked how well I knew you, I of course, referred them to the X-rays and therapy notes I keep of your sessions with me.

In the green room (what’s done in the green room, stays in the green room!) the Paley Media personnel and Warner Archive team lit up like a Jumbotron when I mentioned your name. You understand, these people believe TMZ is written on stone tablets, the MGM library is the Tabernacle, and Dorothy’s shoes are the Holy Grail! They are all within six degrees of any media. They not only knew of you, they knew of your work. They knew Boys of Steel, offering, “Oh yeah! Front page, USA Today.” And the hot topic, Bill the Boy Wonder. A big bombshell, as you would imagine, at Warner Studios.

I thank you wholeheartedly, Marc, for finding me in the darkened celluloid of Hollywood history. I know you [want to find] the truth…for not just entertaining but also creating a message that inspires us to reach higher and treasure the uniqueness that is in each of us.

- end of interview -

That is most humbling, Garrett. I thank you again for being gracious enough to help me preserve something that clearly means more to more people than any of us may have realized.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

“Another fine book” - Comic Book Resources on "Bill the Boy Wonder"

The Robot 6 column at Comic Book Resources covered Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman, calling the author’s note “excellent” and, after mentioning Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman, describing Bill the Boy Wonder as “another fine book.”

The (uncredited) author of the article astutely observes that the story is more complicated—and therefore harder to present in picture-book form—than Boys of Steel.

However, the two lines that had the biggest impact on me were these:

“Nobleman and [illustrator Ty] Templeton have made a pretty strong, bold and persuasive argument that Finger deserves [credit].”

And the closing line, one of the funniest I’ve seen with respect to Bill the Boy Wonder:

“If you’ll excuse me, I think I better go get to work on The First Man on Paradise Island: Dr. William Moulton Marston and the Creation of Wonder Woman before Nobleman beats me to it…”

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

That's not Beethoven

On 1/7/13, I kicked off the new year of author visits with the lovely Jane Macon Middle School in Brunswick, GA. (That’s a fly-into-Jacksonville-not-Atlanta destination.)

While there, the band teacher, Mr. Clark, treated me to a story showing how kids can partake in an adult sense of humor without crossing boundaries—and how, if mutual respect has been established, teachers can openly appreciate this.

To wit, Mr. Clark told me how he had told students a story from his college days. He’d been in the band himself, and his band teacher at the time was a mean man.

Before a concert, some of Mr. Clark’s classmates had hidden a surprise among the band teacher’s sheet music—a centerfold.

During the concert, when the band teacher discovered the centerfold, the surprise didn’t end there. Somehow the centerfold fluttered off his music stand and landed…in the live audience.

Mr. Clark’s students did not merely laugh at this story; they recreated it with Mr. Clark himself. But they had the good sense not to go full monty with their surprise. Plus the way they labeled it was both informed and cheeky—so much so that Mr. Clark hung it up in the band room to perpetuate the legends of two generations.

Thank you, Jane Macon, for a funnily unpredictable visit.