Monday, June 29, 2015

The first cosplay of Bob Kane’s Batman

Thank you to Joe Littrell of Florida’s Coliseum of Comics for tweeting me about Phil Boyle’s photograph of Patrick Hawkins’s cosplay of Bob Kane’s original concept for Batman.

art by Ty Templeton, from Bill the Boy Wonder:
The Secret Co-Creator of Batman

This may be a first. Either way, this definitely is the coolest thing I’ve seen in a while...and yesterday I saw the Taj Mahal.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Chupacabra vs. chupacabras: to S or not to S?

In 2017, my picture book The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra will come out. The book has already crept into my bio and therefore people who introduce me before my talks sometimes mention it.

Because the chupacabra is a creature (some say myth) first and now most commonly reported in Central and South America, the farther south in the Americas you go, the more familiar people are with the term. (It’s funny to see a New Jerseyan struggle with the pronunciation.)

From Cryptozoology A to Z: The Encyclopedia of Loch Monsters, Sasquatch, Chupacabras, and Other Authentic Mysteries of Nature (1999) by Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark:

The single most notable cryptozoological phenomenon of the past decade is undoubtedly the Chupacabras (“Goatsucker”) of Hispanic America. The legend of this livestock-slaughtering monster was born in small villages in Puerto Rico in 1995 and quickly spread to Mexico and Hispanic communities in the United States, on its way to becoming a worldwide sensation like no unexplained creature since the Bigfoot of the late 1950s and 1960s. …the Chupacabras is the first monster…that the Internet can call its own.

Like many figures that become legends, the chupacabra has gone through changes over the years while remaining, at its core, the same. One is the spelling. As you can see above, it was referred to as the chupacabras, Spanish for “goatsucker.”

Along the way, particularly among English-speakers, the “s” has gone MIA.

As Coleman explained on the creature’s 10-year anniversary in 2005, he is not kosher with that:

I am unhappy with this evolution of a good and decent word, and it current misuse. My own use of “Chupacabras” was warped into “Chupacabra!” I would never say “Chupacabra.” …“Chupacabras” evolving into the incorrectly spelled “Chupacabra” seems to be pure laziness on the part of the media. I noticed after the “Adventures Beyond” people incorrectly entitled their movie Chupacabra, then things began to change for the worse.

I interviewed my Hispanic cryptozoologist friend Scott Corrales, and here’s what he says about this whole issue:

The “chupacabra” usage really gets my goat—pun much intended! To say “chupacabra” is to imply that the entity is “the sucker of a single goat.” Chupacabras is “the sucker of goats,” which was meant by the original nomenclature. Perhaps English speakers feel that a false plural is being formed and they resort to “s” removal. Fortunately the singular/plural issue is resolved—in Spanish—by a definite article placed in front of the noun (el, la, los, las, lo): [a] single chupacabras: “El Chupacabras,” a troupe of the things: “Los Chupacabras.” If female: “La Chupacabras.” A cluster of females: “Las Chupacabras.”

[Also,] I recently discovered that the word “chupacabras” was used in 1960, in an episode of the TV western Bonanza. The word “chupacabras” was said by a Mexican…about a creature that sucked the milk from goats, hence it being one of the “goatsuckers” and…related to [the birds] whippoorwills.

Zoologically, night jars and whippoorwills are members of the Caprimulgiformes (goatsuckers) and thus are called “Chupacabras” in Spanish. It seems a natural extension of this usage that a cryptozoological creature, a new cryptid sucking the blood from goats, would also be called a Chupacabras.

…I think this business about Chupacabras “exploding” onto the Hispanic-Anglo scene in 1995, from the bipedal blood-sucker incidents of that year in Puerto Rico, needs to be revisited and further researched. Scott Corrales is well aware of Chupacabras reports back into the 1970s...

But one thing that does NOT need to be revisited is the use of the word “Chupacabras,” for it is correct with the “s.”

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Illustrators for “Oregon” and “Chupacabra”...with a twist

I am thrilled (and long overdue) in announcing the illustrators for two of my upcoming picture books: Melissa Iwai for Thirty Minutes Over Oregon (nonfiction) and Ana Aranda​ (who also goes by Anaranda) for The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra (fiction, obviously).

With each book, I wanted to work with an artist whose cultural background aligns with the subject, and my editors (Jennifer Greene at Clarion, Nancy Paulsen at Penguin Random House) kindly indulged me: Oregon is about a Japanese WWII pilot, Melissa has Japanese heritage; Chupacabra is about a myth that arose in Latino communities, Ana was born and raised in Mexico.

Thank you, Melissa and Ana, for signing on.


Monday, June 15, 2015

The CRACKED take on Bill Finger’s lack of credit

The onetime Mad Magazine competitor Cracked is now an online-only publication, but the snark hasn’t changed. However, the format has, considerably. The site consists largely of pop-culture and/or news-junkie lists served up with (often foulmouthed) humor. But these lists are not presented solely for laughs. For example, the one I’m in: “5 Ways Batman's TRUE Creator Got Screwed Out of His Legacy.” 

Posted on 6/12/15, this piece (the latest high-profile brand to join the crusade to promote the cultural contribution of Bill Finger) notched nearly half a million views in two days. 

The author of the piece is Cezary Jan Strusiewicz, who was wonderful to work with. He graciously agreed to tone down the blue language of his first draft because a primary audience for my book Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman is young people. And he asked my opinion on every subsequent draft, willing to honor just about all of my requests.

My Cracked experience was all it was cracked up to be.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Speaking at Miller Library, Ellicott City, MD

On 6/2/15, I had the pleasure of speaking at the handsome Miller Library in Ellicott City, MD. They kindly allowed me to share some of my favorite photos from the evening:

 revealing the number of times Bill
was credited as co-creator in his lifetime

© Howard County Library System; photography by Geoffrey S. Baker

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Final school visit of 2014-15 academic year

On 6/1/15, I had the pleasure of closing out a busy, fulfilling school year of author visits with the enthusiastic, empathetic students of Lunsford Middle School in Chantilly, VA.

I spoke to three groups, each a grade comprising 500 kids. These kids were more liberal with their applause than at any other school I can recall, particularly after bittersweet revelations such as when I told the sad but true story of a family forced to move out of their home when they could no longer afford it. But that is not the part they clapped for, of course. This was: as that family was packing up, they discovered that their basement unknowingly hid a copy of Action Comics #1, the world’s most valuable comic book…and it saved their house.

Middle schoolers are in that sweet spot—old enough to have a more sophisticated sense of compassion for others, young enough not to be self-conscious about displaying that.

My kind host was Angela Couse; here we are with Angela’s fellow and also kind librarian, Katharina Reed (right):

After my first of three talks, I noticed that Katharina had modified her shirt as shown:

Speaking of zooming in, let’s also get closer to that very cool (and perhaps unprecedented) initials logo the school made for my visit. It appeared both as a screensaver before my presentation and as the centerpiece of a heartfelt thank you note Angela and the students prepared for me:

They meant business: 

I particularly appreciated this comment:

“I never knew anything about the history of [superhero] creators, thanks! Now I’m going to annoyingly correct people who got it wrong.”

I am alright with that.

Schools, see you in September.