Monday, November 30, 2015

Why I don’t require prep work for school visits

Children’s authors who speak in schools commonly feel that kids who have not read their books might not be vested in their presentation. Therefore, some request that teachers and librarians prep students by reading/assigning one or some of the authors books, conducting an author study, and/or running activities related to the subject(s) the author writes about.

I take a different view.

I like to go into a presentation with an audience who knows little or nothing about me.

Before I explain why t
hat is not akin to going into battle without armor, a bit of background…

An author visit is an expense, sometimes a sizable one. That makes it a gamble, too, because the school reps (usually the librarian or a PTA member) who bring in an author often haven’t heard that author’s presentation in advance. They invite based on the books, word of mouth about the presentations, or both.

This can be nerve-racking for the person arranging the visit—to host an author, s/he must ask whole grades and sometimes a whole school to interrupt their regularly scheduled programming. And not just for the assembly itself—also for the prep work. I look up to anyone willing to vouch for the quality of a guest speaker (author or otherwise) who has not been screened. If the presentation is a dud, that’s a lot of money and a lot of people’s time wasted.

Conversely, for some educators, doing no prep work is also nerve-racking. They worry the students will not pay attention to the author. They worry the author will be insulted.

But as the author, I’m the one being paid, so I feel I’m the one who should shoulder the responsibility of making this worth their while. I want to alleviate stress in my hosts. Just because I take author visits this seriously does not mean I don’t bring the fun! I feel I should be able to walk into any library, cafeteria, auditorium, or cafetorium and engage, entertain, and educate the audience for an hour even if they had no idea I was coming...or even if they never heard of me. Luckily, I love this challenge.

The books that are the focus of my current presentation (Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman, Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman) solve mysteries behind two of the most iconic fictional characters of all time. Therefore, the presentation benefits from the element of surprise: the less students know going into it, the more they will get out of it.

Establishing an in-person connection is not enough. It needs to be a meaningful in-person connection. I assure schools that it is this straightforward: “You set up the PowerPoint, I show up and fire up the kids (and staff).” My vow: I will leave students with the sense that writing and research are adventure. And I will leave some members of the staff in bittersweet tears. I am happy to report that it is working.

Of course I want kids to be exposed to my books. But I’ve found it to be a more effective use of class/library time to do that after I present.
Beforehand, it is tough to draw in the kids who are not interested in superheroes...especially because many educators fall into that category, too! 

But mine is not your typical, predictable presentation. The true stories I tell have a magical way of converting all kinds of people. I feel fortunate that I uncovered these stories and am able to share them in this way. 

Therefore, it’s easier on the educators not to try building excitement ahead of the presentation but rather to trust that they will be able to use the presentation as a springboard for further learning. Librarians regularly report that after my talks, the demand for my books skyrockets; the waiting list is often dozens of namessome of whom had previously said that they could not care less about superheroeswhich often results in the ordering of more copies. Yes, this might still happen even if a school does prep work, but my goal is to maximize a schools investment both financially and timewise.

I find it invaluable to let the presentation be the inspiration.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Tragic and magic

Bill Finger’s story has proven to be both tragic and magic in inspiring kids to write, research, and do good in the world.

Carry on.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Bill Finger Appreciation Group is appreciated right back

The Bill Finger Appreciation Group interviewed me on film in 2009...even before I had sold my Bill Finger manuscript.

In the wake of the big Bill Finger news, the BFAG posted this kind message:

Yet again, I must thank Derek Wolfford who in creating the BFAG has gone above and bat-yond in helping raise awareness in grand style of the legacy of Bill Finger. And as a designer, he has also helped me personallyhere (Bill-related) and here (not).

Always bears repeating: if youre a Batman fan, youre a Bill Finger fan. 

And if youre a Bill Finger fan, you, too, owe a debt of gratitude to the Bill Finger Appreciation Group. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

DC superhero team-ups (one-shots)

As I grew up, two of my favorite comic book series were The Brave and the Bold (which teamed Batman with another hero or heroes) and DC Comics Presents (same deal with Superman). Love me a team-up. And especially love me an unconventional team-up.

Therefore, here is a gallery of team-ups outside of those series (or any other ongoing monthlies). Most are one-shot stories but a few are miniseries. Some are typical (Flash/Green Lantern) but many are not (Shazam!/Katana). None are intercompany crossovers (Superman/Spider-Man) or superhero/non-superhero crossovers (Superman/Bugs Bunny).

All-New Collectors' Edition #C-45 (1978)
Superman vs. Wonder Woman

 Batman/Green Arrow: The Poison Tomorrow (1992)

 Lobo/Deadman: The Brave and the Bald (1995)

 Batman/Deadman: Death and Glory (1996)

 Batman/Demon (1996)

 Lobo/Demon: Helloween (1996)

Black Canary/Oracle: Birds of Prey (1996)

 World's Finest Three: Superboy/Robin #1 
(1996, 2-issue series)

 Detention Comics (Robin/Superboy/Warrior) (1996); 
despite what the cover implies, the three characters

star in solo stories within

 Robin Plus Impulse (1996)

 Flash Plus Nightwing (1996)

 Green Lantern Plus Ray (1996) 

Azrael Plus Question (1996)

 Superman Plus Legion of Super-Heroes (1997)

 Batman Plus Arsenal (1997)

 Wonder Woman Plus Jesse Quick (1997)

 Supergirl Plus Shazam! (Mary Marvel) (1997) 

Superboy Plus Shazam! (Captain Marvel, Jr.) (1997)

 Sovereign Seven Plus Legion of Super-Heroes (1997)

 Robin Plus Fang (Scare Tactics) (1997)

 Catwoman Plus Scream Queen (Scare Tactics) (1997)

 Impulse Plus Gross-Out (Scare Tactics) (1997) 

Superboy Plus Slither (Scare Tactics) (1997)

 Superman/Wonder Woman: Whom Gods Destroy #1 
(1997, 4-issue series)

Green Lantern/Flash: Faster Friends #1 
(1997, 2-issue series)

Batman/Wildcat #1 (1997, 3-issue series)

Catwoman/Wildcat #1 (1998, 4-issue series;
two Bill Finger creations you would not
expect to see together)

 Batman/Toyman #1 (1998, 4-issue series)

Nightwing/Huntress #1 (1998, 4-issue series)

Double-Shot: Atom/Impulse (1998) 

Double-Shot: Robin/Argent (1998)

 Double-Shot: Supergirl/Prysm (1998) 

Double-Shot: Superboy/Risk (1998)

Green Lantern/Sentinel #1 (1998, 3-issue series)

 JLA/Titans #1 (1998, 3-issue series)
 Flash/Green Lantern: The Brave and the Bold #1 
(1999, 6-issue series)
Green Lantern/Superman: Legend of the Green Flame (2000)

 Titans/Legion of Super-Heroes: Universe Ablaze #1 
(2000, 4-issue series)

 Batman/Lobo (2000)

 Hitman/Lobo: That Stupid Bastich! (2000)

Batman/Demon: A Tragedy (2000)
Circle of Fire: Green Lantern/Adam Strange (2000)

Circle of Fire: Green Lantern/Atom (2000) 

Circle of Fire: Green Lantern/Firestorm (2000)

Circle of Fire: Green Lantern/Power Girl (2000)
 Dead Again: Deadman/Flash (2001)

 Dead Again: Deadman/Robin (2001)

 Dead Again: Deadman/Superman (2001)

 Dead Again: Deadman/Green Lantern (2001) 

Dead Again: Deadman/Spectre (2001)

DC 1st: Superman/Flash (Jay Garrick) (2002) 

DC 1st: Superman/Lobo (2002)

DC 1st: Batgirl/Joker (2002)

 DC 1st: Green Lantern (Alan Scott)/Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) (2002)

Batman/Nightwing: Bloodborne (2002)

 JLA/Spectre: Soul War #1 (2003, 2-issue series)

Batman/Catwoman: Trail of the Gun #1 
(2004, 2-issue series)

Batman/Poison Ivy: Cast Shadows (2004)

 Superman/Shazam!: First Thunder #1 
(2006, 4-issue series)

Five of a Kind: Grace/Wonder Woman (2007) 

Five of a Kind: Metamorpho/Aquaman (2007)

Five of a Kind: Captain Boomerang/Nightwing (2007) 

Five of a Kind: Katana/Shazam! (2007)

Five of a Kind: Thunder/Martian Manhunter (2007)

 JLA/Hitman #1 (2007, 2-issue series)

  Batman/Lobo #1 (2007, 2-issue series)

Robin/Spoiler Special (2008)

 World's Finest #1 (Red Robin/Nightwing [from Krypton]; 2009)

 World's Finest #2 (Robin [Damian Wayne]/Guardian; 2009)

 World's Finest #3 (Supergirl/Batgirl; 2009)

Green Lantern/Plastic Man: Weapons of Mass Deception (2010)

JSA vs. Kobra (2010; 6-issue series)

 Starman/Congorilla (2011)

Batman/Catwoman: Follow the Money (2011)

Black Canary/Zatanna: Bloodspell (2014)

 Harley Quinn/Power Girl #1 (2015; 6-issue series)

Suicide Squad Most Wanted: Deadshot/Katana #6 
(2016; 6-issue series, though it is an anthology and the characters 
do not appear in stories together; 
#6 is only issue they appear on cover together)

Suicide Squad Most Wanted
(2016; 6-issue series featuring three pairs of characters:
El Diablo/Boomerang, El Diablo/Killer Croc, El Diablo/Amanda Waller)

Robin vs. Ra's al Ghul ("Batman: Prelude to the Wedding"; 2018)

Nightwing vs. Hush ("Batman: Prelude to the Wedding"; 2018)

Batgirl vs. Riddler ("Batman: Prelude to the Wedding"; 2018)

Red Hood vs. Anarky ("Batman: Prelude to the Wedding"; 2018)

Harley Quinn vs. Joker ("Batman: Prelude to the Wedding"; 2018)

 Wonder Woman/Justice League Dark: The Witching Hour #1 
(2018; 5-issue series)

 Justice League/Aquaman: Drowned Earth 
(2018; 2-issue series)

Harley Quinn/Poison Ivy (2019; 6-issue series)

Batman/Catwoman (2020; 12-issue series)

Superman vs. Lobo (2021; 3-issue series)

Aquaman/Green Arrow: Deep Target 
(2021; 7-issue series)

Aquaman/Flash: Voidsong
(2022; 3-issue series)

Batman/Joker: The Deadly Duo
(2022; 7-issue series)

Nubia and the Justice League Special

Batman/Santa Claus: Silent Knight
(2023; 4-issue series)

I will also mention quirky team-ups that were an ongoing series (not counting the Trinity combos Superman/Batman, Batman/Superman, or Superman/Wonder Woman), parts/extensions of an ongoing series, or stories in anthology one-shots. 

What it comes down to: if two character names (or, even better, logos) are on the cover, or if two unlikely characters team up in their own story, I'm in.

  Showcase #55 (Dr. Fate/Hourman; 1965)

  Showcase #56 (Dr. Fate/Hourman; 1965)

 Super-Team Family #2 (Wildcat/Creeper; 1975);

Super-Team Family #13 (Aquaman/Captain Comet; 1977)

 Wonder Woman #287 (with New Teen Titans; 1982)

 Aquaman #3 (with Superboy; 1994)

 Showcase '96 #1 (Steel/Guy Gardner: Warrior) 

Showcase '96 #3 
(Lois Lane/Black Canary; Dr. Fate/Shade)

  Showcase '96 #5 (Green Arrow/Thorn)

  Showcase '96 #6 (Superboy/Demon)

  Showcase '96 #7 (Shazam! [Mary Marvel]/Gangbuster)

Adventures in the DC Universe #13 
(Martian Manhunter/Impulse; 1998)

Adventures in the DC Universe #14 
(Superboy/Flash; 1998)

 Adventures in the DC Universe #1
(Wonder Woman/Catwoman; 1998)

 Legends of the DC Universe #6 (Superman/Robin; 1998) 

Legends of the DC Universe #26 (Aquaman/Joker; 2000)

 JLA 80-Page Giant #2 (1999):

Plastic Man/Orion

 JLA Showcase 80-Page Giant (2000):

Flash/Black Canary

Wednesday Comics (Catwoman/Demon; 2009)

 Justice League of America 80-Page Giant (2009):

Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)/Red Arrow plus Cinnamon
Green Lantern (John Stewart)/Vixen plus Shining Knight
Black Canary/Zatanna plus Crimson Avenger
Green Arrow/Firestorm plus Bride of Frankenstein
Wonder Woman/Steel plus Black Pirate
Superman/Dr. Light plus Samurai (Super Friends!)

DC Universe Halloween Special 2010:

Wonder Woman/Deadman
Blue Beetle/Miss Martian

Justice League of America 80-Page Giant 2011:

Batman/Plastic Man
Green Arrow/Ragman
Donna Troy/Bulleteer
Superman/Red Tornado
Oracle/Booster Gold
Green Lantern/Zatanna
Wonder Woman/Supergirl

 DC Universe Presents #13-16 
(Black Lightning/Blue Devil; 2012)

Red Hood/Arsenal #1 (2015; ongoing series)

DC Rebirth Holiday Special (2016): 

Batman/Detective Chimp
Wonder Woman/John Constantine

(plus familiar team-ups Superman/Batman, Superboy/Krypto, Batgirl/Nightwing)

Deathstroke vs. Batman (2018; story arc)

DC's Beach Blanket Bad Guys (2018):


Cursed Comics Cavalcade (2018):

Robin/Solomon Grundy

DC Cybernetic Summer (2020):

Wonder Woman/Platinum
Superman/Cyborg/Cyborg Superman

DC The Doomed and the Damned (2020):

Madame Xanadu/Man-Bat
Green Lantern/Demon
Wonder Woman/Raven
Solomon Grundy/Ra's al Ghul
Superman/Swamp Thing
Beast Boy/Klarion

Are You Afraid of Darkseid? (2021):
Darkseid/Harley Quinn
Wonder Woman/Vixen

'Tis the Season to Be Freezin' (2021):

Vixen/Super-Pets (vs. Penguin)
Harley Quinn/Blue Snowman (plus an unbilled—well, and billedHawkman)

(plus familiar hero/villain pairs Robin/Mr. Freeze, 
Firestorm/Killer Frost, Flash/Captain Cold)

DC's Terrors Through Time (2022):

Robin (Damian Wayne)/Deadman

DC's Grifter Got Run Over by a Reindeer (2022):

Black Canary/John Constantine

(plus familiar team-up Superman/Wonder Woman)

DC's Harley Quinn Romances (2023):

Aquaman/Harley Quinn

DC Power: A Celebration (2023):

Aquaman (Jackson Hyde)/Kid Flash (Wallace West)

DC's Legion of Bloom (2023):

Flash/Swamp Thing

DC Pride (2023):

Robin (Tim Drake)/Green Arrow (Connor Hawke) 
Circuit Breaker/Flash of Earth-11 
Midnighter/Apollo/Green Lantern (Alan Scott) 
Ghost-Maker/Catman vs. Cannon/Saber
Superman (Jon Kent)/John Constantine 
Steel (Natasha Irons)/Nubia
Harley Quinn/Poison Ivy/Crush

DC's Ghouls Just Wanna Have Fun (2023):

Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)/Demon

DC's 'Twas the 'Mite Before Christmas (2023):

Harley Quinn/Amethyst

DC Power 2024:


DC's Spring Breakout (2024):

Harley Quinn/King Shark

The Secret Origins series that ran from 1986 to 1990 often featured two (or more) characters/logos on covers, but inside were separate stories, not team-ups. Still, many of the combos were fun "What ifs?":

  • Shadow Lass/Doll Man
  • Hawkman/Power Girl
  • Nightwing/Johnny Thunder
  • Hourman/Warlord
  • Adam Strange/Dr. Occult
  • Green Lantern (Golden Age)/Creeper
  • Uncle Sam/Guardian
  • Batgirl/Dr. Mid-Nite
  • Jonah Hex/Black Condor
  • Guardians of the Universe/Floronic Man
  • Dr. Fate/Blue Devil
  • Legion of Super-Heroes/Atom (Golden Age)
  • Black Lightning/Miss America
  • Green Lantern/Poison Ivy
  • Animal Man/Man-Bat

Thanks to John Wells for filling in gaps on this long list. 

Can you think of any team-ups I'm missing?