Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The debt owed to Charles Sinclair and Lyn Simmons

When researching Bill Finger for what became Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman, the first two people I found who had not been interviewed before on the subject were the two most important: his longtime friend and sometime writing partner Charles Sinclair and his previously-unknown-to-comics-historians second wife Lyn Simmons.

I tracked down both in mid-2006, when Charles was 82 and Lyn was 84.

Ten years later, both are still with us.

And both were invaluable in fleshing out what we know about Bill.

Prior to my interviews with Charles and Lyn, and aside from an interview with Bill's only child, Fred, that was published in Comics Interview #31 (1986) and reprinted in Alter Ego: The Comic Book Artist Collection (2001), all of what we knew about Bill came from people he worked with. Talking to people who knew him outside of work was especially helpful in getting a sense of his personality, his motivation, his demons.

The most notable details we learned courtesy of Charles:

  • how and where Bill died
  • Bill's scarab paperweight (which I now proudly own)
  • details about Bill's legendary gimmick books (including what kind of notebooks they were and examples of entries)
  • how Bill got to write for Batman (1966 TV show)
  • Lyn! (Charles was the one who told me about Bill's "lady friend" who, it turns out, was more precisely his second wife)

The most notable details we learned courtesy of Lyn:

Now you know why the dedication of the book is "To Charles, Lyn, and Athena, the soul, heart, and hope of Bill Finger."

Me with Charles and Lyn in 2008:

Sunday, January 22, 2017

"Readers will be sorry when this one is over" - "Publishers Weekly" on "The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra"

Review of The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra from Publishers Weekly (1/16/17):

  • "Aranda's vibrant mixed-media artwork amplifies the book's cross-cultural brand of humor" 
  • "Readers will be sorry when this one is over" 

Thank you!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

"Plenty of lively touches" - "Booklist" on "The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra"

Review of The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra from Booklist (2/1/17):

  • "plenty of lively touches"
  • "an amusing take on the legendary beast"

Thank you!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

What I looked like when Bill Finger died

Bill Finger died 43 years ago today.

I didn't know about him at the time. This is why:

Monday, January 9, 2017

"Batman & Bill" panel at Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour

In 1997, I moved to Los Angeles to try to sell three screenplays I'd written. In late 1999, I moved back east with three unsold screenplays.

File it under "bizarre" that I most recently came back to LA not because of a film I'd written but rather because of one I appear in. One, in fact, that is about me.

The Hulu feature documentary Batman & Bill tells the story of my nine-year effort (including the 2012 publication of my book Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman) to get Bill Finger's name added to the Batman credit line. The film releases in May.

On 1/7/17, I joined filmmakers Don Argott and Sheena Joyce, Bill's only known grandchild Athena Finger, and Athena's lawyer/sister Alethia Mariotta in Pasadena to participate in a panel at the annual Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour.

I saw actors from Hulu shows I have not seen including Michelle Monaghan, Alexis Bledel, and Aaron Paul.

The banquet room in which the panel was held was capped with blinding light and lined with long tables of journalists who have seen the film; they asked us questions for about 20 minutes. One of the journalists said I am even more obsessive than I admit. Then we mingled at a cocktail party.

A highlight: a Hulu exec told me his favorite part of the film is how the audience learns the last of the big twists of the story via my then-11-year-old daughter.

Overall, this new experience was lovely if whirlwind. It remains a tremendous honor to have a role in this story—Batman's story, Bill's story.


This wasn't a premiere but before I left, my wife made me a red carpet anyway.

The night before our TCA panel, I hung out with one of my best friends from college, Justin. We have a tradition of hunting for late-night donut shops and this time, the only one we found open was a place serving gourmet donuts and appropriately called Donut Friend.

Apparently all networks/companies participating in TCA get a day to themselves to present their upcoming offerings. Naturally each begins setting up the night before; here is a room where Hulu put out spreads of snacks.

Another room sported Hulu pillows. Here they are prior to distribution.

Don and Sheena chatting with a journalist.

My badge, perhaps implying it takes talent to be yourself.

The meat of the day was a blur and therefore I didn't take photos. Here is one from another source. And two courtesy of Hulu:

 I am not wearing a cummerbund made of flowers; 
those are on the table in front of us.

Here is the room where the cocktail party was held (and the pillows were arranged on various couches)…less than an hour after it ended. They break down these things so fast.

Among the coverage that posted same-day:

Thank you again to Perry Seaman, Melinda Casey, Rob Gati, and the rest of the Hulu team for making this happen.

6:15 a.m. the morning after

Monday, January 2, 2017

"Playful…humorously spooky" - "School Library Journal" on "The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra"

Review of The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra from School Library Journal (1/1/17):

  • a January 2017 Popular Pick
  • "a playful twist on outsmarting a predator"
  • "a lot of playful language throughout"
  • "Aranda's illustrations elevate this title and burst with humor"
  • "this enjoyable monster book is a first purchase for most libraries"
  • "perfect for read-alouds or anytime a humorously spooky tale is in order"

Thank you, Danielle Jones of Multnomah County (OR) Library, for this review!