Friday, September 27, 2019

Sensitivity adjustment in my school visit presentations

I believe I began talking about Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman at schools even before the book came out in 2008. My presentation includes the two photos I uncovered of the small apartment building where then-teenaged Joe Shuster lived in the 1930s.

The first photo (which I found at the Cleveland Public Library) was taken in 1959:

The second (which the Cleveland City Planning Commission located for me) was taken in 1974:

For years, I would transition from the first to the second image while saying “The other photo I found of Joe’s apartment was taken fifteen years after this one, and as you can see, the neighborhood had gone downhill.” I would then explain that soon after, the building was demolished.

A couple of years ago, I realized that my wording could be hurtful to certain kids. While it was clear that the neighborhood had changed from what I think would have been considered middle class to a lower-income population, some would construe the word downhill” as pejorative. It is also subjective; some people of lesser means would describe themselves as content whereas some of greater means are miserable. The physical condition of their environment does not factor significantly into their outlooks.

Surely some kids in some of my audiences lived in buildings that were in a state similar to Joe’s. 

Though no one has ever called this word choice to my attention, I felt badly that I had let it go unchecked for so long. 

Now I say that “the neighborhood had changed,” which I feel is both fair and non-judgmental.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

"New York Times" writer Nicholas Kristof and "Thirty Minutes Over Oregon"

In 1997, I saw this obituary in the New York Times:

In 2007, I began to write a picture book on Nobuo Fujita.

In 2014, after around 50 rejections, I sold the manuscript to Clarion (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

In 2018, the book came out.

In 2019, I reached out to the man who wrote that obituary 22 years ago, Nicholas Kristof, by both tweet and email; he replied by both.

I sent him a copy of the book that he helped inspire.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

“Booklist” interview features quirky questions

Kathleen McBroom kindly interviewed me for the 9/19 issue of Booklist.

Most of her questions are ones I haven’t gotten before (which I appreciate!):

  • In another interview, you referred to some negative feedback you received when you first pitched the idea for Thirty Minutes over Oregon, a story about friendship and forgiveness. What were the objections?
  • In your author’s note for Thirty Minutes over Oregon, you end with a question about the Japanese pilot Nobuo Fujita: “He went from fighting to uniting. Which took more courage?” Have you ever gotten any feedback from kids about this, either in letters or during school visits?
  • The thing I like best about your books is how you spark inquiry in kids through revealing tiny morsels of information that have been overlooked. How did your interest in these types of forgotten facts begin?
  • While we’re talking about research and inquiry, I was struck by something you included in your author’s note for Fairy Spell. You wrote, “Having the internet doesn’t mean you can kick back and think less. On the contrary, it forces you to think more.” Would you care to elaborate on that?
  • You are always profoundly respectful of the people in your books. You never say anything really damning about Bob Kane; you stress your belief that Frances and Elsie, the girls from Fairy Spell, had no intent to perpetuate a nationwide hoax; you very effectively explain how well-educated adults fell for the fairy photos ruse; and you portray Nobuo Fujita from Thirty Minutes over Oregon as a truly remorseful person who was willing to apologize for his wartime actions. Why is it important for you to portray these characters so sympathetically to young audiences?
  • Your brief bio from Fairy Spell says that “he believes in a number of things that haven’t yet been proven.” I’m not sure if you wrote this or not, but it makes me wonder—with a philosophy like that, might you have any concerns about being taken in by some fantastic claim someday, like your fellow writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who championed the fairy photos?

Thank you, Kathleen and Booklist!

Monday, September 23, 2019

Powers activating in San Antonio

The week of September 16, I spoke at schools and a conference in San Antonio. 

In my school presentation, I typically show a Super Friends drawing I made at age 8. On 9/19/19, at San Antonio Academy, an 8-year-old asked who the two in purple are. 

As I began to explain the Wonder Twins, a teacher spontaneously came up to help demonstrate...

Which, as will be no surprise, was a first for me. And hopefully not a last.

Adding to the memorable visit, the boys showed their empathy by giving the presentation a standing ovation. 

Though it was probably all because of the Wonder Twins reenactment...

Sunday, September 22, 2019

"Batman & Bill" aired in New Zealand

Missed one!

After airing on Australian TV (November 2018) but before premiering on Delta Air Lines or Spanish TV (September 2019), Batman & Bill was shown on New Zealand TV (Rialto Channel, June 2019).

Saturday, September 21, 2019

"Batman & Bill" on Delta Air Lines

On a flight, a 4th grader sitting near me and looking at a seatback screen said “This guy looks like you.” 

No, it wasn’t Ed Sheeran or Sam Elliott. 

It was me—one of the movies Delta currently offers is Batman & Bill. (It’s not in the Movies/Documentary category; it’s under TV/Hulu.)

I regularly get tweets and emails asking when the film will come out on DVD. The answer, apparently, is never (and out of my hands). That doesn’t surprise me because Hulu, a streaming service, produced the film and the economics of not manufacturing physical copies seem to make sense.

But this is the third place besides Hulu where the film has run. First was on Australian TV in November 2018. Second was on New Zealand TV in June 2019. Fourth is Spanish TV on Batman Day 2019—today—in honor of Batman’s 80th anniversary.

Friday, September 20, 2019

"Batman & Bill" airing in Spain

In honor of Batman’s 80th anniversary, Batman & Bill is debuting in Spain on the Spanish channel TCM España (TCM Spain) on Batman Day, September 21.

To coincide with that, the two most influential Spanish newspapers, El País and El Mundo, and Agencia EFE, the leading Spanish-language news agency (and fourth largest news agency in the world), interviewed me. 

The newspaper articles both end their headline with the word “father,” but only El Mundo refers to me throughout as “Tyler Nobleman.” (And not the first time someone has thought my last name was both words.)

El País 9/14/19: “Batman: 80 years without his real father”

El Mundo 9/20/19: “Crusade in favor of Batmans secret father”

Here is Agencia EFE coverage.

In late August, when a media agency asked if I could do these interviews, I said the best timing for me would be that week, before back-to-school craziness—unless I would first need to learn Spanish, in which case February (2021).

Muchas gracias to you all!

Thursday, September 19, 2019

"Batman & Bill" aired in Australia

In November 2018, Batman & Bill aired on SBS, an Australian TV channel. To my knowledge, it’s the first international showing (and the first time airing somewhere other than Hulu).

I’m only now—nearly a year later—posting this because Australia is all the time zones ahead.

Bill Finger: Australian for co-creator of Batman.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Four years ago today, history was corrected

Four years ago today, three words corrected a 76-year-long injustice when DC Comics added them to the Batman credit line: "with Bill Finger."

One big step for Bill Finger, one giant leap (I hope) for creators' rights.