Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Bill Finger to be inducted into New York State Writers Hall of Fame: UPDATE

So this event did not happen in 2020 as planned. I'll give you (COVID) 19 guesses why...

The induction ceremony for the New York State Writers Hall of Fame changed dates several times, ultimately landing on 6/8/21. It will be virtual, and all induction speeches will be precorded.

As you can see, another inductee is one of my own: fellow author of books for young people Andrea Davis Pinkney.


Tickets are only $5 and support the Empire State Center for the Book.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

1960s articles implying Bill Finger is Batman co-creator

A man by name of Bill Mullins kindly reached out to me because he has access to a number of digital newspaper archives and often searches for whatever subject is of current interest. 

Luckily, one night, that subject was Bill Finger. And Bill found some curious new old material on Bill.

The following six articles are all from the second half of the '60s, most focusing on the now-infamous Batman TV show that debuted early in 1966. One is a review of said show, and a highly entertaining one at that. It has no byline, but seasoned Batmanians including film producer Michael Uslan suspect it was written by superfan Tom Fagan (the big clue being that it was published in a newspaper of Tom's town, Rutland, Vermont). 

Another article details some of Bill's writing work for the Army Pictorial Center. The article does not mention that Bill apparently hated the experience.

Most curiously, however, is how many of these articles refer to both Bill and Bob as the creators of Batman. In some cases, Bill's name is even first. 

Perhaps this suggests that fandom maestro Jerry Bails's pivotal 1965 piece "If the Truth Be Known or 'A Finger in Every Plot!'" spread wider (and faster) than I originally thought.

Enjoy:

Newsday 11/4/65 
The "I'm no fool..." line is lifted from a 8/21/65 New Yorker piece.

Newsday 12/20/65 
"[Kane]...looks a little like a comic book crook." 
"Finger...for 24 years has received no credit..."

Rutland (VT) Daily Herald 1/19/66
Bill is referred to as one of the original creators.

Hollywood (CA) Citizen-News 8/27/66, p. 8
Bill's name is first.

Glens Falls (NY) Times 8/31/66 
Bill's name is first.

Augusta (GA) Chronicle 7/18/68, p. 14

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Surprising college students who watched “Batman & Bill”

Professor Justine Wilson is a friend and Batfan who teaches English Literature and College Composition at three New York universities: SUNY College at Old Westbury in Hicksville; St. John’s University in Jamaica; and the New York Fashion Institute of Technology. She also teaches a graphic novel course. 

Justine and I have started a tradition, if twice counts. She shows her students Batman & Bill during one of the first classes of the semester. The next time they meet, without warning, I crash their Zoom for a surprise Q&A. #zoombombing #batzooming #batbombing


It’s so fun to see the reactions of kids who had no idea that Justine knows me. I’m a big fan of surprises in general, but especially with respect to education, and extra-especially with respect to education during a global health crisis (when we are spending more time than usual on screens).

If not for COVID-19, this would not have happened as an ambush. Pre-pandemic, Justine and I were planning an in-person visit, but that would have been announced in advance. 

I have a feeling we will continue this surprise (whether virtually or live). 

So if you’re going to take a class with Professor Wilson, please keep this between us. 

Even better, this blog post never happened.

Friday, April 30, 2021

"Thirty Minutes Over Oregon" illustrator's mom witnessed Pearl Harbor attack

To my surprise, I only now realized that I had not yet shared here a startling behind-the-scenes fact related to Thirty Minutes Over Oregon: the mother of Melissa Iwai, the book's illustrator, was walking the hills of Honolulu on December 7, 1941...and witnessed the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

That infamous attack provoked the also infamous Doolittle Raid in April 1942, which then provoked the lesser-known Lookout Air Raids in September 1942, which are the focus of the book.


I have explained that I requested to work on this book with an illustrator of Japanese descent out of respect for the culture at the center of the story. (I hit the trifecta because Melissa is also super talented and super nice.) 

Also, our collaboration parallels a central theme of the book: reconciliation. Melissa and I never quarreled, and therefore never reconciled, but I mean reconciliation in a broader sense: people of different heritages coming together in harmony.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

“The Creators of Batman: Bob, Bill & The Dark Knight”

Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman (2012) was the first published biography of Bill Finger. To date, two more have been released (one in Spain in 2014, the other in Brazil in 2019, with an English edition in the works).

The third is the first since mine to be initially published in English—and in England. Due later this year, it is called The Creators of Batman: Bob, Bill & The Dark Knight, by British writer Rik Worth.


I’ve not yet gone through the prose book in its entirety, but what I have read reveals a strong grasp of the material and some thoughtful insight, such as this (taken from pages 88-89 of a still-being-edited draft):

When looking at history, we reduce people to the events in their lives. It is easy for us to see Finger as an uncredited and unfairly treated creative who struggled to make ends meet. From this, it is easy to assume he was a perpetually unhappy man. But the truth is anecdotes and historical events only ever offer us a small glimpse of how people really felt. We can extract parts of their personality from this evidence, but we can’t fully understand what it is to know them. Likewise, we may be tempted to define Bill Finger by the actions of Bob Kane, but this reduces them both; boiling them down and diminishing the complexity of their relationship and identities to characters neatly fitting into a narrative with an over-arching theme. We want to define a life though some recurring pattern we spot, but a tragic life doesn’t mean the person who lived it spent their days in tragedy. People aren’t all good and they aren’t all bad, neither are they all exuberance or misery or indifference. They’re all these things through the course of their time on earth.

I hope to weigh in more after I’ve read the finished book.

The ninth and final chapter is a humbling look at my efforts to get Bill credit, and yet again my last name and Bills predilection for puns align:


Congrats, Rik, and thanks for helping spread word of Bill Finger’s legacy.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Keynote for Pennsylvania School Librarians Conference 2021

On 4/15/21, I had the privilege of delivering the 1.5-hour opening keynote for the Pennsylvania School Librarians Conference…from my basement office. Shoeless.

Such are our times.


Sometimes your work and a conference theme just understand one another.


I’m lucky that my story is so twisty that it holds attention whether shared on stage or by screen. Because we are now all members of Zoom Nation, I tell viewers (AKA audience members) to think of my talk not as yet another yammering head in a box but rather as a very low-budget Netflix film. I don’t know if that makes the experience more palatable for anyone, but I want them to know I empathize. 

The conference organizers kindly shared with me the feedback I received. A sampling by category:

GENERAL

  • “What a tremendous presentation! Absolutely brought tears to my eyes. We learned some excellent strategies for teaching primary source that we can all incorporate into our lessons.”
  • “What a story! I was a fan of Boys of Steel…but what a change Marc made [for Bill Finger’s] legacy. I will share with my students for years to come.”
  • “I love how he used his investigative skills to uncover the truth. Great speaking skills! I’m playing the recording for my husband.”
  • “Marc is a great storyteller! So inspiring!”
  • “I loved Marc’s tenacity and positive attitude!”
  • “Being able to hear from a terrific author, I didn’t realize how deeply I had been starved of that, and it helped breathe life into my library soul.”
  • “Marc’s depth of knowledge and passion for his writing and books is impeccable.”
  • “This entire presentation was amazing!”
  • “This was so good!”

BRINGING ME TO THEIR SCHOOL

  • “I just LOVED this keynote! I can’t wait to figure out how to get Marc to present for my school.”
  • “Would love to have Marc speak at my school!”
  • “Fascinating. I would love to host an author visit at my school and feel this is such a great story for all my students to hear.”
  • “I loved Marc’s strategies for conducting research and I hope to be able to have him do a school visit with us in the future.”

TAKEAWAYS ON RESEARCH

  • “This presenter was a research all-star. I can use his examples of deep research to inspire students to keep digging for information.”
  • “His research experience was incredible. Something students would love to hear about.”
  • “I teach research skills to high school students and one of the most important attributes to be successful is perseverance. Marc’s story is a perfect example of this.”
  • “Marc’s talk is a great public service announcement for the research cycle/process!”
  • “I will share his ideas with the MS and LS librarians. I will use his examples of research and use of primary sources in my instructional classes. Good for advisory groups!”
  • “I would love to use your story to teach students that the internet is not the only resource.”
  • “Demonstrating his perseverance and commitment to finding the truth through primary source research can serve as a great role model for our students.”
  • “Ask questions now—you don’t know if you’ll ever get the chance to again.”

TAKEAWAYS ON OTHER EDUCATIONAL TOPICS

  • “I have SO many ideas to utilize Marc’s story to teach my students more about intellectual property, the value of personal story, the importance of credit and honesty, and the power of each individual person.”
  • “Marc gave excellent ideas on lessons about truth and history, intellectual property, and the power of research. Even though I teach HS students, I think discussing the stories he uncovered can be a great lesson.”
  • “I already ordered Marc’s book. It can be used to teach copyright, research skills, ask questions you can’t Google, letter writing, and persistence. I will suggest this book to my teachers as a mentor text.”
  • “I would love to share with my students Marc’s story about the importance of proper credit. Such an impactful message!” 
  • “I am planning on using his book with a lesson on plagiarism for my elementary students.”
  • “Teaching people to speak up for injustice is part of being a good citizen.”
  • “I had never considered evaluating credit to see if there was an error that needed correction.”

THE POWER OF A SINGLE VOICE

  • “The idea that there is always truth to be told. That one person CAN make a difference. And that we all need to speak up when the truth is not out.”
  • “The story demonstrated how one person can make a difference in history.”
  • “There is so much from this keynote that can be utilized in my work. This is such a wonderful example of the impact one person can have.”
  • “It was a wonderful message about every voice having power and learning how to use your voice for good.”

“WHAT INFORMATION WAS OF GREATEST VALUE TO YOU?”

  • “Can I say all of it? I particularly enjoyed Marc’s passion for the project, the way he connected with the community during the course of his research. I’m not sure he realized what a part of the story he has become by inserting himself into the journey as our guide. The narrator is a strong voice that keeps the story alive. We are all stories, and I thank Marc for sharing his and Bill’s.”
  • “This was one of the best keynotes I have heard!”
  • “I was in awe of the entire story.”
  • “Marc had such a passion in his presentation that was infectious.”
  • “A captivating, real-world example of the research process for a book that was relevant to adults and children alike.”
  • “The author’s story was very inspiring.”

Thank you again, PSLA!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

“The Nobleman Cause”

I’m only now learning of a lovely article about my work that was published in Comic Book Creator #14 in 2017: “The Nobleman Cause” by Richard J. Arndt.


Belated thank you, Richard!

Monday, March 22, 2021

Virtual visit verdict

Well, a verdict, anyway: thumb’s up (whether the Zoom icon or your actual flesh-and-blood digit). 

In the shell-shocked early months of COVID-19, schools struggled simply to educate their students under difficult new conditions that felt sudden though epidemiologists (among others) knew such a situation was coming. 

Understandably for many schools, booking optional enrichment like author visits was not a priority—or, in some cases, a possibility. 

A year later, as the pandemic still rages, schools in general seem more open to the idea of piping in an author talk via the internet. (Granted, Skype author visits have existed almost as long as Skype has, but commonly as a backup, not the first choice.)

During COVID-19, I’ve had the privilege of speaking with students in a range of locales, from New Mexico to Hong Kong. While I am eager to return to in-person gatherings, I’ve found a lot to love about virtual visits and imagine they’ll remain a part of my portfolio past mass vaccination. 

Feedback on November presentations I gave for Michigan students in grades 1-6 (rescheduled as virtual after the virus torpedoed the originally planned in-person visit) helps explain why:

  • “Wonderful virtual presentation! Even from a distance, the author was able to connect and engage my class! Fantastic opportunity!”—teacher in New Buffalo, MI
  • “The opportunity to do something different was appreciated.”—teacher at F.C. Reed Middle School, Bridgman, MI
  • “The virtual author visit…was very cool. The students were excited to meet Marc Nobleman and were intrigued by his stories and how much time and effort went into creating his works. Definitely worth the time!”—Principal Patrick Zuccala, Three Oaks Elementary, Three Oaks, MI

Thanks again to the Tri-County Reading Council and a generous grant from the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians for making this experience a (virtual) reality.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

"Zack Snyder's Justice League" creator credits

I'm not here to weigh in on this four-hour grimdark Justice League (though I kind of just did) except in three non-spoiler ways:

  1. On one level I think it's great that the voices of fans carry so much weight and helped get this movie made. At the same time I hope if this film is a success, it doesn't further prioritize commerce over art.
  2. I was disappointed (but of course not surprised) that we did not get to see a backup team of Lois Lane, Commissioner Gordon, Mera, Iris West, Silas Stone, and the ghost of Steve Trevor, with Alfred as Oracle. 
  3. As always with DC movies, I'm almost as interested in the creator credits as the film itself. Here they are for ZSJL:



Notes:

  1. BILL FINGER.
  2. Similarly, three other names should be in the Wonder Woman credit line: Elizabeth Holloway Marston, Olive Byrne, and H.G. Peter. That's a Finger-level injustice that should be corrected.
  3. Aquaman and Cyborg both receive creator credit in comic books that those characters headline, but not here. Aquaman was created by Paul Norris and Mort Weisinger (though for some reason only Norris is in the official credit line). Cyborg was created by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez. All four of those creator names are on the "Special Thanks" list, but I don't know why they weren't credited specifically for their characters the way the creators of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman were. 
  4. I also don't know why there is a huge gap between the credits for Justice League of America, Batman, and Wonder Woman and the credit for Fourth World. Yes, the former three are household names, but I don't recall such odd spacing in other DC film credits.
  5. So nice to see the names Jerry Robinson (co-creator of Dick Grayson/Robin and the Joker) and Carmine Infantino (co-creator of Barry Allen/Flash), both of whom were heroes of my Bill Finger research and neither of whom are officially credited in print.
  6. In print, the awkward "By special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family" line immediately follows "Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster." In this film, Superman is the only character whose creators are listed in the opening credits, and while I don't like the "arrangement" line, it seems even weirder so removed from its usual partner.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Comic book pages/panels that have stayed with me

Here are some of the comic book pages that lodged in my head when I was young (or sometimes simply younger) and have not left. I'm arbitrarily ending with the early 2000s.

Why these? Sometimes because of the words (if so, I've indicated), sometimes the art, sometimes both. Sometimes just one panel on the page. Though these are some of my favorite moments, not all of these are necessarily my favorite stories, nor are they all iconic stories.

If any more float to the surface of my nostalgia, I will add them.

Bold = last page of the story (added pressure to be memorable!).

Justice League of America #144, 1977
writer Steve Englehart, penciler Dick Dillin

Showcase #100, 1978
writers Paul Levitz and Paul Kupperberg, penciler Joe Staton

Showcase #100

Super Friends #25, 1979
writer E. Nelson Bridwell, penciler Ramona Fradon

Super Friends #28, 1979
writer E. Nelson Bridwell, penciler Ramona Fradon

Justice League of America #200, 1981
writer Gerry Conway, penciler Pat Broderick

Justice League of America #200
penciler George Pérez

DC Special Series #27: Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk, 1981
writer Len Wein, penciler José Luis García-López

The Brave and the Bold #196, 1982
writer Bob Kanigher, penciler Jim Aparo

The Brave and the Bold #196

The Flash #327
writer Cary Bates, penciler Carmine Infantino
"This is my decision."

Justice League of America #223, 1983
writer Gerry Conway, penciler Chuck Patton
"The end, reptile."

Justice League of America #223

Crisis on Infinite Earths #2, 1985
writer Marv Wolfman, penciler George Pérez
"Dear God—what is happening?"

Crisis on Infinite Earths #5

Crisis on Infinite Earths #7
"But we...but we had a casualty."

Crisis on Infinite Earths #7
"And I grieve."

Superman Annual #11, 1985
writer Alan Moore, penciler Dave Gibbons

Superman Annual #11

Superman Annual #11
"Burn."

DC Comics Presents #85, 1985
writer Alan Moore, penciler Rick Veitch
"The Man of Tomorrow is heading south to die."

Batman #405 (Year One), 1987
writer Frank Miller, penciler Dave Mazzucchelli
"You have eaten well."

The Flash #54, 1991
writer William Messner-Loebs, penciler Greg LaRocque
"I can't fly. I'm just a guy who runs fast."

Aquaman: Time & Tide #1, 1993
writer Peter David, penciler Kirk Jarvinen

Batman Annual #18, 1995
writer Doug Moench, penciler Frederico Cueva
"Pentimento." 
(who says comics aren't educational?)

The Flash #107, 1995
writer Mark Waid, penciler Oscar Jimenez

Green Arrow #100, 1995
writer Chuck Dixon, penciler Jim Aparo

Justice League: A Midsummer's Nightmare #2, 1996
writers Mark Waid and Fabian Nicieza, penciler Darick Robertson

Justice League: A Midsummer's Nightmare #2

JLA #3, 1996
writer Grant Morrison, penciler Howard Porter
"I know your secret."

Nightwing Annual #1, 1996
writer Devin Grayson, penciler Greg Land

JLA #6, 1997
writer Grant Morrison, penciler Howard Porter
"Katar?"

JLA #21, 1998
writer Mark Waid, penciler Arnie Jorgensen

JLA in Crisis: Secret Files & Origins, 1998
"Origin Story: The Flash's Infinite Crises"
writer Tom Peyer, penciler Rags Morales
"It's called the human condition, my friend...
and I don't get it either."

JLA Showcase 80-Page Giant, 1999
"Communications Error"
writer Dwayne McDuffie, penciler Gordon Purcell

Superman: War of the Worlds, 1999
writer Roy Thomas, penciler Michael Lark

The Titans #14, 2000
writer Devin Grayson and Brian K. Vaughan, penciler Cully Hamner

The Titans #14
"Thank you, fearless leader."

Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman: Trinity #3, 2003
writer/penciler Matt Wagner

Aquaman #13, 2003
writer John Ostrander, penciler Jim Fern
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