Thursday, May 27, 2021

A central perk of being a Brandeis graduate

September 1993: as a college senior interested in screenwriting, I mailed letters to Brandeis University alumni in Hollywood. A TV producer who wrote back said if I was ever in Los Angeles, he would be happy to meet with me.

Spring break 1994: my first trip to the West Coast. I called this producer. He said he’d love to get together but was now swamped working on a sitcom pilot. He apologized and, though disappointed, I understood.

Before we hung up, I asked what he could tell me about the show. All he could reveal was that it was about six twentysomethings who hang out in a New York City coffee shop.

I didn’t say this to David Crane, but I didn’t think it sounded like a hit.

His second and final letter to me:

Note two things about letter #2:

  • It is dated six days after the debut of Friends.
  • David’s signature looks different when he’s busy building a legend.

Friends premiered the year I entered the workforce and aired its series finale a few weeks before my first child was born. For the duration of the show’s run, I was in the exact same phase of life as its characters. 

Thank you again, David. Could you be any more kind?

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Plaque honoring Bill Finger's induction into New York State Writers Hall of Fame

The (virtual) ceremony will be on June 8 but the plaque is already in place of pride in Athena Finger's house, alongside a sculpture Bill made of Portia, his first wife and Athena's grandmother.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Hey kids! Translate the hieroglyphics on Bill Finger's paperweight!

One of the first posts I made on this blog was about one of the last items Bill Finger owned...and which is still around: a scarab paperweight.

During a (virtual) school visit today, a student asked me a question I can't recall getting before: what is the meaning of the hieroglyphics on the bottom of the paperweight?

I threw it right back to her by saying I'll post an image so she (or anyone) can do some detective work on this. I don't know whether or not these hieroglyphics are authentic. So if anyone decodes any of it, please post your findings in the comments!

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.


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 Batfan who became a friend after this tweet:

She 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.