Tuesday, September 19, 2017

My first Amazon orders

In the publishing community, Amazon.com is a polarizing topic. I see both sides. We can discuss. But not here.

This is purely nostalgia.

I was working as a marketing associate in book publishing when Amazon launched in 1995. I remember a group huddling around a blocky computer to catch our first glimpse of the home page, which looks so quaint now:

That's the standard "Amazon home page 1995" you can find around the internet. I wish I had documented it myself but didn't because (like most) I had no inkling what it would become.

I use Amazon and have since 1997 (a year before its offerings expanded beyond books). By that point, at age two, it looked only slightly more polished:

Number of times I ordered from Amazon during my first five years as a customer (not counting gifts for others):

2000—13 (some with multiple items, often books for research)

The first four:

 No surprise the subject of my first purchase. 
(A friend had the 1988 book when we were in high school. 
That must've seemed like a lifetime ago when
I bought my own copy in 1997.)

 I loved The New Yorker almost as much as superheroes. 
Weirdly, this devotion began in high school (because of the cartoons)
and continued into college.

the Gatorade commercial song about Michael Jordan.
Not proud.
(But still have in my music library.)

Another New Yorker book.

Now Amazon may sell nearly everything but it's not the original Everything Store. This is.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

A week of school visits in scenic IL

I kicked off the 2017-18 school visit year by returning to the lovely part of Illinois I first experienced exactly a year ago. From 9/11 to 9/15/18, I spoke at eight elementaries in Crystal Lake, St. Charles, and Woodstock, IL.

Librarian Gayle Johnston of Glacier Ridge Elementary in Crystal Lake first heard me speak at Northern Illinois University in 2016. She took thorough notes—and repurposed some of my sound bites on signs in the hallway and library.

I loved the statement posted outside the Glacier Ridge art room. The art teacher confessed that she found it online but that makes it no less touching.

Speaking of Glacier Ridge signage, I signed a healthy amount of books...

...and a Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice display.

But this was my favorite display at Glacier Ridge (and, possibly, ever): every student in the school drew his/her own version of the star of The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra. ¡Ay, caramba!

The kids of Husmann Elementary also flexed their buy-my-books muscles.

Husmann's librarian Tina Serra simultaneously honored Bill Finger's legacy and boosted my spirit by asking her students to create their own gimmick books.

Greenwood Elementary in Woodstock boasts something I have not seen in my 13 years of author visits: a fireplace. The school was built in 1949 and the fireplace has since been converted to gas...but it's still in use (Christmas storytimes).

Thank you again to the eight schools who took time out of your regularly scheduled programming to bring me in, and special thanks to Terry Jacobsen of Canterbury Elementary for tirelessly ringleading this trip. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Allusions to one of my books in another

At times, I nod at one of my books in another of my books.

Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman features a silent cameo by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster of Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman

They're standing behind the seated man, Jerry Robinson.

Brave Like My Brother (is fiction but) mentions Jerry and Joe several times as the story's stateside scenes take place in Cleveland.

Brave Like My Brother also winks at Bill the Boy Wonder's Bill Finger in that the diner where one of the main characters works is called Milton's (Bill's given name).

The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra pays small tribute to Fairy Spell (which isn't even out yet!)...but not by me. 

In fact, I did not even know about it till the day the Fairy Spell cover was revealed online (8/7/17), when Chupacabra illustrator Ana Aranda shared with me a fun revelation of her own: among the adorable spot drawings on the Chupacabra endpapers, you can see the chupacabra playing with dolls of various myths—including a fairy. Thanks again, Ana!

The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra also contains a cheeky if unofficial appearance by another superhero (and without Jerry and Joe, we might not have any). The lead goat is named Jayna…as was one of the Wonder Twins on the 1970s cartoon Super Friends. Her power? To transform into any animal...

Surely more to come…

Sunday, September 10, 2017

People showing off their Bill Finger T-shirts

In the final scene of the documentary Batman & Bill, I am wearing a Bill Finger T-shirt. (I have also forced a shirt on each member of my family.) Since the film premiered in May 2017, I have been tweeting where to get one for yourself. Some have, and tweeted a photo of it.

If you want to buy one of your own, you have a choice of both background colors and styles: this one or this one.

If you tweet at me or email me a photo of you wearing one, I will add it here.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

"Batman & Bill" screening at AASL 2017

Two months from tonight, at the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) 2017 national conference in Phoenix, AZ, please join me for a special screening of Batman & Bill, the first documentary based on a nonfiction picture book for young readers. It will be followed by a Q&A.

The film is currently screening on Hulu (which offers a free trial if you don't subscribe and won't be at AASL); this is a rare chance to watch the film the way films are intended to be experienced: among a live audience. 

Yes, it is smack dab in the middle of extended happy hour (shout-out to librarians who par-TAY), but I guarantee you it will be worth the interlude. After you see the surprising twists of the story, you will want to go out to celebrate the power of children's literature and toast the underdog...

If you are the emotional type, bring tissues.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A third Bill Finger letter uncovered

In my Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman research, I found only two (but still two!) letters written by Bill Finger.

I know there are more out there.

And now I know where one is: amidst a trove of info on the 1966 Batman show in the William Dozier archives at the University of Wyoming.

Though undated, it was written in early 1966 to producer Howie Horwitz. It is part of a series of letters regarding Bob's (non-)role on the show and in particular the inclusion of the Clock King as a villain. Apparently at one point Bob was to be involved with this particular script. However, according to Bill's letter, when it came time to execute, Bob was out of pocket, so Bill and writing partner Charles Sinclair (who, according to Charles, was the one who scored them the gig) forged ahead as a dynamic duo.

Considering Bob never wrote a single Batman script—for TV or comics—it is unclear why he was even part of a discussion about writing this particular script. Perhaps Bill still felt obligated to maintain the charade that Bob had written Batman scripts.

Interesting to note that in three of the four times Bill mentions Bob, he refers to him as "Bog." At first it may seem a typo, but you can see how he fixed most of the other goofs in the letter. So either he missed this misspelling (three times)...or he did it on purpose as a dig. The tone of the letter (and the fact that, again, the word appears three times) would seem to support the latter. Also, while "B" and G" are adjacent on the typewriter, it seems less likely a person would make a mistake when typing a word with a repeated letter, like "Bob." With experienced typists, the fingers (in this case, Bill's fingers) stay in position anticipating that imminent second strike...

Thanks to Batman & Bill story producer Alexandra Orton for this excavation!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Carmine Infantino on Bob Kane's income

In 2006, in research for Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman, I phone-interviewed the uncompromising longtime DC Comics artist Carmine Infantino. In 2011, for Batman & Bill, we interviewed him on camera. The next year I hand-delivered a copy of the newly-released book.

I'm so glad we/I did what we did when we did. Carmine passed away in 2013.

Every time I talked with him, the man was a delight, saying many things I found fascinating—one in particular. It came out during the filmed interview but did not make it into the documentary, so here it is:

I had already heard that it was the 1960s Batman TV series that made Bob Kane wealthy. The story went that he sold his stake in the character as part of the deal to get the show on air.

But Carmine, who was the Batman artist when the Batman show morphed the character from superhero to supernova, knew specifics. According to Carmine, Bob agreed to $50,000/year for 20 years—that may be the rumored $1 million he supposedly got (though it would not, of course, make him an instant millionaire, which was the impression I had).

However, in an archival clip in our film, which I believe is from the late 1980s, Bob says that he still had a piece of the pie.

I've done no further verification on this. I'm simply reporting what a person on the frontlines at the time remembered and reported.

Friday, September 1, 2017

"Batman & Bill" documentary: the public response, part 3

Part 1.

Part 2.

Thank you yet again to all who have supported and spread word about the film. 

Round 3 of the most humbling (or funniest, or otherwise notable) reactions on Twitter:

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