Friday, April 11, 2014

Search Results

   I got an email the other day from an interviewer who was looking for a photo of me to use. He went to Google and found quite an assortment, spanning about forty years. Bearded, clean-shaven, mustachioed... they're all there.
Someone, please buy this boy a comb and brush set!

   But one, he said, didn't really look like me...

  Not surprising, since it is actually a photo of E. Nelson Bridwell, with whom I worked at DC for many years.

   One of the interesting things that Blogspot (the host of this and many other bloggers' work) does is provide data on how many times an individual entry is viewed. I know that I have a group of regular followers and that there is a larger group of folks who will check out entries that relate to the comic book business.
   On the other hand, I presume that many one-time readers find their way here as the result of a search on Google or Ask or Bing. That would certainly account for the high number of views for the entries titled "Jury Duty" and "Feed a Fever, Drown a Cold." Those undoubtedly turn up in the results of many different searches.
   Of the more specifically-titled entries, the ones I wrote about baseball great Satchel Paige and the unpublished battle between the Secret Society of Super-Villains and the Freedom Fighters are the most popular entries of the nearly three hundred I've done.
   However, quite surprising to me was discovering that the most popular blog entry is my tale of how the NYPD came to the DC Comics offices for help when they were trying to track down serial killer "Son of Sam." There have been eight hundred more views of this entry than the next highest one and the total is more than ten times the average. I have no idea why.

   Speaking of searches, did you ever notice that, whenever you are looking for something, it's always in the last place you look?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Another Annoying Political Ad

  It is seven months till Election Day.
  An ad that's been running on the radio recently begins with an attack on one of the State Senators, chastising him because he voted in favor of Obamacare. The speaker scolds him for saying that it is federal tax dollars instead of state tax dollars, though they aren't clear about what this means since a State Senator has no vote in Congress.
  A second speaker then tells us how terrible it is when a politician says one thing and does something else. She also tells us that she knows that federal tax dollars are her tax dollars just as state tax dollars are her tax dollars. She then mentions a local Congressman, who also voted in favor of Obamacare. "One is ashamed, the other is proud," she tells us.
  Then comes the apparent point of the ad: Naming a man who is running for Congress, who promises to vote for the repeal of Obamacare. We are assured that he is "one of us." Well, one can only presume he intends to run against the Congressman who is named earlier, but what, if anything, does that have to do with the State Senator?
  Since the Congressman named is not the one representing my district, this campaign does not affect me. If it did, however, why would I want to vote for a "Johnny-One-Note" whose raison d'etre appears to be continuing a losing battle? Hey, maybe he should promise to repeal Medicare and the Social Security Act as well.
  And did I mention that it's seven months till Election Day?


  For the past decade or so, my car radio has been tuned to WBZO-FM or "B-103" as it is more commonly known. It is our local "Oldies" station and, for most of those years, the morning drive time has been the home of The Wiseman and Frank. They combine music trivia, wacky surveys, and witty banter into an always entertaining mix. Just how well they work together is evident anytime one or the other is off; "boring" comes to mind.
  When I first started listening, the play list was mostly '60s rock and roll -- Beatles, Beach Boys, 4 Seasons, Supremes, et al -- the music I grew up listening to. A few years ago, music from the '70s started to creep into the mix. More recently, they've jumped into a play list that is much more heavily '80s and have pretty much left the older music behind.
  Now they've made it official: Starting on Monday, they will be playing "Classic Hits" from the '70s and '80s. Elton John, Billy Joel, and the Eagles are now the headliners. The '60s are gone.
  Okay, I understand that I'm no longer their target audience: They want the 40-to-50-year-olds rather than old fogies like me so they move on to the music familiar to that age group. What I don't understand is the other part of this reorganization...
  They are moving The Wiseman to the afternoon drive time and have apparently sent Frank packing! So, will the "B" in B-103 now stand for "Boring"? If so, for me it will also mean "Bye-Bye."

Friday, March 28, 2014

Teacher of the Year

Congratulations to my daughter Sammi on being voted Teacher of the Year!

This picture was taken at Thomas Hunter Middle School in Matthews, Virginia and, yes, that is snow on the ground!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Histories of Comic Books

Comic books have been with us for more than three-quarters of a century and while interest (calculated by the sales) in the books themselves seems to be waning, the growing number of books about their origins and creators being cranked out seems to indicate that there is an audience for the history of the medium.

Some of these books are written by people who have been inside the business, first-hand witnesses to the events they are recounting. Others are by fans who have devoured the history and know almost as much as if they had been there. And then there are the ones that are written by people who weren't there, don't know people who were there, and sometimes just make things up.

In the latter group goes the book Superheroes!: Capes, Cowls and the Creation of Comic Book Culture by Lawrence Maslon and Michael Kantor. This is a companion volume to a documentary of the same name that aired on PBS. There are lots of illustrations, including a number you can find in virtually every other history of the industry. (To be fair, how could you do a history of comics without having the cover of Action Comics #1 in it?)

In reading these books, I often find statements of "fact" that are wrong. Some of these can be attributed to the author getting information from one source and not verifying it with anyone else. Discussing the heroes of the All-American line in the 1940s and the Justice Society, the authors say, "The heroes created there, often by Sheldon Moldoff, were admired but not nearly as successful as Superman and Batman, and none of them had his own book." Now, Shelly was a prolific artist throughout the Golden and Silver Ages and spent much of his career being a ghost for Bob Kane on Batman, but he is not credited with creating the heroes of the AA line.  And then there's the little matter of The Flash and Green Lantern, who starred in Flash Comics and All-American Comics as well as their own solo titles.

Particularly cringe-worthy in this book because it was a fact very easy to check is the line in a paragraph about servicemen reading Superman comic books during the war. "Apparently, there were several 'dumbed-down' issues of Superman, with simpler vocabulary, available at induction centers."
"Apparently"? No, it's a fact! DC produced versions of six of its books for the U.S. Navy, to help personnel with vocabulary and reading comprehension.

And it doesn't take much online research to find them.

It would be great if authors of these histories had their work vetted by an industry professional. Bob Greenberger, Paul Kupperberg, Allan Asherman -- they are just a few of the guys who've been in the biz and know the back stories. They and others like them are easily found online and whatever it costs to have them check the work is worth it.

Meantime, I'll keep reading these books and wishing they were more accurate.