Meet the Author: Marc Tyler Nobleman

the following program was a production
of the Fairfax Network Fairfax County Public Schools biographies are detailed
descriptions of a person’s life they’re based on facts and research if you’re in
school perhaps you’ve read a biography of a world leader athlete scientist
artist successful biographies aren’t just facts successful biographies reveal
something of a person’s heart joining me today is marc tyler nobleman he’s the
author of two biographies for children these picture books are boys of steel
the creators of Superman and bill the Boy Wonder the secret co-creator of Batman
mark thanks for joining us today thanks for having me I am really looking
forward to speaking with you about this topic today can we agree that Superman
and Batman are probably the most famous comic book characters of all time I
think they may be two of the most famous fictional characters of all right
absolutely how are they the same how are they different well they’re the same and
that they’re both superheroes with secret identities and this dedication to
doing good they’re different in the dichotomy Superman is day he’s a boy
scout he’s good for good sake and Batman is darker he’s scarred he’s doing what
he’s doing because he had a tragedy in his life that he witnessed so there’s a
difference in our motivations what do you think superheroes represent well
superheroes are part of the fictional canon they represent one thing the one
one person and something to somebody else something else to somebody else for
me I don’t know what why I latched on to them I just saw Superman in the movie as
a six-year-old in 1978 and it spoke to me it was it was fantasy but not
completely outlandish I wasn’t into hardcore science fiction
it was grounded he was he seemed human even though he was not and I like that
that that could inspect construct well following along those lines what would
you compare comic superheroes comic characters to and what can they be
compared to perhaps of superhero the superhero element of them perhaps two
characters today or from long ago an immune in from your life or fictional I
know well I mean there have been superheroes before the term was used if
you want to if you want to apply some hindsight and Tarzan the Scarlet
Pimpernel I mean even Hercules and Samson were what might today be called
the superhero when today is a mythology too hard to be my characters tell us
about the boys of Steel who are they the boys of steel then the term I made up by
Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster Jerry was the original writer of Superman Joe is
his best friend and partner artistically he was the artist of Superman and these
were guys that created Superman in the great and the darkest days of the Great
Depression in Cleveland Ohio they’re young guys so this was a time where it’s
financially people were needy what what else did people need why do you think it
was a success and the timing was right for those stories a lot of people give
Superman’s popularity they ascribe it to the exact time that he came out he came
out on the cusp of the Great Depression and World War two so it was a time where
we were coming out of great bleakness and going into something that was also
difficult and traumatic but where people needed hope and it was a lot of family
sending their sons and kids often to the unknown and Superman was what I say in
the book is that he was a hero that they knew would always come home not to
diminish the role of a real service person of course that’s absolutely
selfless work but Superman was something that people could pin their hopes on and
people needed that at that time why did you call it refer to the boys of steel
as the unsung heroes well you know it’s funny that you say when you’re asking
about four heroes before I don’t actually call Jerry and Joe heroes I
think that’s a very common thing that happens when you’re writing about these
guys they did a great saying they have a great accomplishment they weren’t heroic
in the sense that I would call someone who serves in the military or someone
who does makes the news for saving or burning pulling someone out of a burning
building if the term can be diluted the more we use it for everyday people but
they did do something that was a pioneering and they create
a whole industry based frankly but I don’t I don’t go so far as to call them
here they are unsung though they spent 35 years watching Superman make money
for a lot of other people besides themselves and it was only toward the
end of their lives that they got their names restored to the character and got
some compensation for their creator frankly until I read the book I had
never heard of either of these gentlemen and so they’re little known before you
wrote this book so how do you begin the research process about someone or some
poor people who we don’t know a lot about well they’re not they’re not
they’re not household name right although I’m hoping that through my book
and other people’s work they will become that but they’re not completely unknown
they do have a lot of name recognition in the comics and among comics so for
them I they’re both passed they’re both to see so I couldn’t speak with them but
I did speak with people who knew them and I looked at every published
interview that I could find that they gave in their lifetime that was my
starting point why did you choose them to begin with well I what dark to
Pacific well I’ve been a Superman fan that I was tiny and that was that was
the real core of this but then as a writer when I saw that no one had ever
done this no one had ever written a book about the guys who created the suit
basically not just Superman but the whole concept of a super a modern
superhero it just seemed like a huge gap between expectation and reality and it
also just from a marketing perspective most people like Superman they might not
be passionate but you know no one has anything against him it just seemed like
a good idea to do that fill a gap on the shelf and also show kids that
biographies are not only about people that you come across in the textbook
it’s not just a bold-faced names those are all wonderful people we need to
learn about them but there are other people that haven’t come up yet that you
also should know about great things are accomplished all the time it’s looking
into it and finding those stories yes thank you well if you would like to
learn more about the writing process and how the biographies are created reach us
by phone at 1-855-332-1608 take a look it’s a real page-turner
school librarians take on double duty to support classroom instruction and boost
independent reading among youngsters Holy concept its reading for fun
read me read me over here yeah I’m the one pick me please yoohoo choices galore but what kids won’t find
in most elementary school libraries and for a lot of good reasons are
traditional comic books if kids want to read about superheroes they’ll have to
spend their own allowance toward go to college
that’s right College this is a comic arts collection at Virginia Commonwealth
University over 100,000 items make their home at VCU so students and
college professors can study the impact of comic book design and meaning
cindy jackson can explain but she’s busy right now meanwhile consider comics as a
barometer comics show how society and culture
change over time the role of an archivist is to maintain
a collection of books artifacts specimens or related media which have
long-term value in a specific field of interest an archivist preserves
documents circulating and expands a collection there are databases to
maintain papers to write and classes to teach there are comics that are very
literary and there are comments that are just fun to read and the comics are for
all ages all genders all races all nationalities all educational levels
comics are to be perfect reading material look over here oh here here hey
get me out of this box out of the box Cindy Jackson says comic books are
designed to be interactive you have to make a decision about what goes on
between the frame to get to the next one and this is interesting because it has
not only a typical comic book form which we see from panel to panel to panel we
have to follow the story we have single panel comics
which would be one comic the selection @bp youth continues to grow comics can
be considered sodding remnants they also happen to influence graphic novels book
art video game and the fact early comics are no laughing matter from the video we can see that comic
books and graphic novels are not only archives but they’re studied by scholars
which might be surprising to some people that are watching would Siegel and
Shuster would they be surprised what do you think they would they would be
thinking or feeling if they knew that they were being studied by scholars I
love that way yeah well they did live until the 1990s so they live long enough
to see comic books become validated by the mainstream and by culture I they
probably feel that they should be studied and they shouldn’t I agree with
them they should be I think that they would might be surprised at how deeply
it’s penetrated actually but I think they do they would feel that it would be
appropriate that people know about their contribution yeah it’s so deeply
embedded in our culture now we’re going to stop here for a moment because we
have a student standing by with a question by a Skype he is from
greenforest elementary school I believe we have in and hi AM what is your
question today for marc first of all I just want to say the way that you
combine your words of pictures was extremely calculated agree thank you me
and that’s nice to be to say searchers of work his question was did you
encounter any obstacles with your research oh that’s a great question in I
did one of them in particular was the simple fact that I don’t own Superman
he’s owned by a big company called DC Comics so I can write a book about
Superman so could you and I can show a few pictures of Superman on the inside
of my book but I can’t show him a lot and I can’t put him on the cover that’s
off-limits so that’s a dilemma how to write a book about Superman without
putting Superman on the cover and this was the solution that we came up with
the artists name is Ross Macdonald and we showed Superman
without any detail he’s so iconic that you can recognize who he is without any
detail at all just the barest end to the cape and that very strong stance so
that’s one way that we got around an obstacle we showed him without showing
him thanks for the question in thank you that probably would be a little
frustrating to having to navigate around all the rules and the laws that are
governing copyrights that is tricky with the characters when you’re working with
licensed characters like this you have to go by fair use and be as as careful
as possible abs I’m sure we have another question by via Skype this is from Marc
he’s also from Green Berets hi Marc what’s your question hi first of all I
like to say that I like the way you started the book it was really amazing
Thank You Marc welcome my first question is when you begin your research about
the creators of Superman what was the biggest surprise you learned that’s a
great question one of the biggest surprises was that in
70 years of talking about Superman everybody talked only about Jerry’s
house Jerry was the writer nobody ever talked about whatever happened to Joe’s
house in Cleveland Ohio and Superman was half created in Jerry’s
house and half created in Joe’s house so I put it upon myself to find out what
happened to Joe’s house which I found out was actually a small apartment
building why it’s not there anymore and what it even looked like so I spent some
time in Cleveland looking for this information and it’s a longer story than
I can get into now but it was a good story and I did find photos and I found
out what happened to the house did you consult with libraries Hall of Records
what did where did you get everything all archival body in cleveland starting with the
Historical Society then the Cleveland State University archive and finally
where I found the answer was in the Public Library we’re always looking for
those primary documents when we’re doing our research and solutely completely
untouched before how about that we have a third question this is from Cameron hi
Cameron and what is your question today I have there have been other careers
that you thought about before becoming an author hmm thanks for the question
Cameron I wanted to be a cartoonist since I was quite young but there was a
period where I thought I wanted to be an astronaut cartooning is just a little
bit more can it yeah that’s uh yeah there’s so many
options out there camera and all the students that we’ve spoken to from green
bar East hang in there because we’re going to be visiting back with you in
just a few minutes while I have some more questions for marc okay so stay put
all right describe Bill Finger for us who was he and why did you choose to
write about him in Bill the Boy Wonder bill finger is the uncredited co-creator
and original writer of Batman but he’s much more than that
even though he was the writer he also designed the costume which is iconic now
he wrote not only the first Batman story but the first Robin Joker Catwoman
penguin stories he named Gotham City he named Bruce Wayne he created the bat
motif naming things like the Batmobile in the Batcave so he was really the main
architect of Batman but in his 25 years of writing Batman comic books his name
appeared in a comic as the co-creator or as the original writer exactly zero
times and that’s why I wanted to write about him because it’s a grave injustice
about a character that is all about justice one of those unsung hero you’ve
been talking about what was his writing process like did he have to turn out a
new adventure about this character on a weekly basis probably more than one on a
weekly basis I don’t know exactly what he wrote about at least at 1500 stories
in his 25 year career and he was a meticulous writer he was an artist
stream because he wouldn’t just give him a script he would give them visuals he
would rip out pages of magazines and say I’m imagining a scene like this which
artists adored because it gave them a helping hand he was also known for being
late with his work because he was so meticulous but it was it was a
double-edged sword he was so good that the editors forgave him being late
because what he turned in was just excellent work is it true that he used
his ten year old for inspiration and for validation that this is a good idea and
bounce ideas off of his child yeah he had one child a son named Fred and I
said Fred was involved with the process when he was old enough bill would share
scripts with him and get a young person’s insight and I believe at times
would make tweaks because of that how about that when I was a third grade
teacher I used to do the same thing with my third-grade daughter a lot of
inspiration oh yeah and the students would tell us about some of bills work
getting get writer’s block I doubt he did because he was he was so
prolific and if you ever got it it couldn’t have lasted very long but he
was really a very hands-on writer he would like I said he would use a lot of
reference he would make trips to the American Museum of Natural History in
New York City with his son so with the field trip right on but it was a
business trip for him as well because I was getting ideas for stories so he was
a very you know hands-on and he put a lot of work into each story and through
that work what are some of the contributions he was able to make well
though I named on a baby there’s a costume like the bat motif and all the
supporting characters and you brought some books along with you yeah and maybe
you can share with some images of those things but sure I should say that I
think probably this is all subjective but probably his most enduring
contribution was giving Batman a real-life reason to do what he’s doing
Superman just did good because it was the right thing to do but Batman had a
tragedy in his childhood and that’s what provoked him or inspired him or whatever
those terms motivated him to do this crazy thing and that was Bill they’ll
apply that to a comic book super hair that had never been done before that was
very novelistic so bill was quite ahead of the time doing that this is fun to
talk about this is what Batman would have looked like if Bill was not
involved there’s another guy that I haven’t named yet his name was Bob Kane
he was a cartoonist he was the one who supposedly came up with the idea for a
character called Batman but after that bill pretty much took the baton and did
everything so this was Bob’s design this is a recreation of it based on
descriptions and most people that see this say thank god those involved that
is not Batman’s on their own we know yeah you want here another quick one I
can’t show you I did another one who builds hallmarks and trademarks wives he
was known for writing scripts with giant props so he would have Batman and Robin
fighting criminals on a giant telescope or a giant typewriter or in this case a
giant toaster this is an authentic detail from this is our version of it
that was actually took place in a Batman story so this is completely bizarre and
quirky and people love that it was just so off the wall that is very unusual and
do you have any others that you’d like to share with us a couple more stickies
there so we do have one more Yeti but that one I think will I think that’s
coming up okay well yeah I don’t want all right we do have some more students
that are waiting with Skype questions so let’s go to Safa Safa what is your
question today please hi before I start with my question I would like to say how
how bit excuse me how mark writes with words that makes you feel like you’re
inside the book and makes it interesting and easy to understand you guys are all
so nice thank you very much we with you on that Safa what’s your question okay we’ve met you before
can you repeat that safa we only heard the last part of your question how long
did it take from when you first got your sturdiest so you got your book published
that’s a great question Safa it takes longer than most people think and less
time and more time than it should frankly with boys’s steel I wrote it in
2004 I sold the manuscript in 2005 and the book came out in 2008 which is
longer than usual frankly and was build a Boy Wonder I wrote it in the first
draft was in 2007 I sold it in 2010 and it came out this summer so there’s no
one track typically it’s a year and a half to two years from when you sell it
and when it is a physical book but for me a lot of the time goes even before
that when I’m doing my research and doing my writing thanks for the question
I’m sure the waiting seemed like a very long time for that problem yeah you say
that was in the middle of in the middle of water you know absolutely we haven’t
had a question via Skype and this is from Becca she’s also from green briar east
hi Becca hi hi first of all let me just say that I really liked how you
described everything in pure detail and I also liked how you use great
vocabulary thank you Oh on my question why did you choose to write the story
about that big secret or creator what was it to follow up on your blog boards
of Steel or for no reason it was for that reason and more I felt that Bill
Finger deserves a lot more credit than he gets in the mainstream comic book
people know about him but the average person growing up doesn’t hear his name
because they never see it it’s never on a Batman story it’s only
Bob Kanes name so I felt that someone should give him the legacy that he
deserves and other people have done great things about Bill but no one had
ever written a book about him and certainly not for young people on up I
want people to grow up knowing that when they see Batman created by Bob Kane
whether it’s in a comic or a book or a video game or a movie that that is not
the whole truth there was a lot of other genius that going into contributing to
that character yes yes it’s been great learning about that we also have another
question let’s go back to Safa for a moment Hey hi papa
hi again I remember you okay so my second question is how has that Miss
character change appears that’s a good question as well when Batman debuted he
was dark he was a figure of the night he was scary and then over the next 25
years or so he began the shift to become more of a almost a goofy character and
then that was around the 1960s when it reached its peak and there was a TV show
that you probably have never heard of but it was a very popular show of the
time where it was completely goofy and off-the-wall and then after that Batman
was returned to his roots he became darker again and his roots are Bill
Finger making him this gritty intimidating figure and that’s the
version of Batman that we still have today almost 40 years later so he’s had
lots of little changes and those are some of the bigger rollercoaster changes
okay thanks alpha and you all don’t go away we may be seeing you again here in
a few minutes so hang in there with us mark talk to us about you brought a
scarab with you yes tell us about this that we were talking about this before
the show what a fascinating story yes well I’ll show you the book first okay
there is a scene in the book where bill is at work at his desk writing and it
might be hard to make out but at the very bottom here next to the typewriter
which I hope you guys have heard of it’s an old-fashioned computer right perfect
visual there’s a little bronze doohickey you can’t tell what it is maybe at first
but it is a scarab and it’s a paperweight and that could be any detail
that was made up for all any reader notes but it’s actually a real authentic
detail I have it right here this was a scarab paperweight that Bill Finger
owned so it’s not valuable it’s not solid gold for those who don’t know what
is a scarab a scarab is a beetle and in this case it’s an Egyptian Beetle you
might be able to see in the ignore some glyphs and hieroglyphs and I
inherited this from one of those longtime friends a man named Charleston
Clare a really old-school gentleman who gave this to me when I was researching
the book because he thought it would mean something to me and I was extremely
honored I had refused it at first but he said no I really think that it would
mean more to you than anybody else so please take it and he said that bill
would type Batman scripts and then take them out of the typewriter and then put
this scarab on top of them so I feel like it was really eerie and haunting in
a good way for this to be on my desk when I’m writing about though when I
knew that at one point it was on his desk when he was writing Batman and he
actually used it as a paperweight you the board his way up yes it’s amazing
yeah yeah very honored to have it I’m sure you are absolutely well as we
learned earlier in the program comic books are for everyone let’s take a look
at what students learn when they create their own comic books and when we return
tips for writers of all ages let’s take a look the point of this class is about
doodling and doodling is where you can feel free to make mistakes and to make
them work and a great deal of the time I find I learn more from my mistakes than
from a perfectly executed drawing mistakes are sort of where the heart of
creativity is is how do you sort of take something that doesn’t quite work and
make it work then I often show a less professional artist like myself working
on things that intrigue and interests me and show the the work of it you know the
craftsmanship the mistakes that I make and then how you solve that so what I
was talking about was the foot being reversed here fixing this mistake here
where I can reverse his face and put it in later a lot of kids think oh well
you’re excellent we really like your drawings you’re perfect I don’t want to
draw but if I can show them my mistakes I think they get really excited because
they’re like well even he who’s really good can make a mistake and so they get
excited to make their own mistakes I like to sort of jump in and sort of
inhabit where they are in their creativity and see what it is they’re
working on yesterday you had the muscles like just straight like this and today
there’s almost a three dimensionality too
it took a while to get the muscles right yes yes yeah no I can clearly see you’re
working on that that you’ve got you saw a problem and decided to solve it you
weren’t satisfied with just this and so that’s any time you guys are sitting
around saying oh this drawing terrible you know all that is is your creative
ability saying I can make this better I just need to mess with it more okay
let’s take a look what Griffin right – Griffin I like that you get really into
mythical creatures here and then there’s the second Griffin in a Griffin elevator
repressilator because his legs are tired and doesn’t
apply that’s a super bus man and I could travel in style like that your
imagination can be your best company you know your best friend and that’s how you
learn clearly imagination plays such a huge
part in writing and drawing and creating these characters but clearly with
research curiosity is a huge element yes research can become addictive action
more and more curious as you go that’s not a bad thing know what advice you
have we advice question I have for you for storytellers who choose to share and
and be able to express themselves in a comic book
format how do you create a compelling story within that format
a big part of it is trusting your audience not spelling everything out not
showing everything that you need to show let them figure some things out between
the lines are between the panel’s and fin case maybe also let the art do some
of the story I’ve written things that I then take out of final drafts of
manuscripts because we’re showing something that I’m also saying and you
don’t need to be you don’t need to duplicate so if you have a choice
between words and art in a picture book or a comic book go with the art because
there’s lots of words let them work together in harmony it’s another form of
encapsulating which of course we practice so much in school how to
summarize how to really pick those salient points yes all right so any
other biographies in the pipeline I do have some nonfiction in the pipeline
they’re not strict biographies I think you could say they’re their true stories
and their stories that you haven’t heard yet I’m sure it not you but mostly most
people that’s what I like to do I’m Superman and Batman everyone’s heard of
but knowing need the stories behind them that’s one of the appeals of doing these
books and then might do what no one the books that I’m working on our in that
category so there’s some high-profile angle in one case its World War two and
another case it’s Terry’s and then there’s something in the background that
is hidden or mysterious that I will talk about okay that covers a wide spectrum
abroad I know that’s my cue that you’re unexpected I have to ask you about this
yellow finger you have here next to you well this summer I had the honor of
speaking at Comic Con which is in San Diego it’s the biggest comic book
convention it’s the biggest pop culture convention in America it happens every
July and I made these foam fingers to hand out there I had two speaking gigs
the first one was just me and at the end of my talk which was very well attended
and ver there’s a lot of love for Bill Finger I
gave half of these out I said I want people to take these and there’s only
one condition you have to wear them you have to wear them around the convention
so obviously I’m I’m very transparent about it we had a publicity absolutely
it was not just publicity from my book but for Bill Finger and the next day I
had my second talk which is a panel so there’s no another gentleman with me and
at one point during that talk I announced that I was going to be giving
out the second half of these fingers and to people in the audience held up the
one that I had given them the day before I didn’t know who they were but they
just held them up and I took a picture of that so they had they were men of
their word they were wearing their finger they didn’t know I was going to
say that and so they spread throughout comic-con they kept their deal well it’s
an eye-catcher absolutely good player in words thank you so much but before we go
I cannot close the show without going back to green briar east and thanking our
students for their great questions they did their reading and I think they had
some really good questions for you I agree thank you for your great question
and your compliment thank you everybody and mark thank you so much it’s been a
pleasure talking to you today thank you for having me yeah it’s been a lot of
fun thank you well if you would like to reach MarcTyler noblemen visit his blog
at noble mania the stories behind what I write for more information about this
program and future episodes of meet the author visit our website and to our new
members in New South Wales Australia and Tegucigalpa Honduras see you on the web
for the Fairfax Network I’m della kidd keep reading keep writing and keep

2 thoughts on “Meet the Author: Marc Tyler Nobleman

  1. This is an important interview that every Superman fan and Batman fan should see. Marc Tyler Nobleman is a true historian!

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