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Balloonless | Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman

It’s never too early to learn what a cesspool of shady business practices and money-driven infighting the industry responsible for creating and promoting your favorite noble champions of justice really was.

That’s the thought that kept running through my head as I made my way through Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman, author Marc Tyler Nobleman’s follow-up to his 2008 Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman.

Like his previous work, Boy Wonder is a non-fiction picture book aimed at children. At least in presentation; I can’t imagine very young children being as interested in it as grown-ups though, and for grown-ups, there’s an excellent all-prose, six-page article marked “Author’s Note” at the end, fleshing out the more simplified story that fills the bulk of the page count with plenty of detail and discussing Nobleman’s process of research for the book.

The story of the late Bill Finger — who is, of course, the Bill in the title — doesn’t quite fit into a picture book format as easily as that of young Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. There are a lot of similarities between the creators of Superman and the uncredited co-creator of Batman, including their backgrounds, the settings their stories occurred in, the impact of their creation and their unfortunate lack of participation in the rewards of that success, but Finger’s story is a lot more complicated than that of the boys from Cleveland, and lacks the natural melodrama of their hard-luck childhood and the epiphany nature of their hero’s inception (as presented in Boys of Steel, following Siegel’s own accounts, Superman’s transformation from a concept the young writer toyed with over the years into the world’s first superhero came in a sort of fever dream fit of inspiration one night).

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Comics A.M. | Kodansha’s Attack on Titan tops 9 million in Japan

Attack on Titan, Vol. 1

Publishing | Kodansha’s Attack on Titan, the action-fantasy manga by Hajime Isayama, has sold more than 9 million copies in Japan, according to the Sports Nippon newspaper. The eighth volume was released last week in Japan; Kodansha USA will publish the second volume next month in North America. [Anime News Network]

Publishing | Alex Zalben pays a visit to the Valiant offices and talks shop with editor Warren Simons: “Asking whether the idea was to set these up so that you can go right to TV, video games, or other properties, Simons strongly denies that was behind the relaunch. ‘I think you have guys who really love comic books,’ said Simons. ‘I’m just interested in publishing comic books. Obviously in this space, in this day and age you want to pay attention to everything – just like everyone does. But I think it all derives from publishing … [The publishers] just wanted to read comics about the characters that they loved growing up!'” [MTV Geek]

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Comics A.M. | A case for Bill Finger receiving Batman screen credit

Bill: The Boy Wonder

Creators | While acknowledging the agreement that names Bob Kane as the sole creator of Batman, The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna and Bill: The Boy Wonder author Marc Tyler Nobleman make the case for giving writer Bill Finger a screen credit on The Dark Knight Rises. [Comic Riffs]

Conventions | Although Comic-Con International is usually thought of as a stage for movie studios, major comics publishers and video-game developers, Mark Eades looks at the event as a showcase for small businesses, from artists to toymakers. [The Orange County Register]

Conventions | Robot 6 contributor Brigid Alverson reports on the kids’ comics scene at Comic-Con International, including news that Papercutz will produce a comic based on the viral web phenomenon “Annoying Orange.” [Publishers Weekly]

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Food or Comics? | Team Cul de Sacher torte

Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse, Volume 3: High Noon at Inferno Gulch

Chris Mautner

If I had $15, Casanova: Avaritia #4 would be the first thing I’d pick up. I’ve been enjoying Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba’s return to their dimension-hopping super-spy immensely and am looking forward to seeing how it all wraps up.

If I had $30, I’d make the difficult choice between two top-notch offerings from Fantagraphics this week. One: New York Mon Amour, a collection of Manhattan-themed stories by the one and only Jacques Tardi, including the Kalfkaesque “Cockroach Killer.” The other would be the third volume in the ongoing Mickey Mouse collection, High Noon at Inferno Gulch. I’m an unabashed Floyd Gottfredson fan, so the Mickey book would probably win out. But I’d be sure to save my coins for next week so I can get the Tardi book then.

Assuming I don’t blow all my splurge dough on the Tardi book, there’s a number of solid options here: Out of the Shadows, a collection of Mort Meskin’s early non-DC work; Bill the Boy Wonder, a new prose biography of Batman co-creator Bill Finger; and a Challengers of the Unknown Omnibus featuring Jack Kirby’s run. If I were in a charitable mood, however, I’d likely snap up Team Cul de Sac, the anthology/art book/tribute to Richard Thompson’s delightful comic strip featuring contributions from folks like Lynn Johnston, Mort Walker, Gary Trudeau and even Bill Watterson! Proceeds from the book go to help fight Parkinson’s disease, which Thompson unfortunately suffers from. It’s hard for me to think of a more worthy – or potentially enjoyable – book to spend your money on this week.

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What Are You Reading? with Matthew Thurber

Amazon Comics

Hello and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Our special guest this week is Matthew Thurber of 1-800 Mice and Infomaniacs fame. To see what Matthew and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.

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Grumpy Old Fan | Alan Scott and readers through the ages

'90s 1, Alan 0

My parents were born in 1942, four years too early to be baby boomers. It also means they were just the wrong age to be exposed heavily to either the Golden or the Silver age of superhero comics. By the time they would have started to read, the Golden Age was half over; and when the Silver Age started in 1956, they were too old to be interested. I confirmed this with my dad, who has vague recollections of the original superheroes, but whose comic collection included more Archies and Little Lulus. (Had I known how much 21st-century hipster cred this would have given me, I’d have pressed him harder about those ….)

Still, these days they can’t get away from the Spandex set. When Conan O’Brien asserted (rightfully) that the Hulk had been in the Fantastic Four, Dad emailed me for confirmation.  This itself was a big step up for Dad, who at one point several years ago thought Batman was in the FF. (In fact, I don’t think my folks have seen either of the Christopher Nolan movies, although they did watch a revival of the 1940s serial at the local art-house theater.  Dad especially didn’t have any interest in the Schumacher movies, because the characters just “looked like toys.”) Last year, after the Green Lantern movie had been playing for a while, Dad thought he remembered seeing it — but actually, he and Mom had enjoyed Seth Rogen’s Green Hornet. Their nerd knowledge (what there is of it) is more likely to include Star Trek and Sherlock Holmes, although lately they’re into Downton Abbey.

Regardless, when I think about the impact of outing Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, I tend to gauge it in terms of my dad. He may not be the best representative of the generation that grew up with the Justice Society, but among people I know he was in the best position to become a fan, and for whatever reason it just didn’t stick. Therefore, when I mentioned the revelation of Alan’s sexuality to Dad over the weekend, it really didn’t register one way or another.

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Grumpy Old Fan | The man who made the Darknight Detective

We may never know what happened to that hapless thug's hat

All the recent talk of creator credits has reminded me of Bill Finger and Bob Kane. Throughout the character’s history, Kane has been listed officially as Batman’s sole creator, even though many comics fans, historians, and professionals recognize Finger’s indelible contributions. Kane’s singular credit comes from his own negotiations for the sale of Batman to what is now DC Comics, and it continues to this day. In fact, the most recent trailer for The Dark Knight Rises — which as usual flashes “Batman created by Bob Kane,” or something like it, in the brief glimpse of credits — reminded me that Kane had help.

Indeed, the circumstances of Batman’s creation, sale, and subsequent treatment may even comprise one of superhero comics’ great ironies. Batman is a tremendously elastic character, able to accommodate an incredible range of interpretations. Perhaps none of that would have been possible if Kane hadn’t sold the character … but he wouldn’t be the Batman we know today if Kane hadn’t listened to Bill Finger.

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Talking Comics with Tim | Ty Templeton

Ultimate Spider-Man

If you are a fan of all-ages comics, odds are pretty good you enjoyed a fair share of comics involving Ty Templeton. So it did not surprise me when Marvel launched a new Ultimate Spider-Man comic (based on the new Disney XD series that premiered recently) and tapped Templeton and Dan Slott to co-write and draw a story for the first issue (which came out last week). Templeton will also be teaming with Slott on Avenging Spider-Man 8 (set for release on June 20). That just scratches the surface of what Templeton is working on–or as he put it in this email interview: “There’s always something else going on.” I’m hard-pressed to pick which of his new upcoming projects I am most enthused about, but the prospect of seeing him work as a live talkshow/webcast host nears the top of the list. Also, I am overjoyed to know that Templeton (a great creator with a wealth of knowledge and experience)  is passing along that love of storytelling by teaching folks. Over the years, I have always relished interviewing Templeton and cannot believe this marks the first time we have done an interview for Robot 6.

Tim O’Shea: Did you contact Marvel, or did they contact you for this new Ultimate Spider-Man series?

Ty Templeton: They contacted me, but I’ve done a few things for the Spider-Man office here and there, so they were already in touch with me. I did a small chapter for an issue of Amazing about eight months ago, and a couple of one-page Spider-Man stories for Age of Heroes, and things like that.

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Comics A.M. | Ziggy creator passes away; The Chill wins Anthony Award

Ziggy

Passings | Tom Wilson Sr., creator of the long-running comic strip Ziggy, passed away Sept. 16. According to a press release from Universal Uclick, Wilson, 80, had suffered from a long illness and died in his sleep. For more than 35 years, Wilson served as a creative director at American Greetings. Wilson first published Ziggy in the 1969 cartoon collection When You’re Not Around. The Ziggy comic panel, syndicated by Universal Uclick (formerly Universal Press Syndicate), launched in 15 newspapers in June 1971. It now appears in more than 500 daily and Sunday newspapers and has been featured in best-selling books, calendars and greeting cards. Wilson’s son, Tom Wilson Jr., took over the strip in 1987. [Universal Uclick]

Awards | The Chill by Jason Star and Mick Bertilorenzi won an Anthony Award this weekend at Bouchercon, the annual mystery convention. The Vertigo Crime selection won in the Best Graphic Novel category, while Birds of Prey writer Duane Swierczynski took the Best Original Paperback category with his novel Expiration Date. [Examiner]

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