Thursday, September 24, 2015


     The Austrian writer Peter Handke said "if a nation loses its storytellers, it loses its childhood."
     Stories are how we come to understand the world we live in and navigate it as we grow.  With luck, a human being will find one or two in childhood that he or she can carry for an entire life.  After all, without a childhood, how can we ever properly grow into adults?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Comics Connector

     The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has been safeguarding the rights of comic book professionals for almost forty years now.  Recently, they launched the Comics Connector online resource, which helps schools find people who work in the comic book field to come for visits and discussions.  For more on this excellent initiative to tap into the form's educational potential, have a look at this article from School Library Journal, which includes comments from yours truly.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Truth, Justice and the American Born Chinese Way

 Gene Yang comes to the writing duties on the monthly Superman comic with impressive credentials, among them American Born Chinese, the first graphic novel ever nominated for the National Book Award.  It shouldn't be so shocking then that he has managed to tell a fresh story with this venerable character, nor that he balances his own particular voice with the tried and true rhythms of the quintessential superhero comic (ably assisted, it must be said, by veteran John Romita Jr.'s dynamic visuals).  His most awe-inspiring achievement, though, is that he has perfected the central relationship of the piece and, more astounding still, managed to evolve it.  Over seventy-seven years, the Lois/Superman relationship has been done well often enough, but Mr. Yang gets it so right it makes you realize this is how it was supposed to be all along.  Lois doesn't need Superman because he's big and strong.  She needs him because she understands what he sacrifices for the sake of others and for his deep and honest (and necessary) innocence.  Superman doesn't need Lois because she's pretty.  He needs her because she understands things in a way he never can, an understanding which breeds a certain toughness in her, but which she still balances with humanity.     
      This relationship is proudly on display in Superman 43, where it reaches a new level as Lois makes an impossible decision for Superman that he fails to make for himself.  At the heart of all this, of course, is Mr. Yang's ability to write compelling characters and to find a certain heroism even in those who aren't superheroes.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Wisdom of Tony Banta

     Watching my daughter's sometimes astounding, sometimes disappointing (to herself) performance in Little League puts me in the mind of the television show Taxi, surely TV's most melancholy sitcom.
     In the episode "Out of Commission" Tony Danza's hard-luck boxer Tony Banta faces the revocation of his boxing license after one too many knockouts in a row.  When asked why he even wants to continue in such a brutal sport anyway, Tony responds "I can't say I've ever had a great fight.  Hell, I can't even say I've had a great round.  But there have been moments."  He recounts a particular combination of "left, right, left hook" that left the crowd speechless and made him the equivalent of any of the champion boxers who ever lived.  "I always thought that someday I'd put a few of those great moments together and have that great fight."
     We build, little by little, in fits and starts, touching greatness and then seeing it recede, only to dive back into mediocrity knowing that next time, we have a chance of holding onto greatness just a little bit longer.  This applies to boxing, Little League, writing, and whatever else a human being might do to achieve something that resonates for everyone.