Friends and neighbors:

As most of you know, I am writing a book about journalists in comic books. It's a riff on my Master's thesis. It's kinda fun, and I want to share that, since it's consuming all my time. I think maybe you guys would like to be in on the conversation in my head.

I know some of you have done books on your own, and haven't asked any help here. I acknowledge that, and am not asking for help myself.

I just think it will be fun.

So, do you guys want to go on this journey with me? Sure, you all get credit in the Foreword.

But the first question is ... do you want to play? If not, I'll continue to toil in darkness.

Let me know, Legionnaires!

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Will Superman be in this chapter (1938-1955) or a different one?

Superman? Who's that?

Kidding. Yes, Chapter Two is Pre-Code (ish) Daily Star, Daily Planet, Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Perry White.

Some chapter title suggestions:

  • Mightier Than the Sword
  • Anonymous Source
  • Can I Quote You on That?
  • Bullet Points

Love 'em, Philip! I've got one or two chapters that aren't suggesting anything clever to me. Maybe I can adapt one of yours.

Sorry I've been away from this topic so long. (I see Philip's post is two months old.) There are reasons for that, of course. Among them are a new job (with The Daily Memphian online newspaper) that began roughly a year ago, a switch in my McFarland editor and, or course, a pandemic.

During the pandemic, which has cost many people their jobs (including dear friends on this board) I have had the opposite experience: My workload has increased, as news vital to public health has increased. In similar fashion, my wife -- the PIO at the county health department -- has been working literally seven days a week since late March. We are both exhausted.

Which I only say to explain the book business. Again: Many friends have lost jobs or lost loved ones to this pandemic. Other friends have been slogging through serious health problems. My wife and I know we are extraordinarily lucky, despite being in high-risk groups. We are grateful. And our hearts are with those of you have suffered harsh blows. Hang in there. You are loved.

Meanwhile, back at Narcissism Central, I will continue to talk about this book.To wit:

To my own astonishment, I did almost no work between the time I got hired last summer until I took vacation time in July. I blew through more than one deadline (which are, evidently, only suggestions in the book business), which makes me feel un-manned. 

But my new editor doesn't care, and thank God she's arrived, because she's allowing me to be lazy. Here's why:

As those of you on this board who share the OCD gene with me (looking at you, Jeff of Earth-J) might guess, my first impulse on this book was to be AS COMPREHENSIVE AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE. This was buttressed by my first editor, who thought we should be aiming for the textbook market. Which meant, among other things, peer review. Which meant, for me, finding EVERY DAMN REPORTER THAT EVER APPEARED IN COMIC BOOKS.

After roughly two years, I had gone from 1933 to 1937. And there were still a few corners I hadn't checked. Obviously, this was going to take a while.

But I sent my new editor the first three chapters -- which she actually read, and sent back, covered in notes. Oh no! But it turned out we were pretty much on the same page about technical stuff. And when it came to structure of the book ... well, she thought I was working too hard.

Well, she didn't say that. She said I had a lively writing style, and I should focus on doing more of that, instead of being all ponderous and academic. In fact, that textbook idea was terrible, and I should go for the pop culture market, obviating peer review. And about 5,000 characters.

Color me relieved. Especially since I had already decided that the more than 100 characters I had assembled just in the war years (superhero reporters, reporter sidekicks, girlfriend/boyfriend reporters, reporters with no superhero connections) were all so similar, that there was no point to separating them into Chapters 4-6 ... that, instead, I should gang them all in one chapter, describe them in a few paragraphs, use some interesting, funny or significant examples, and relegate the rest to an appendix.

And what do you know: She suggested much the same thing.

So now I don't have to struggle with every Tom, Dick and Lance Gallant to put on a cape. The next time I get some time off, I should be able to knock off Chapter 4, and then leap to Chapter 7 (which is now Chapter 5), which is Crime. Or Horror. Haven't decided.

This is going to get a LOT easier. Especially since the Post-Code half of the book was always a terrible dark trap waiting in my future, because I knew I couldn't be comprehensive about it. That would require, at the very least, re-reading every comic book starring Superman (and friends) and Spider-Man (and friends) plus trying to re-read entire runs of series with OTHER major reporter characters (Ben Urich in Daredevil, Liz Tremayne in Swamp Thing, etc.)

But now all I have to do is focus on the big ones. And you guys can help me figure out which of those are important, right?

Congratulations on the new editor and new plan, Cap! That sounds MUCH more doable! And frankly, much more fun to read and write!

And good luck with the increased schedules, to both of you!

I doubt I'll be much help, Cap, but thanks for the update. The new plan sounds like something you could actually finish in our lifetimes!

Sounds like an interesting project.

I remember reading some 1950s comic book with a character named, I think, Vinny Brown, who was a reporter for a paper called The Mudville [or whatever the town was] Sun.

There was a gag wherein some tough guy asks him "What are you doing here? We're not open to the public!"

"Oh, I'm Brown from the Sun!" he replies.

"I don't care how you got your tan," says the tough guy, "Get out of here." Our man in forcible evicted.

I don't know if he was a continuing character. I couldn't find anything.

"(looking at you, Jeff of Earth-J)"

Who, me?

I echo Rob's sentiments.

Don Mankowski said:

I remember reading some 1950s comic book with a character named, I think, Vinny Brown, who was a reporter for a paper called The Mudville [or whatever the town was] Sun.

There was a gag wherein some tough guy asks him "What are you doing here? We're not open to the public!"

"Oh, I'm Brown from the Sun!" he replies.

"I don't care how you got your tan," says the tough guy, "Get out of here." Our man in forcible evicted.

I don't know if he was a continuing character. I couldn't find anything.

That reminds me of a bit from one of Don Martin's original paperbacks for MAD magazine. One character strides up to another and introduces himself thusly: "Hi! I'm Squinting from The Morning Sun!"

"So what do I care?" says the other gent. "Get yourself some sunglasses!"

"No, I'm Fred Squinting, from The Morning Sun newspaper!"

(Man, the things you remember buried in the dim, dark recesses of the brain ... !)

I guess that today, he might be Squinting from The Monitor.

Hmmm, we could make a sport of this ...

"I'm Mann of The World!"
"I'm Seign of The Times!"
"I'm Kane, The Citizen!"

However, that wouldn't help Cap's project in the slightest, I fear.

I'm Reveille, from The Bugle!

Gad, now you've got me doing it!

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