UConn Hillel hosted a talk with author Marc Tyler Nobleman Tuesday night. Nobleman is the author of “Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman” and “Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman.” During the talk, he discussed the research that went into these two projects, the process and decisions behind the books and their reception.
The first half of the discussion was dedicated to “Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman.” This picture book is a biography of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the original creators of Superman. Nobleman adapted the contents of his book to fit the format of this kind of presentation. He gave the audience a summary of the story of the two comic writers, which included illustrations from the book, as well as pictures of the writers he was able to uncover during his research.
Nobleman detailed the challenges that come with telling a story through a picture book, which is inherently less detailed than a novel.
“Jerry and Joe were both Jewish and I wanted that to be mentioned in the book but these are picture books — I didn’t have a natural organic way to mention in the story proper that they were Jewish but it was important to me, so I did two things,” Nobleman said. “I talked about that in the afterword … and I showed it.”
Nobleman described how he used Shabbat candles in the background of one of the illustrations to show Siegel and Shuster’s heritage.
He also talked about the critical attention to detail that went into his research. He told the story of how he got in contact with the current owners of the house Siegel grew up in so he could make an illustration of Siegel working at his typewriter more accurate.
“I do everything I can to make the art as accurate as the words,” Nobleman said. “To find out what Jerry’s window really looked like, I went to Jerry’s house.”
After concluding this part of the discussion, Nobleman moved on to “Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman.” This book tells the story of Bill Finger, one of the original co-creators of Batman, who, until very recently, was not credited for any of his work on the caped crusader.
“The most interesting thing I learned was that the real creator of Batman got no credit for his work,” Joseph Drossman, a third-semester nutritional sciences major, said.
The book had an overwhelmingly positive critical reception and was adapted into a Hulu documentary, titled “Batman & Bill,” for which Nobleman wrote the screenplay. Once again, Nobleman gave the audience a summary of the contents of his book. He discussed how he worked on the project with the intent of bringing attention to the injustice behind Finger’s story and getting Finger the credit he deserved.
“This is something that many people told me to my face, or online, would never happen,” Nobleman said. “Just because people think it’s not possible doesn’t mean it’s not. Especially when it’s something as simple as adding a name. This is not trying to fling yourself to the moon on a homemade catapult. This is something that is achievable.”
After the book was released and Finger was still not given credit for his work, Nobleman tracked down Finger’s only known grandchild, Athena Finger, who was able to convince DC Comics to credit her grandfather for the creation of Batman.
At the end of the talk, Nobleman accepted questions from the audience. When asked about his current projects, he said he is working on a book about the Holocaust. The book will tell the personal story of a Holocaust survivor his family knew and provide information about The Stolpersteine Project. For more about Nobleman, you can visit his blog at noblemania.com.