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Archives: September 2006

Robert Downey, Jr. IS Iron Man

The Hollywood Reporter passes along the news that Robert Downey, Jr. will star in Iron Man, a big-screen version of the Marvel comic about a billionaire inventor with a kick-ass suit of armor. Jon Favreau has long been attached to direct the movie, expected to come out in 2008. (Thanks for the tip, Heidi!)

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Scene @ “Fantagraphics 2006″ Opening Party

fantagraphics-poster.jpg“Most museums don’t like to show works that are unfinished,” Terrence Brown explained as he introduced me to the exhibition of artwork from Fantagraphics Books’ first 30 years of publishing independent comics, but the Society of Illustrators was delighted to host the retrospective, which was suggested by political cartoonist Steve Brodner, even though some of the artwork was still a few steps away from their printed versions, with captions missing or pasted over after rewrites. It didn’t take long for the room to fill up with many of the leading names in alternative comics; thankfully, The Beat’s Heidi MacDonald was kind enough to tell me who was who. Bob Fingerman (leaning against the wall) talked to a group of fellow creators about the exhibit, while children’s book author/illustrator Cambria Evans and her husband, Kari Christensen, proudly showed a copy of Martha Moth Makes Socks to Arkady Roytman. Then I got to meet two of my favorite writer/artists ever, Evan Dorkin (in the red shirt) and Stephen DeStefano. (Note to DC Comics: Absolute ‘Mazing Man; it’s the right thing to do.)

More pictures from the evening can be found in my Flickr photostream.

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Bloggers, Book Critics Find Common Ground

Unfortunately, a vicious head cold kept me from getting to the National Book Critics Circle panel at Housing Works Wednesday night, where John Freeman brought Laurie Muchnick and Frank Wilson, the book editors of Newsday and the Philadelphia Inquirer, together with bookbloggers Maud Newton and Lizzie Skurnick to hash out the reviewer-blogger conflict. (Actually, there was a significant amount of overlap, as both Newton and Skurnick have written for newspapers, including the NYTBR, and Wilson’s got his own blog.) Fortunately, Jane Ciabattari was taking notes for the NBCC Critical Mass blog, and compiled a selection of quotes from the evening. Freeman also offers an insider’s perspective on the event, along with mentioning all the literati that came to watch.

Blogging Lesson for Publishers:A Scrapbook Is Not a Book

Following up on the issue of underperformance by bloggers with book deals, Simon Owens of Bloggasm considers what separates the strong blog/books from the weak. Owens cites Crashing the Gate by Markos Moulitsas Zuniga (Daily Kos) as one of the flops, and Glenn Greenwald’s How Would A Patriot Act? as one of the successes—but how did that happen, he wonders, if Kos has a way bigger audience online?

The answer: Zuniga does little more than throw up snippets of news with a minimum of analysis, while Greenwald uses other stories as a genuine springboard for his own point of view. “If you’re a publisher who’s looking to give a blogger a book deal,” Owens concludes, “look for bloggers who are big on content, because it’s not just the readership that’s the key, but rather why the readers are going to the site.”

Metaverse Sourcebook Now Sold in Metaverse

Jeremy Ettinghausen, the “digital publisher” at the UK branch of the Penguin Group, dropped us a line to let us know about his house’s plans to insinuate themselves into the virtual world of Second Life. Fittingly enough, Penguin (collaborating with “innovation marketing” agency Rivers Run Red) will begin the project by distributing print and audio excerpts from Neal Stephenson’s cyberpunk ur-text Snow Crash in Second Life settings, along with discounts for UK readers. “With Snow Crash we can showcase a book close to many Second Lifers’ hearts and minds,” Ettinghausen writes, “and it is an obvious entry point for Penguin. But in an environment where words are intensely powerful, we hope that we can bring other books and other authors into Second Life and provide some quality content for the bookshelves of residents, both inworld and offline.” With that goal in mind, Penguin will eventually follow up with samples from 20 other titles in the “Penguin Virtual Bookshelf.”

Dan Brown’s Secret Service Legend Debunked

Seth Mnookin, tidying up some loose ends from his Vanity Fair feature on Dan Brown, finally scores convincing evidence that one of Brown’s most familiar anecdotes is probably a lie. Brown has claimed several times that his first novel, Digital Fortress, was inspired by a visit that Secret Service agents paid to Phillips Exeter (where Brown was a teacher) in 1995 to interrogate a student who, as he described it in his witness statement during the Da Vinci Code plagiarism trial, “sent a private email to a friend saying how much he hated President Clinton and how he thought the president should be shot.”

“I looked into this claim and couldn’t find any evidence that the Secret Service had ever visited Phillips Exeter,” Mnookin writes on his blog. “But it took until last week before the Secret Service confirmed that they have no record of the incident Brown claims inspired him.” How do you like that?

Phillips, Prelutsky Pick Up Poetry Prizes

carl-phillips.jpgThe Academy of American Poets annnounced earlier this week that Carl Phillips was the recipient of a $25,000 “Academy Fellowship,” awarded annually to a poet at mid-career. Quiver of Arrows, a selection of his work from 1986 to the present, will be published next year by FSG; he has twice been a National Book Award finalist and once for the National Book Critics Circle prize.

jack-prelutsky.jpgMeanwhile, the Poetry Foundation named Jack Prelutsky (left) as the first U.S. children’s poet laureate, which coincidentally also comes with a $25K check (and a medallion). Prelutsky has already conducted an online workshop for elementary school students, sponsored by Scholastic, which encourages kids to start writing their own verse. As he tells the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, sure, his work isn’t accorded the same critical respect as that of poets who write for older audiences, but “the interesting thing about this is children’s poetry sells much better than adult poetry.”

Copy Editors Today Have It Easy

Back when I was a young whippersnapper, when we still called all this fancypants online publishing “new media” (and liked it!), if we wanted to look something up in The Chicago Manual of Style, we had to pull our own hardbound copies down from our bookshelves, look up the subject of our query in the index, and then flip through the pages to find the answer. But now the University of Chicago Press is moving all that information onto the Internet, where for annual fees starting at $25, subscribers won’t have to lift their ass cheeks out of their chairs to find out if, say, it’s still acceptable to put parentheses around the area code in phone numbers. (It is, though more and more people these days are just using a hyphen—but Chicago has no opinion on using periods instead of hyphens, so if you want to be a hipster, you’re on your own.)

Thanks to this technological innovation, Chicago managing editor Anita Samen tells the NY Times, “you can consult [the manual] on the fly, so you are free to do your writing and editing without having to retain huge numbers of rules in your head.” In my day, keeping all those rules in our head made us better writers, and when we had to look something up, at the very least we cultivated some strength in our forearms doing it. Just think what a couple years of searchable online databases is going to do to these punk bloggers—pretty soon they won’t be able to lift their arms to sign the contracts on all those book deals they’re getting. Humbug, I say!

Comics-Inspired Show Has Comics Spinoff

It takes me a while to catch up with what’s on my TiVo, but I finally sat down to watch the premiere of NBC’s Heroes last night and was interested enough to add a season pass for future episodes (even if the basic premise of “ordinary people discovering extraordinary abilities” is semi-familiar to old-school “New Universe” fans who can’t wait for its return this winter). And then, as soon as the show was over, I went over to the computer and checked out the official “graphic novels” on NBC’s web site. Now, “graphic novels” is a serious misnomer since these are, strictly speaking, mini-comics. This week’s installment, for example, is a 5-pager providing some background on Suresh, the Indian geneticist trying to track down his father’s research. The most important aspect of this, from our publishing-centric perspective, is that these comics are being produced by some of the hottest names in the industry, from Jeph Loeb (who’s a staff writer for the series) and his frequent comics collaborator Tim Sale (who’s doing the actual paintings for the character with visions of the future). Other major artists attached to the project include Michael Turner, who’s doing the first four installments (including the artwork below), and Jim Lee…although his involvement has a few comics fans snickering, given that his most high-profile projects such as All-Star Batman and Robin have been chronically plagued by delays.

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Sen. Allen’s Biographer Stands by Her Man

kathleen-antrim.jpgWhen I met Kathleen Antrim (left) two years ago at an International Thriller Writers reception, I had an inkling of her other career as a political columnist…but I never would’ve guessed that she’d be working on a biography of U.S. Senator George Allen, he of “Macaca” infamy. As the controversy surrounding what Allen did or didn’t say about African-Americans when he was a college student grows, Antrim’s publicist wants us all to know that the author thinks the charges are bunk. “It’s disgusting and despicable that they are playing the race card against Allen, a man that grew up in an integrated family and considers many of his father’s teammates family,” Antrim says in a press release issued yesterday. (An “integrated family,” you ask? That’s an interesting take on integration, considering that Allen’s mother suppressed public knowledge of her Jewish ancestry for decades in order to appease George Allen, Sr.’s family, and Allen himself referred publicly to his mother as “French-Italian with a little Spanish blood.”)

But is Antrim’s defense too little too late? She went into the biography project hoping to get the earliest possible access to a frontrunner for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination; now The Weekly Standard wonders if his career will last past November. “Having just stepped out upon the national stage,” writes Matthew Continetti, “Allen now finds himself in danger of being shuffled off of it.”

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