MANCHESTER – Superheroes are supposed to fight for truth and justice. Maryland author Marc Tyler Nobleman inspired middle school students to do just that as he shared the findings of his two books that traced the lives of four men who created two comic book legends.
Nobleman, who wrote “Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman” and “Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman,” visited the Manchester Middle School and addressed hundreds of students in the school gymnasium from the 6th, 7th and 8th grade class.
His visit was made possible by the school district’s PTA. Nellianne Parr, donning a pink cape with a Superman emblem, said the PTA board reviews potential presenters including authors and knew that Nobleman and his topic would be a big hit among the students. Several students joined in with the fun wearing capes for the occasion. Seventh grade teacher Jen Santomenna went one step further and wore a Superman T-shirt with her red cape.
Regarding Jerry Siegel, the writer who co-created Superman, Nobleman said that a prior book had “never mentioned his dad in interviews with him. It was if he left his dad out on purpose, so I tried to find out and at first I failed.”
He said he learned through his research that Siegel’s father Michael worked at a clothes store and that he had been robbed and shot. He said he learned that Michael Siegel had also been reported to have died from a heart attack after the robbery. “How could it have been wrong? It was put in a book and I wondered if when my book came out people would think I was wrong. I looked through police reports from 1932, his death certificate and a coroner’s report that all said he died of a heart attack.”
The author told students that they needed to “step away from the internet. It may be good as a starting point but as a writer you sometimes need to be a detective as well. Remember the old game of hide and seek? You can find what others missed. You can use the internet but not all the time. Not in this age of fake news.”
He relayed how Siegel and Shuster – the artist who co-created Superman – were a pair of Ohio teenagers who pushed their creation for nearly four years before a publisher who needed to fill an issue of Action Comics, finally gave it a go. That issue sold 130,000 copies at the time and this year, Superman is celebrating his 80th anniversary as a comic book character who was adapted to radio, cartoons and motion pictures.
“That 10 cent comic is now worth much more than a dime. It made history a few years ago when one copy of it was sold for a million dollars. A family was evicted from their home and while cleaning out their house they found a copy. They knew its worth. Superman saved their house,” Nobleman said.
“When Jerry and Joe had this idea they weren’t rich, famous and they were just a couple of kids but they changed the world. It could happen to you. Everyone gets ideas. Don’t be afraid. Don’t keep that idea to yourself to prevent that fear of rejection or you will feel the sting of never trying and never knowing if it would have worked,” Nobleman added.
The author moved on to his other book, “Bill the Boy Wonder” who was the second half of the creative team of Bob Kane and Bill Finger. Finger had never gotten his just due in his role of creating Batman’s back story or even his eventual look in the comic book.
Nobleman noted that he got very little reference in letter pages of comics for his creative work outside of one reference that he co-created the original golden age Green Lantern. Nobleman was the first writer to interview Finger’s second wife which also led to his interviewing his son Fred and his daughter Athena to flesh out the real story and to get Finger the recognition he had been denied in life.
He noted that to even find a photo of Finger from his high school required some detective work after the high school could not provide it. “I visited his school and they had no pictures of Bill. I left disappointed, but I talked to his second wife who said Bill was not his real name. His given name was Milton but he did not like that name and had it changed after he graduated.”
“Nobleman’s work led to DC Comics acknowledging the late artist’s work after decades of his falling into the shadow of Bob Kane who had never acknowledged the equal role Finger played in the iconic character’s creation.
Melissa DiDia, the PTA’s future president said that she enjoyed the author’s presentation. “We knew that he could inspire our students to do research and use their imagination when writing and superheroes are something kids really like.”