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Glen Weldon

Glen Weldon is a regular panelist on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. He also reviews books and movies for NPR.org and is a contributor to NPR's pop culture blog Monkey See, where he posts weekly about comics and comics culture.

Over the course of his career, he has spent time as a theater critic, a science writer, an oral historian, a writing teacher, a bookstore clerk, a PR flack, a seriously terrible marine biologist and a slightly better-than-average competitive swimmer.

Weldon is the author of Superman: The Unauthorized Biography, a cultural history of the iconic character. His fiction and criticism have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Atlantic, Slate, Story, McSweeney's, The Dallas Morning News, Washington City Paper and many other publications. He is the recipient of an NEA Arts Journalism Fellowship, a Ragdale Writing Fellowship and a PEW Fellowship in the Arts for Fiction.

Think about superheroes for a minute. NO THANKS, you say. KIND OF SUPERHEROED OUT, you say. I'M TIRED OF BEING FORCE-FED AN ALL-SUPERHERO DIET IN MOVIES AND TV, SO ACTUALLY IT'D BE GREAT IF I COULD NOT THINK ABOUT THEM, AT ALL, FOR EVEN ONE LOUSY MINUTE, THANK YOU VERY MUCH, you say. ... You are kind of touchy, has anyone told you that? No, I get it. I write about the superhero as a cultural construct, so I hear from a lot of people who are sick to death of superheroes,...

Another sequel, another chance for Hollywood to hurl metal hither and yon and make with the flashy summer blockbuster blow-'em-ups. Yawn, right? So you might think. But I asked Chris Klimek to help me unpack why so many critics are praising Mad Max: Fury Road as something altogether different. We discuss the original Mad Max trilogy from our different perspectives and analyze how Fury Road fits in — or doesn't. Chris, who wrote a great review for NPR , wonders how a sequel...

Another first Saturday in May, another blockbuster superhero movie set to bust our collective blocks, another Free Comic Book Day. "What's Free Comic Book Day?" you ask, because you've managed to ignore the gallons of virtual ink I've spilled about it on this blog every year since 2009. (No look it's fine, I get it, but at this point it's starting to look like willful obtuseness on your part, ok?) Free Comic Book Day is the comics industry's yearly attempt to bring new readers into the fold....

Harris Wittels died Thursday. He was a stand-up comic, a television writer/producer, a musician, a frequent and dependably hilarious guest on comedy podcasts, and an author who unleashed the concept of the #humblebrag upon the cultural landscape. He was 30 years old. When anyone dies, our sadness is tinged with something darker and more selfish; we resent the time we'll never get to spend with that person, the days and months and years that will pile up without their presence. When a comedian...

The fourth and final issue of the weekly, four-issue Marvel Comics miniseries Death of Wolverine , written by Charles Soule and drawn by Steve McNiven, will be published Wednesday. This prompted an incredulous text from a friend, Golfrguy, to NPR's nerd-about-town Glen Weldon: Golfrguy : dude they're killing off wolverine??????? Despite Golfrguy's concern, he's really a non-comics-reading "normal" — someone for whom the death of a superhero is still an...

(For stories are necessary lies.) That statement comes as a seeming afterthought, tossed off at the bottom of the page toward the end of Stephen Collins' slyly exquisite graphic novel The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil. The book's absurdist narrative climax has come and gone, and in the quiet that descends in its wake we readers sail on, blithely navigating the glass-calm waters of dénouement until we strike that tiny, astonishing parenthetical. And as we've done so many...

Here's the drill: This Saturday, May 3 rd , is Free Comic Book Day. Walk into a comics shop (you can find the one nearest you at www.freecomicbookday.com/storelocator ), and they will hand you some free comics. Not any comics in the store, mind you, but a selection of comics specifically produced for Free Comic Book Day, which is now an annual event. There are a whopping 57 such books this year – some of them samplers, with excerpts from various titles, while others reprint the...

TO: Zack Snyder, Big Time Hot Shot Hollywood Director
FROM: Glen Weldon, Nerd
IN RE: Wonder Woman Dear Zack Snyder: I see you've cast The Fast and the Furious ' Gal Gadot as Diana of the Amazons, aka Wonder Woman. I see, also, that the Internet has reacted as it can be counted upon to do, when such casting announcements occur. Namely, with fulsome, fulminating nerd rage. I am here to tell you, Zack Snyder: Keep your head down. Ignore it. Make your movie. And not because...

Despite its title, British writer and illustrator Isabel Greenberg's The Encyclopedia of Early Earth is not mere history, with its assiduous accounting of dusty facts, but is instead a compendium of funny, sad and surprisingly moving fables from the pre-history of a world that exists only in Greenberg's febrile imagination — one that bristles with capricious gods, feckless shamans, daring quests and, of course, doomed love. We meet a man of the frozen "Nord" as he falls in love with...

Alice Munro, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature today, taught me something important and abiding and true about evil. Specifically, she taught me about that singular species of evil we swim through all our lives. It's the evil to which we petty humans default, even — especially — as we reassure ourselves that we are blessed creatures, generous of spirit. It's the evil born of thoughtlessness and self-regard, and it crouches, waiting, in every conversation, every appraising look, every...

Monkey See contributor/longtime nerd Glen Weldon recently attended San Diego Comic-Con. He kept a diary during one of the largest media events in the world. Saturday, 7:08 a.m. PT: After several minutes of technical glitches, I am taping an interview with Rachel Martin of NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday . I can't consult the notes I've made to prep for our talk, as the demands of NPR-quality audio means I'm holding the hotel phone up to my right ear with one...

Monkey See contributor/longtime nerd Glen Weldon recently attended San Diego Comic-Con. He kept a diary during one of the largest media events in the world. 9:30 a.m.: I file the Day 1 diary with Linda and send out a tweet asking Pop Culture Happy Hour listeners who are attending Comic-Con to come to the Marriott bar at 5:30 today to get a PCHH pin. It's something on the order of a "meetup," as the kids say. Yeah, I know. I don't recognize myself either. 11...

Monkey See contributor/longtime nerd Glen Weldon is headed to San Diego Comic-Con. He's filing periodic updates from one of the largest media events in the world. Special note: If you're at SDCC, there will be an unofficial Pop Culture Happy Hour meetup in the Marina Bar at the Marriott Marquis and Marina Friday at 5:30 p.m. Pacific Time. (Don't get excited, It'll just be Glen handing out PCHH pins.) 9:02 a.m. (all times PT): I am sitting in a...

Monkey See contributor/longtime nerd Glen Weldon is headed to San Diego Comic-Con. He's filing periodic updates from one of the largest media events in the world. I am a 45-year-old man standing in line for a toy Batmobile. The line begins at the Entertainment Earth booth in the 2300 section of the con floor, wraps around a dining area where pre-exhausted families listlessly chew pizza at one another, doubles back and extends down the convention center, bisecting no less than 10...

Ted is a theoretical physicist facing a slew of resolutely concrete problems. His son is racing headlong into puberty. His daughter's prodigious intellect causes her to stand out at school — the very last thing the girl wants. His elderly father-in-law isn't remembering much, these days, save for the fact that he hates Ted's guts. His wife is sick and getting sicker, just as his employer, a prominent think tank, threatens to fire him for lack of productivity. To keep his job, and its health...

Dash Shaw is a graphic novelist and animator whose previous books, including Bottomless Belly Button and Bodyworld , seethe with dark, mischievous intent. He sets out to unsettle, using the unique tools the comics medium provides to expose discomfiting truths about relationships both familial and romantic. A proud experimentalist, Shaw often shuns tidy narrative conventions in favor of raw emotion. His latest graphic novel, the striking and enigmatic New School ,...

It looks like a last-minute gift, like one of those tiny tomes that live near the register on the counter of your favorite bookstore, hoping to catch the attention (or at least the impulse) of shoppers in the check-out line. Given its digest-sized dimensions and jokey title, you'd be forgiven for assuming A User's Guide to Neglectful Parenting is a hastily assembled collection of cornball homilies, like those miniature books about dads, grads and golf that double as greeting cards...

Israeli graphic novelist Rutu Modan's deceptively clear and simple line work — she can conjure a face in two dots and a single, expressive pen stroke — is a deliberate artistic choice. Narratively, Modan's work (including the acclaimed Exit Wounds and her Jamilti and Other Stories ) lives in the realm of the indistinct, the undefined and the hotly disputed. In her books, conflicts between family members, lovers and nations all occur in the context of Jewish...

NPR has obtained [or invented, whatever ] an excerpt of the draft script for Zack Snyder's much-rumored sequel to the hugely successful Man Of Steel . The script, which was found in a booth at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf on La Cienega, suggests that the distinctive tone set by Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy and adopted by Snyder's Man Of Steel will continue to inform the expanding cinematic universe of DC Comics characters.
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Take heart, ye spandex-haters: Zack Snyder's steroidal yet sensitive Man of Steel is not a superhero film. Full disclosure: Over the past two years, this reviewer has spent a great deal of time thinking about superheroes in general and Superman in particular. Less than some, perhaps, but more — it's safe to say — than most of you reading these words, as you debate whether or not to duck out of the heat this weekend to take in Snyder's latest summertime smash-em-up. Specifically, I...

Hey, Monkey See readers. It's me, your old pal Glen. Look, I know you haven't seen me around these parts very much over the last year or so, but ... Mm? What's that? Why, yes, I have "put on a few," as you say. How nice of you to notice. And just ... blurt out. Free as you please. Like that. Gosh I've missed us. Anyway, the reason I haven't been blogging about comics in this space every week is that I was, you know, writing a book. A cultural history of Superman , in point of fact, in time...

Matt Kindt is a storyteller so fully in control of his gifts that his graphic novels — 3 Story , Revolver and others — read like quietly compelling arguments for the comics medium's narrative potential. With his latest, the multilayered and slyly existential Red Handed , he assembles a mystery story that only comics could capture, filled with puzzles and set pieces that depend entirely on the interplay of word and image. To construct the world in which his ace...

In The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger married her gently wry sensibility to a classic science-fiction conceit, and the result became a literary sensation — as much a tried-and-true staple of book-club culture as cheap malbec. Now, with Raven Girl, Niffenegger sets out to create a new fairy tale bearing the form's alchemical mix of light with dark, wish fulfillment with foreboding, bright fantasy with flat-out creepiness. The slim volume — 80 pages, including a...

This Saturday, May 4 th , is Free Comic Book Day, the comics industry's annual attempt to sail out past the shallow, overfished shoals where Nerds Like Me lazily and inexpertly spawn, to instead cast their line into the colder, deeper waters where Normals Like You swim free, blissfully unconcerned about the myriad nettlesome continuity issues surrounding Supergirl's underpants. Yes, Free Comic Book Day is about you , O person who hasn't set foot in a comics shop in years, or ever. It...

In his slim but beguiling novel Equilateral , Ken Kalfus places us inside the heads of his characters with such deftness that the line between what is true and what they believe to be true fades to obscurity. It's no coincidence that the heads in question belong to scientists who pride themselves on their evidence-based worldview; Kalfus delights in having readers continually gauge and recalibrate the distance between the world and his characters' seemingly objective observations of...

Ben Katchor's syndicated comic strips vary in subject — his Julius Knipl: Real Estate Photographer , for example, explores the surreal underside of our urban environment by documenting the inner lives of the spaces and storefronts we walk past every day, while The Cardboard Valise reads like a Fodor's guide to a country that exists only in Franz Kafka's dream journal. What unites them, and vivifies them, is Katchor's singular voice, guiding us through his busy panels like a...

OK, yes: To gay comics fans like me, DC Comics' decision to hire an anti-gay activist like Orson Scott Card to write Superman — an iconic character who exists to represent humanity's noblest ideals of justice and compassion — is deeply dispiriting . But it doesn't change the fact that today's mainstream superhero comics contain more LGBT characters than ever. Surely this is a good (if, let's agree, weirdly specific) thing. After all, superheroes remain the comics medium's dominant...

Let's make this perfectly clear at the outset: I don't work for NPR, and what I'm about to say doesn't represent NPR. I'm but a lowly freelancer they're dumb enough to publish a bunch, and what I say now I say as me, which is to say: 1. An inveterate Superman nerd, and 2. A gay dude. DC Comics has hired Orson Scott Card to write the first two issues of a new digital-first Superman comic. I won't be reading it. It will be the first piece of Superman-affiliated pop culture that I will bypass in...

Glen Weldon is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Monkey See . Let's make this perfectly clear at the outset: I don't work for NPR, and what I'm about to say doesn't represent NPR. I'm but a lowly freelancer they're dumb enough to publish a bunch, and what I say now I say as me, which is to say: 1. An inveterate Superman nerd, and 2. A gay dude. DC Comics has hired Orson Scott Card to write the first two issues of a new digital-first Superman comic. I won't be...

Look, don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with the name "Bruce." There are plenty of Bruces about, and good and strong and admirable Bruces they are, contributing to society in myriad ways. You got your Springsteen, of course. Your Campbell. Your Vilanch. Your Dern. Your ... um, Boxleitner. Your Jenner and your ... Baumgartner, was it? Baumgartner. Bruce: A perfectly fine name. Just not as common in the U.S. as it once was, is my point. Like any name, it cycles in and out of fashion...

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