If you’ve read Captain Marvel’s adventures from the 1940s, you might remember the many stories in which he visited cities across the country. While I won’t be traveling as much as Billy and his alter ego did 70 years ago, I do have a couple of lectures coming up at the end of March.
And although Captain Marvel never visited Waterbury, Connecticut, he did spend some time in my home state in Captain Marvel Adventures no. 67, published in November 1946. Here’s the first page of “Captain Marvel and the Key of Crime,” which the Grand Comics Database attributes to Otto Binder and to C. C. Beck, though it looks to me like Beck was working with Costanza and a few other assistants on this one. You can read the whole thing for yourself at the Digital Comic Museum, where I found this scan:
I’ve been joking that the week of March 27th will be my book tour–two dates only, so be there! I’ll start on my home campus of Harper College where I’ll be doing a lecture in our Drama Lab (Building L, Room 219), right down the hall from our Picasso sculpture. I’ve told you we have a Picasso on campus, right? If you haven’t seen it, you can visit it after we do a raffle for a copy of my book and for a couple of issues of DC’s Shazam! from the 1970s. Since at least two classes of English 102 students will attend, I’ll focus on my research process and on the writing and editing of the book. This event is free and open to the public, so tell your friends. You can also read this recent article about the book at Harper’s Academy for Teaching Excellence website.
A few days later, I’ll be presenting another lecture called “Comic Books, Captain Marvel, and the Art of Nostalgia” in my hometown of Waterbury, Connecticut at the UConn-Waterbury campus, where I worked in the late ’90s and early 2000s as an Admissions Counselor and Writing Center coordinator/tutor. The campus’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute is sponsoring the event.
I got my start writing for online venues at UConn-Waterbury thanks to my friend Stu Brown, the campus’s Director of Student Services. I was a columnist for his website for five years or so, around the same time I was finishing my dissertation and writing articles for John Lent’s International Journal of Comic Art and The Jack Kirby Collector in the early 2000s. I’m looking forward to going home and talking about my work, which has its starting point in my visits to Jim’s Comic Book Shop on East Main Street in the 1980s. Jim’s is long gone, but the building that housed Eastern Color Printing, where the comic book as we know it got its start in the 1930s, still stands in Waterbury near the corner of West Main and Thomaston Avenue. Here’s a picture of the building from last summer. It’s less than a mile from the UConn campus:
I should mention that technically I grew up in Oakville, CT, but we were pretty close to the border with Waterbury. And I was born at Waterbury Hospital and graduated from Sacred Heart High School. And, since the city appears in Death of a Salesman and in “The Secret Life of Water Mitty,” there’s a better chance you’ve heard of Waterbury and might even know where it is. Email the OLLI office at UConn or contact me directly if you need more information on the lecture.
Meanwhile, I’ve recorded a couple of interviews about the book. I spoke with Larry Corley at WQNA radio early in January. I don’t think his shows are archived, but here’s a link to the station’s Facebook page if you want to take a look. WQNA is based in Springfield, Illinois.
Two weeks ago I spoke with Emmet O’Cuana for the Deconstructing Comics Podcast. As he mentions in the description for the show, just posted this morning, we had a great conversation on everything from Beck and Binder’s aesthetics to Svetlana Boym’s theories of nostalgia and our mutual admiration for W. G. Sebald and his writing. I also admitted my affection for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and my hope that, one day, he and I will meet so I can give him a copy of the book. And, for the record, I want him to play Black Adam and Captain Marvel!
Tonight I’ll be speaking with Andy Kunka, Derek Royal, and Gene Kannenberg, Jr., for the Comics Alternative podcast. I’m sure we’ll all have plenty to say about Beck and Binder, but I hope Gene and I also get to talk about our time as graduate students at UConn in the 1990s and early 2000s. As I’ve mentioned many times, I don’t know if I would have started writing about comics if I hadn’t met Gene and Charles Hatfield in the second year of my graduate program. Though I’d written letters to the Comics Buyer’s Guide in the 1980s, and turned in a couple of papers on comics in high school and again in college, their friendship and support made Captain Marvel and the Art of Nostalgia possible.
Here we are just a few nights ago at dinner with Trina Robbins, the heroine of my book and another early inspiration of mine when I was searching for comics with my dad at Jim’s on East Main Street. Trina was in town last week to give lectures at the School of the Art Institute and at UIC. Allison and I are to Trina’s right while Gene and Sean Kleefeld are to her left. Dinner conversation ranged from Wonder Woman and Robert Kanigher to Beck and Binder. But, mostly, we talked about Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, the magic of cat yronwode, and our cats:
More updates to come, but for now I’ve got to get back to work on these lectures!