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.

"Why is a welder like a woman in love?"

I'm 7 years old, standing between the two dogwood trees in my backyard. It's autumn; there's a crispness in the golden, late afternoon air. I've taken the hood of my parka and thrown it over my head, but my arms are not in the sleeves. The coat falls over my narrow, bird-boned shoulders and down my back.

Like a cape, you see.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Here at NPR headquarters in DC, MARVELous IMAGEs and FANTAstic GRAPHICS are dancing in our heads as we contemplate this year's edition of our famous Summer Reader Poll — who will make the cut? Will it be packed with old favorites or BOOM! Will a DARK HORSE muscle in?

This year, Free Comic Book Day turns sixteen years old.

The good news: It can drive itself to swim practice now!

The bad news: When you ask it to drive its younger siblings Record Store Day and Independent Bookstore Day to Gymboree it'll give you THAT LOOK IT GETS and spend the rest of the day sulking.

Here's the gist: Walk into a comic shop this Saturday, May 6, and you'll get some free comic books.

Forget the fava beans.

The main reason Jonathan Demme's Oscar-winning 1991 film The Silence of the Lambs gets its hooks in you — and leaves you feeling vaguely distracted and discomfited long after it's over — isn't anything Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter says.

It's how he says it. And to whom.

In the reality of the film, of course, he's directing his consummate, artisanal brand of creepiness at Jodie Foster's FBI agent, Clarice Starling.

"It was in the early morning hours of July 2 that I was kidnapped."

On the opening page of Guy Delisle's Hostage, those words hang in a slate-gray night sky, above a building in a nondescript neighborhood of what we soon learn is a small town west of Chechnya.

That same, muted grayscale color-scheme will stay with us throughout the book, because the man imparting those words — Christophe André, a Doctors Without Borders administrator assigned to the Caucasus region in 1997 — will spend the bulk of Hostage's 432 pages in darkness.

Cathy Malkasian creates fantastic worlds out of her proprietary blend of melancholy and dream-logic, and peoples them with characters who are all too dully, achingly human. Her landscapes and cityscapes, rendered in gorgeous colored pencils, can seem as chilly and remote as her facial expressions seem warm and intimate.

It's a Wednesday at Fantom Comics in Washington, D.C., and the store is bustling.

Every Wednesday is New Comics Day — when subscribers come in to pick up the week's new titles, check in with each other, and talk comics. This Wednesday is no different.

Well. It's a little different.

I'm used to comics-shop chatter that revolves around things like which new books are worth checking out, what storylines have gone one way too long, and which hero could kick which other hero's butt.

During World War I, some 223 members of the U.S. Army Signal Corps performed a highly specialized service which demanded great skill, nerve and tenacity: Over the vast network of telephone lines that had been hastily constructed across France, these soldiers worked the complicated switchboards connecting the ever-shifting front lines with vital supply depots and military command. At the height of the fighting, they connected over 150,000 calls per day.

Let's acknowledge this at the top: It's a thin slice.

To gaze across the great swath of written English over the past few centuries — that teeming, jostling, elbow-throwing riot of characters and places and stories and ideas — only to isolate, with dispassionate precision, some stray, infinitesimal data point such as which author uses cliches like "missing the forest for the trees" the most, would be like ...

Chuck Barris, the game show producer, emcee, author and songwriter who died Tuesday at his home in Palisades, N.J., at age 87, was in his time called "The King of Shlock," "The Baron of Bad Taste" and "The Ayatollah of Trasherola."

(... In fairness: It was the '70s.)

Robert Silvers, whose long career as an editor included terms at The Paris Review, Harper's and, most notably, as co-founder of The New York Review of Books, died Monday at his home in Manhattan. He was 87.

Silvers launched The New York Review of Books in 1963 with Barbara Epstein, intending to raise the standard of book reviewing. In its pages, a given book under consideration could be little more than a jumping-off point for an extended essay that directly engaged the political and cultural moment.

So. How'd you do?

Did you follow my advice in making your Oscar pool picks?

... You did? All of them? Hunh.

Well then. That means you got 13 out of the evening's 24 categories correct.

That's ... 54%.

So. Yes. Well. Cough.

Updated at 4:10 p.m. ET

A literary treasure buried for more than a century has been unearthed by Zachary Turpin, a grad student at the University of Houston.

Updated 10:57 a.m.

Updated 9:53 a.m.

Updated 9:25 a.m.

When the nominees for the 2017 Academy Awards were announced this morning, La La Land racked up 14 nods, tying records held by Titanic and All About Eve.

It's not fair to compare the 2004 film Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events to the new Netflix series A Series of Unfortunate Events.

But let's do it anyway.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Season One of HBO's Westworld ended with several bangs last night, so Audie Cornish and I headed into a studio to unpack what happened, and, given the events of the finale, what seems likely to happen when the show returns ... in 2018.

We touch on the show's puzzle-box narrative infrastructure, its use of sex, violence and sexual violence, and how just how meta things get. (Spoiler: a whole lot.)

Hey Glen, did you hear? Last night, March: Book Three by Rep. John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell — the final book in their graphic novel trilogy about young Lewis' experiences in the civil rights movement — won the National Book Award for young people's literature!

Superheroes are democratic ideals.

They exist to express what's noblest about us: selflessness, sacrifice, a commitment to protect those who need protection, and to empower the powerless.

Superheroes are fascist ideals.

They exist to symbolize the notion that might equals right, that a select few should dictate the fate of the world, and that the status quo is to be protected at all costs.

Both of these things are true, and inextricably bound up with one another — but they weren't always.

Recently, actor Ben Affleck spoke with the Associated Press and revealed the title of the solo Batman film he's slated to direct.

Ready?

The Batman, he said.

Perhaps sensing that this announcement would be greeted with the collective cricket-chirping shrug it has been, he immediately built himself a verbal escape clause: "At least, that's what we're going with now."

Herschell Gordon Lewis, who died earlier this week at the age of 87, wore several hats over the course of his life: advertising copywriter. Self-styled direct-marketing guru. And, most famously, director of exploitation films of various stripes (nudie, splatter, nudie-splatter).

Additional reporting by LA Johnson.

I've attended the Small Press Expo, or SPX, for 10 years now. This year, I convinced NPR to let me take a reporting kit and interview attendees about what drew them to the show.

(You can check out more photos, illustrations and interviews with creators from the 2016 Small Press Expo on the NPR Illustrations Tumblr over the coming days and weeks.)

You want to win the Emmy pool tonight.

Doesn't matter why: Maybe you want the money, maybe you just want to rub your victory in your friend Trish's face, because she reads Variety and calls TV shows "skeins."

God, Trish, right? Trish is the worst.

The 2016 Emmy Awards are 83 percent over.

Think about that next Sunday night, as some sudsy production number lumbers on or yet another powerfully unnecessary montage/tribute — "A Salute To: The Laugh Track!" — brings the proceedings to a lurching halt.

It will take host Jimmy Kimmel and company three hours and change to hand out 19 Emmy statues. If that sounds inefficient to you, consider this chilling fact: There are in fact 110 Emmy categories this year.

BEFORE WE BEGIN: West Coast Party People! Tickets to the PCHH live shows in October, featuring amazing guests, are on sale now — but they're going fast. Here's where we stand, as of this morning:

Seattle feat. Audie Cornish: October 17

Portland feat. Audie Cornish: October 19

You say you're fixing to make a new Star Trek show? Or film? Or novel, comic book, videogame, song cycle, stage play, puppet show or series of cave paintings? Great! Here's what you'll need to get started — the five essential building blocks of Trek:

1. A Cool Spaceship

... Duh. It's called Star Trek. It's about trekking. (Or in the case of Deep Space Nine, which is a space station and not a spaceship, getting trekked to and from). Don't forget the nacelles.

This summer, NPR has been thinking about villains in popular culture. Critic Bob Mondello explored what makes a great screen villain tick. NPR Books' Petra Mayer looked at how and why so many of literature's greatest villains get away with it.

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