Thursday, June 25, 2009

CTY - Day 1

In 1993, our son Chuck was accepted into the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth summer program. When asked if he would like to go to the three-weeks-away-living-in-a-college-dorm camp, Chuck was hesitant. Then Laurie said, "What if one of us was there?" and he said, "Sure, then I would do it."

Though the program has been around since 1979, the Young Students portion was only in its second year and there were not many courses being offered. Laurie contacted the CTY office and offered a writing course that she, the college English professor, and I, the professional comic book writer, would co-instruct. (We proposed calling it "How to Write Good," based on a classic National Lampoon article, but the powers-that-be opted for Writing & Imagination instead.) She was told that if they had a dozen kids sign up, they would run the class. As it turned out, they ended up with six dozen...and ran three sections of the class in each of the two summer sessions.

That first summer, we both came down, with Chuck as well, who was enrolled in one of the math classes, for the orientation. Laurie taught the first week while I went home. (I was still on staff at DC Comics at the time, so I had to go to work in the "real world.") Then I came down and taught the second week and we swapped places again for the third, with me returning for the last day of the session and the parent conferences.

Since I enjoyed it more than Laurie did, we changed it around the second year. She taught the first week, then I came and did the second and third, the pattern we followed through 1998. Beginning in 1999, since I was no longer at DC, I did the entire six weeks on my own. Laurie was never a big fan of living in a dorm and, let's be honest, teaching a writing class wasn't anything different from what she was doing the rest of the year. I, on the other hand, found it great fun and a change from what I did the other 46 weeks. So much so that when I started working at Preload, and later at Accordant and Combined, I negotiated a leave so that I could continue my CTY summers.

I was not the only Rozakis on staff, however. In 1999 and 2000, Chuck joined on as a Teaching Assistant for the very same math class he had taken six years earlier. And in 2005, Sammi signed on as a Resident Assistant, moving up to Senior RA for 2006 through '08. (We are most probably the only family that has had every member employed by CTY; certainly we're the only family that has been at the Chestertown site.)

And now another CTY summer is here. I am living once again in the same dorm room I have occupied since 2001. There are a number of familiar faces and, as always, a variety of new ones as well. We will go through two days of orientation (parts of which some of us can recite by heart) and on Sunday, our first batch of students will arrive. That is when the fun begins.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Crimes & Punishment

Bernie Madoff (whose name is so appropriate considering that he made off with so many people's money) is appealing to the judge who will sentence him to reduce the prison term from 150 years to 12. Among the reasons given for leniency are Madoff's cooperation in helping investigators understand how he was able to get away with his Ponzi scheme for so long, his voluntary surrender, and the "non-violent nature" of his crime.

Granted that there is no way that the 71-year-old Madoff would live another 150 years, but there's certainly a chance he could live to 83. I suggest the judge show leniency and cut the sentence by 80%. If Madoff lives to be 101, let him out and he can spend his remaining days living in a refrigerator box under the highway.


In other news, Terry Nichols, convicted co-conspirator in the Oklahoma City bombing, is asking for a court-appointed lawyer so that he can file a lawsuit about the food he is receiving in prison. According to the news article at, "Nichols claims in his suit that the federal Supermax prison in Colorado is causing him to 'sin against God' because he doesn't get enough whole grains and fresh food."

One can only imagine what "sin against God" Nichols has been committing, but it is interesting to note that more whole grains and fresh foods will prevent him from doing it. Does this mean that all of his fellow prisoners, who are presumably eating the same food, are also sinning?

Imagine, a prison full of sinners! What is this world coming to?

Monday, June 22, 2009

You Never Know Who's Reading

A few weeks ago, I wrote an entry about DC Comics reprinting one of the stories I had written and sending a letter giving me the opportunity to sign on for a piece of a "royalty pool" for that story as well as any and all of the other stories I'd written from 1976 till 1998 that they might use in any future collections. ("The 'Rights' Thing")

Last week, someone picked up on that, particularly my comments about a Secret Society of Super-Villains volume, and posted the information to a website discussion of that book and a few others that DC announced, solicited, and then canceled. This prompted a number of people on that site to debate the merits of what I said and what I did, with a few of them seemingly misinterpreting the situation. More than a few of them seemed to have come away with the idea that I was single-handedly responsible for the cancellation of the SSoSV collection because...

Over the weekend, Rich Johnston, a popular longtime columnist and commentator on the comics biz, picked up on the story and stated that the book was canceled "because Bob Rozaskis (sic) chose not to sign away his contractual reprint fee in perpetuity in return for a 'royalty pool' scheme, saying 'If there is some collection of my stories that you want to do, I’d be willing to negotiate, but I’m not about to sign a blank check.' " His item included a link back to my original entry. This sparked another discussion, this time on his website, with quite a few comments piling up when I last checked.

As I said in my original entry on the topic, I suspect that the reason the SSoSV volume and a few others like it were canceled had to do with the reprint fees guaranteed by contract to all the writers and artists whose work would have been included. Given the number of pages in the SHOWCASE collections, it would be financially impossible to produce them. Only by having everyone involved signed up for the royalty pool in lieu of the reprint fees could DC have a way to deliver the product. Since the other announced-and-canceled books would not have included any stories I'd written, I can only presume that I was not the only one who did not sign the blanket agreement.

I'm apparently just the only one who has mentioned it.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Random Thoughts IV

It is June 19th, two days before the official start of summer. You would never know it. All week we've been waking up to temperatures in the 50s, clouds and lots of rain. (For yesterday, make that lots and lots of rain!)
I think what we need to do is stop making such a to-do about Groundhog Day. Instead, let's track the Easter Bunny. If he sees his shadow, we have six more weeks of April!

The first round of the US Open was pretty much washed away yesterday. One report I read said that Tiger Woods had started but when he hit a ball into standing water at one of the holes, that was enough. The current buzz is that they will not be able to finish by Sunday and all the traffic / parking / cancellations we've been dealing with all week will continue on Monday.
This morning while driving my "alternate route" to work I noted a highway sign telling golf fans that those who had priority parking in Field "D" (wherever that might be) should instead park at Jones Beach and take the shuttle bus. I have to presume that Field "D" is either underwater or a mud pit. In any case, drivers who would see the sign were actually headed away from Jones Beach.

I haven't had the chance to check with the "Temperature Team" in the pool these past few days to see how the water is. With all the rain and the lack of sunshine, though, I'm betting that "bracing" would be an optimistic way to describe the current conditions.

When I attended I-Con in April, I was on a panel with Bernie Hou, who does an online comic strip called "Alien Loves Predator." Rather than being a drawn strip, Bernie's work is fumetti, photos of posed action figures with backgrounds added. The main characters, Abe and Preston, have a Seinfeld-esque sensibility and Bernie alternates between single-day gags and some continuity. The results are hilarious. Check it out at

A strange yellow orb has appeared in the sky in the past few minutes. Like the students in Ray Bradbury's classic story "All Summer in a Day," I must run outside and enjoy it before the rains come again.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Strange Schwartz Stories

Were he still with us, Julius Schwartz would be turning 94 this Friday.
(For those among you readers who are not comic book fans, Julie was a longtime editor at DC Comics and considered one of the cornerstones of the superhero genre. Check out the entry on him in Wikipedia [] or for biographical info.)

I first met Julie when I was a senior at Hofstra University. I had been writing letters to the various comic books he edited for a number of years and had many of them published in the books. Julie had even sent me an advance copy of Strange Sports Stories, a new title he was editing, and solicited my comments for inclusion in the first issue.
I had long thought that it would be great fun to visit the DC Comics offices and meet he people who created the books. So, one afternoon in the spring of 1973, I called the company's phone number, asked for Julie, and was put right through. Now, you have to understand that, to a comics fan, this was the equivalent of calling the White House and asking to speak to the president or calling Apple Records and asking to speak with Paul McCartney; you never expect to actually get to speak with the person.
But Julie knew immediately who I was and when I asked if I could come for a visit to the office, he said, "Sure. When do you want to come?"

About a week later, accompanied by my future wife Laurie, I made the trip into the city to 909 Third Avenue, then the home of DC Comics. Julie showed us all around the office (which was a lot smaller than I think I expected), introduced us to editors and staff and a couple of freelancers who were passing through, and then showed me proofs and original art for upcoming issues. It was fanboy heaven.
At the time, I had been creating crossword puzzles and word finds for a comics fanzine and I brought along copies for E. Nelson Bridwell, who was Julie's assistant editor (and a former fanboy himself). When I handed them to Nelson, Julie said, "What are those?" When I explained, he snatched them from Nelson, told me, "Stay right here!" and walked out of the room.
Two minutes later, he was back with Sol Harrison, DC's VP and head of Production. Sol was now holding the puzzles and said to me, "Can you make some up just about Superman and Batman?" When I said I could, he told me, "Do it. We'll buy them." Suddenly, I was a DC freelancer!
That was a Friday afternoon. On Monday I was back in the DC offices with nine puzzle pages.

Now that I had an "in," I pursued what I really wanted to do, which was write stories for Julie. I sent him a number of plots, none of which were accepted. (One, I recall, involved Superman getting a super-ulcer because he was under too much stress.) Meantime, Sol had me do more puzzle pages -- some Tarzan ones were next -- and, after graduation, I asked him for a staff job.
I started in early July as a production assistant, answering fan mail, making copies, and whatnot. In early August, I took over driving the Comicmobile from Michael Uslan and, after six weeks, I returned to the office as an editorial assistant to Julie. My duties included proofreading the art for the stories, making copies, writing up color notes for the colorists ("Superman's heat vision is red, x-ray vision is yellow, and telescopic vision is white."), and, sometimes, putting together the letter columns for the books.
Julie started allowing me to read the scripts that came in and had me makes notes on things I would change. Eventually, he allowed me to do the preliminary editing on many of them. And, all the while, I kept trying to sell him a story of my own, finally succeeding with a Robin story titled "The Touchdown Trap."

When I moved into the production department in 1976, I continued to do some "assistant editor" things for Julie, including preparing the letter columns for his books. Julie would read all the letters and give them grades. When it came time to do the lettercol, he would hand me the folder of mail, and I would use the ones with the highest grades, writing the responses. Even after I became Production Manager, I continued to handle Julie's letter columns. Laurie began to help by transcribing the chosen letters, often adding editorial responses of her own.

In 1985, to celebrate Julie's 70th birthday, DC management decided to prepare a special issue of Superman. Writer Elliot Maggin and artists Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson were recruited to provide story and art. The trick was producing the issue right under Julie's nose and keeping it a secret until it was printed.
At one point early on, Julie walked into the production department to find Elliot and me in deep conversation. When he asked what was going on, I told him Elliot was asking me income tax questions. After the book was printed and we told Julie how we'd kept it all a secret, he said, "I thought that tax business was a bit fishy!"

After he retired as editor in 1986, Julie continued to work as DC's goodwill ambassador, attending numerous comic book conventions every year. No matter how many conventions he attended and how many panels he appeared on, Julie was always ready to share a truckload of stories about his career and the comics industry. We often joked about the fact that the other people on a panel with Julie would have little to do. Once he got rolling, there wasn't much that could stop him.
One year at the San Diego convention, I moderated an hour-long panel on the origins of the Silver Age of comics. Julie was on the panel, along with three or four others, none of whom I can recall now. To open, I invited the other panelists to introduce themselves and say a few words. One objected, saying that Julie should go first. I said, "Trust me, speak now."
Once they had all said a few words, I turned to Julie and said, "Tell us how you invented the Silver Age of comics." Well, Julie was off and running. He spoke for 45 minutes non-stop, at which point he looked at his watch and said, "I'm having dinner with Gil Kane at 6:00, so I have to leave now." He got a standing ovation as he made his way to the door, but before he could leave I said, "Julie, you didn't tell them how you came up with Barry Allen's name." Which resulted in Julie doing another 15 minutes from the doorway! Then he looked at his watch, said, "That's it, Rozakis! Now I'm late for dinner!" and disappeared down the hall.
And, it now being 6:00, the panel was over. The other panelists, having spent the hour as spectators, laughed among themselves when one said, "What were we even up here for?"

One of Julie's favorite foods was bean soup. When DC was in the Warner Communications building at 75 Rockefeller Plaza, Julie would quiz whoever had eaten in the company cafeteria about whether they had bean soup that day. If they did, he would find a "willing volunteer" to go down and get him a cup.
One day while I was food shopping with Laurie, I noticed that they had a new "Cup-a-Soup" variety: bean soup. When I mentioned it to Julie the following week, he said, "And you didn't buy it for me?!" So I went back to the store to get it, only to discover that it was being test-marketed at the time and was sold out. It was at least another six months before it came on the market, but each week Julie would ask me, "Did you find that bean soup yet?"

Every day before he left the office, Julie did two things. He called his wife Jean to say he was on his way home and he went to the men's room. The latter became known as "Schwartz's Law: Never go anywhere without going first." Julie's philosophy was simple. He took the subway back and forth to work and you never knew when the train might be delayed in the tunnel somewhere.
Numerous people in the business who knew Julie readily agree with his thoughts on the matter. In fact, following Julie's funeral service in 2004, Paul Kupperberg, Marty Pasko, Bob Greenberger and I all headed to the men's room before leaving the funeral home. As Kupps put it, "Well, it's what Julie would have done!"

One last Strange Schwartz Story: My father and Julie were both born in 1915 in New York City. Both attended and graduated from Theodore Roosevelt High School. Is it hard to imagine that, in some classroom during their four years there, Schwartz and Rozakis weren't seated right near one another? My father and Julie met once during my DC tenure, fairly early in my career there, when my father came up to see the office. But who can say if it really was their first meeting and only meeting? After all, as I said in a posting last week, there are only 400 people in the world that you don't know!

So, happy birthday, Julie. I hope that, wherever you are, you are entertaining everyone with your stories, taking a break every now and then to enjoy some bean soup... and exercise Schwartz's law.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Open? Not Necessarily!

It is U.S. Open Week here in Farmingdale and the area is inundated with golf players and golf fans. Being neither, this event is nothing more than an inconvenience to me.

When does 600 feet equal two miles? This week. In order to accommodate the crowds, a portion -- all of two hundred yards, actually -- of Round Swamp Road has been closed to traffic through Sunday. As a result, anyone who normally uses the route -- yours truly included -- has to go two miles out of the way to get around it. You can stand at one end of the closed portion of the road and see the other, but, as they say, "You can't get there from here."

The Farmingdalers who live near to the golf course are faced with closed streets, temporary "no parking" rules in front of their homes, and a stream of cars on their normally quiet blocks with drivers in search of a place to leave the vehicles. I'll bet more than a couple of these residents will pick up some money renting out their driveways.

Perhaps the biggest inconvenience is for the commuters who take the Long Island Railroad. Parking at the Farmingdale station has always been a problem (despite the fact that an annual parking pass costs $300). Yesterday, one of the two parking lots was closed and filled with tents to accommodate the golf fans who will be arriving by train and taking shuttle buses over to the course. Commuters were further advised that on Thursday and Friday a large portion of the other lot will also be inaccessible. The solution? Commuters have been given special permission to park in the village lots behind the Main Street stores, six, eight and ten blocks away. One then wonders where the people who normally use those lots will be putting their cars.

Finally, nearly Farmingdale State College, where Laurie teaches, has shut all but one of its gates "to discourage golf enthusiasts from parking on the campus" and have issued special parking permits for students, faculty and staff. As summer classes are in session, this will no doubt create yet another traffic problem as campus security has to check each car coming in as well as deal with those legitimate folks who forgot or did not receive the special permit.

So this may be the U.S. Open, but it could also be called the "Farmingdale Closed."

Friday, June 12, 2009

The 400 People You Don't Know

At some point, we have all discovered that someone we know has long known someone else we know, though none of us was aware of it. This interrelationship is the basis for the "Six Degrees of Separation," by which you can connect anyone in the world with anyone else in the world in six steps or less. Or, as I refer to it, there are only 400 people in the world that you don't know.

For example, one morning Laurie and I were participating in the Breast Cancer Walk and met up with a couple who played volleyball with me. I knew only their first names, just as they only knew me as "Bob from volleyball." As we were walking, he was telling me about his son and his daughter, where they were going to college, etc. and the stories had a familiar ring to them. I suddenly realized that his two kids were friends of my son Chuck, that both had been to my house numerous times, and that he had been there to pick them up! Further, his ex-wife (the mother of the two kids) is a good friend of Laurie's.

One summer night some years ago, Chuck and Sammi were at a party and Laurie and I went to pick them up. When we arrived, I met Bruce, another volleyball player who I've also played against in softball. When I asked him if he was also there to pick up his kids, he said, "No, I live here." He too had been to our house to pick up his kids, knew Laurie on sight, but did not connect her or our kids to me.
But this story gets even better. We were telling this story to my brother and sister-in-law at Thanksgiving dinner and Felice exclaimed. "I know Bruce. I went to high school with him!" A quick phone call on Laurie's part did in fact confirm this.

While marching in a local parade with the Girl Scouts, Laurie discovered one of her former high school classmates with the troop behind hers. She then learned that this woman lives on our block, seven houses away, and that her daughter and Sammi knew one another.

A dozen houses further up the block lives the man who ran the security desk at 1325 Avenue of the Americas, one of the homes of DC Comics while I worked there. I used to see him every morning when I came in but did not know he was a neighbor till one day when I rode past his house on my bike and saw him putting out the garbage!

The woman who hired me to work at Preload turned out to be good friends with a man who had been one of my brother Jim's close pals in high school. He, in fact, was the person who drove me home from my bachelor party in 1974 and our paths had not crossed in almost thirty years since.

While we were on a cruise a couple of years ago, Laurie struck up a conversation with a younger couple who, it turned out, lived in Madison, Wisconsin. One of my oldest friends lives there, but it's a large city, so what are the odds, right? Not only did the woman know Alan, but Alan's wife Linda was her mentor!

The list of such "coincidences" goes on but perhaps my favorite is the story of "Spud." Back in 1993, the first year that Laurie and I taught Writing & Imagination in the CTY program, we had a young man who told us his nickname was "Spud." For the entire three weeks of the class, that was the name we and his classmates called him.
On the last day, we had a conference with Spud's parents, and they were puzzled when we kept referring to him by that name. Finally, his father said, "Are you sure you're talking about my son Billy?" Laurie replied that he had told us it was his nickname. "It never was before!" said his mother. Billy had apparently decided to be Spud when he got to CTY.
Ten years later, in another CTY class, I was telling the story to my students when Lauren, my Teaching Assistant, exclaimed, "Wait a minute! I go to school with Billy!" Indeed, she and Spud (though he was never Spud again after that first CTY summer) were both at Gettysburg, taking English classes together.

So...when you are in a crowd of strangers, they might be some of the 400 people you don't know. Chances are, however, that they know some of the same people you do.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Blogging Along

According to a recent article, 95% of the blogs that have been started have since been abandoned.
A report in 2008 said that there were more than 112 million blogs in existence at the time. That number has surely increased since then. (By one, at least, since I started this one in 2009!)
A little research took me to a newsletter at Wordpress where they revealed that, though they carried more than five million blogs, they had fewer than 165,000 bloggers. Some quick math says that each of those people is responsible for thirty blogs.
Another item I found said that Blogspot was limiting the number of blogs per person to 100!
So, while it would appear that the vast majority of people who started a blog because they had something to say have long since run out of things to write about, there is a portion of the world's population that has quite a bit to expound upon.
The question is: Is anybody actually reading them?

I once heard a man who ran a vanity press promoting his business by saying that, "Everybody has a book inside them." That may indeed be the case, but a) not everyone is capable of writing a book and b) it may not be very interesting.
Certainly the same can be said for blogs. But since starting a blog doesn't require much, if any, effort nor any of the costs necessary for self-publishing a book, everyone who has a blog inside them has probably let it out. And, like many a would-be author who started writing the book, they have discovered that it is not as easy as it might have appeared. Staring at a blank piece of paper (or, these days, an empty screen) and trying to come up with the words to fill it can be a challenge.
One day years ago, when I was regularly spending my weekends writing comic book stories, my mother-in-law told one of her friends that I was "typing." She made it sound like I was transcribing dictation or addressing envelopes. If writing a book or maintaining a blog were that simple, indeed, everyone could easily do it. Of course, many of them would consist of little more than "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog's back" over and over.

Some more quick math: Assuming 112 million blogs with 95% of them abandoned gives us about 5.6 million active ones. The U.S. population is about 306 million people. If every person in the country reads one blog (and that's making a big assumption since a significant portion of the population has no computer access or is unable to use one), that would mean each blog would have 55 readers. Let's presume the average blog reader checks out five different ones -- and I'm using that because it's the number I check regularly -- and you have 275 readers.
Since it's a no-brainer that a blog by a celebrity will have many more followers than one by someone nobody knows, we come back to the question facing Joe the Blogger: Is anybody actually reading?
Unlike self-publishing a book, where the number of sales will tell you how many people are interested in reading what you have to say, poor Joe could be blogging for no one but himself and never know.

It would not be surprising to learn that many "lapsed" bloggers finally asked themselves, "What am I doing this for?" and, lacking a good answer, simply stopped.
Others, I'm sure, discovered that writing is a lot different than typing and requires more work than they thought. (There is a limit to how many times you can write about the antics of that quick brown fox.)
The rest, I'm guessing, just ran out of things to say.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Not Hard to Find

Every few days I get an email from or a similar site advising me that someone has been checking out my profile or has been looking for me. The one I got today even went so far as telling me that it was a 58-year-old male who lives in Northport, NY and who graduated from Elmont Memorial High School in 1969. Clicking on the link that invites to find out who it is brings me to the website where, in order to find out who this person is, I must upgrade my "membership" to Gold Level for the "now-reduced" price of $12 a month for three months or just $5 a month for a year.

A dozen years ago, when the internet was young, this might have seemed a good way to connect with my former classmates. But now? How many different ways can you find someone for free? How about the online White Pages? Or Google? Or Facebook? Yes, if Billy Johnson was your best friend in the third grade, he's probably a bit harder to track down than Digby Throckmorton, so you might have to spring for the $12 Gold Level membership.

But for one of my classmates to track me down? Google serves up dozens and dozens of links to pages about me, columns I've written, and even this blog. The AOL White Pages deliver my address and phone number. And Facebook provides a picture and the ability to become my "friend." So why would one of my classmates pay a website to provide information about me that is readily available for free? I have no idea.

Especially when some living in Northport can look me up in his phone book, call me up, and say hi!

The "Rights" Thing

I started writing comic book stories in the days when you signed away all rights to your creation by endorsing the check that the company paid you with. That particular ploy, made most famous by the story of how Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster sold their rights to Superman for the $130 they were paid for their first story, was eliminated in the mid-70s. Since that time, comics writers and artists have been given contracts, spelling out that we were creating a work-for-hire and defining what, if any, reprint fees or royalties we would receive if the company used the work for anything beyond its first publication. At the time, very few comic book stories were reprinted, but if they ever were, we would get "extra" money for our work.

The first story of mine that was reprinted and, in fact, the only one for quite a few years, was "Bat-Mite's New York Adventure." It was a six-page story in which the magical imp shows up at the DC offices and recruits a team to create a story about him to appear in the comics. I wrote the script one night in twenty minutes and the next day I gave it to Al Milgrom, the editor of Batman Family. "Read this," I said. "If you like it, buy it. Otherwise, you can throw it away." Obviously, he liked it. The story was included in one of DC's first hardcover collections, The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told, and I have earned much more in reprint fees than I got for the original script. (Just last month, decades after it appeared, I got another 42c!)

About a year and half ago, I received a letter from the DC legal department, advising me that another of my stories was going to be included in a trade paperback collection. The letter went on to explain how DC had been offering creators the option of receiving the reprint fee guaranteed in the contract they'd originally signed or a portion of the "royalty pool." My share would be based on the sales of the book and the percentage of pages my story represented.
Further, the letter offered me the chance to choose the royalty pool for all future reprints of my work because DC was planning to do away with sending these letters. (I presumed they had been giving people the option for quite awhile; I did not know for sure because I hadn't had any other stories reprinted.) If I was not interested, I did not have to sign the form nor return it.

Well, I decided that signing away my guaranteed reprint fees on everything I wrote for a percentage of a pool determined by DC probably wasn't in my best interests, so I did not return the form. A few weeks later, I got a phone call from someone in the DC legal department "just checking" to make sure I had received the letter and to see if I had any questions. I told her that I had no questions and that I would not be signing it.

Some weeks after that I got another call, this time from someone further up the chain of command, reminding me that I hadn't returned the form. I told him that I had no intention of doing so. I pointed out that if I did sign it, I gave DC permission to take 500 pages of stories I wrote, put them together in one of their Showcase volumes, and sell it for $16. Instead of paying the thousands of dollars in reprint fees I would be owed under the contracts, I would receive a percentage of a percentage of the allocated to the royalty pool and I somehow doubted it would be more. I asked him, "Doesn't this strike you as a bit reminiscent of Siegel and Shuster?" He replied that a number of other creators had chosen to sign it and that they were happy.
I told him that I had no intention of signing away these rights to everything I'd written. "If there is some collection of my stories that you want to do, I'd be willing to negotiate, but I'm not about to sign a blank check."

Needless to say, the only stories of mine that have been reprinted since then are a handful that were done during the "endorse the check, sign away your rights" era. A Showcase volume of Secret Society of Super-Villains, which would have included half a dozen of my stories, was announced, solicited, and then dropped from the schedule. A few other volumes that were to feature material from the same years were also cancelled. They were replaced with books reprinting stories originally published in the pre-contract era.

I suspect that I was not the only one who did not think signing away all the reprint fees was such a good idea, no matter what the DC legal eagle said.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Washington "Da Capitol"

Thanks to the "Jay-Walk All-Stars" on The Tonight Show for explaining what the D.C. stands for.

Laurie and I made a whirlwind weekend trip down to Washington, departing from home Saturday morning and returning last evening. We stayed at a Fairfield Inn on the outskirts of the city that offered a shuttle bus to Union Station, where we could get on the Metro. Unfortunately, the shuttle only ran once an hour and we arrived about five minutes after it left.
So we asked the young man at the desk where the nearest Metro station was and he told us it was about a mile away.
Well, we are not averse to walking a bit, so, after putting our bags in the room, we set off down New York Avenue. The "about a mile" turned out to be almost two miles and a "time & temp" sign we passed said it was 89 degrees, so I had a bit of perspiration flowing by the time we got there.
We waited only a couple of minutes for a train, though, and its air conditioning was working fine. With the help of a friendly DC native, we got our bearings and were pointed to the train change we needed to make to get to the Smithsonian stop.

It was close to 4:00 by the time we got to the Museums, however, and I was recounting to Laurie the tale of my first trip to Washington, some forty-five years ago. We were on our way to Newport News to visit Aunt Pauline, Uncle Jimmy, and cousins Margo and Peter, and my father thought it would be great to stop at the Smithsonian to see "The Spirit of St Louis." Unfortunately, whatever street we were on did not allow left turns and we seemed to be going in a number of right-turn circles without ever getting closer to the museum. Finally, my father stopped at a corner where a policeman was making sure no one made a left turn and said, "If I can't make a left turn, how am I going to get over there?"
As I recall, the officer gave him instructions on how many blocks to go in each direction, making only right turns, of course, so that we would get to where we wanted to be. Despite a trip that seemed to us kids like we had left the city and come back again, we eventually arrived right in front of the museum. As we all piled out to go inside, my father went up the steps and came right back down to tell us it had closed at 4:30.

Based on my story, we expected to have about twenty minutes to go through the American History Museum, but were pleasantly surprised to discover it was open until 6:30. That gave us enough time to see pretty much everything we wanted to and even have a snack in the cafe. One of the highlights was the recreation of Julia Child's kitchen and the video of one of her programs. It was quite amusing to see just how much clarified butter she used making an apple charlotte!

Once the museum closed, we headed over to the monuments, intent on seeing ones for the Korean War and FDR. We made it to the former, but the latter is a bit of a hike, out towards the Jefferson Memorial, and, given the amount of walking we'd already done, we decided it was not to be. We walked the length of the reflecting pool and got to see them "striking the set" for the rededication of the Lincoln Memorial, which had taken place earlier in the day.
After walking through the Korean War Memorial, we headed back to the Metro station and then trained back to Union Station just in time to miss the shuttle again. This time, however, we took a cab to the hotel.

Yesterday morning we made it onto the shuttle and headed for the Postal Museum, situated right next door to Union Station. As we had some time to kill before the museum opened, we strolled through Union Station and were amazed at the size of the food court on the lower level. Suddenly, Laurie realized that she had been there about twelve years ago with the Girl Scouts and recounted how one of the girls kept buying different foods that she then decided she didn't like, and continued to do so until she ran out of money.
The Postal Museum was quite interesting, particularly the exhibit about FDR and how he used postage stamps to influence the public. Laurie was not aware that Roosevelt had been an avid stamp collector; having been a philatelist myself for many years, it was a story I knew well.
The portions of the National Stamp Collection that are available for viewing was also quite impressive. A die-hard stamp collector could easily spend a full day just looking at all the pages.
The Museum is also very kid-friendly with some interactive games that tie into how direct mail advertisers figure out exactly what to send you.
All is all, it was a pleasant way to spend the morning.

Then it was back onto the shuttle for a quick stop at the hotel before checking out and heading home. Not surprisingly, we hit traffic on the Jersey Turnpike, where we crawled along for about ten miles until reaching a sign that told us to slow to 45 mph because there was congestion ahead. Actually, there was not congestion ahead at all... we were back up to 65 mph as soon as we passed the sign!

So we had a thirty-six hour mini-vacation! Had we not gone, we undoubtedly would have spent much of the weekend sitting by the pool. But since last week's rain cooled the water off considerably, Laurie would not have gone in. We did get a nice suntan, regardless. Being in a convertible with the top down for eleven hours will do that!