Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Dress For the Job You Want. Or Don’t. It’s Entirely Up To You.


Happy Two-Days-After-April-Fool’s-Day! Welcome to my latest blog post, where I generously share news and announcements about my recent projects, followed by a humiliating personal anecdote. So, without further delay, here are some announcements:  

This weekend (April 5-7), I’ll be the Scholar-In-Residence at Congregation Or Hadash, in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania. I’m going to be giving lectures and teaching workshops on a variety of pop culture-related topics. 

Also, three of my children’s books will be coming out later this year:

1. The first book is called Hungry Shark: The Official Shark-Tastic Guide. It will be published by Scholastic in June 2019 (just in time for Shark Week!), and it’s a guide to all of the characters in the Hungry Shark video game franchise. I had a ton of fun writing this book, which is stuffed to the gills with exclusive info about fearsome fish like Tiger Shark and Great White, as well as goofballs like Mako Shark and Porbeagle. 

2. I co-wrote the new edition of The LEGO Ninjago Visual Dictionary, which comes out in September 2019 from DK. My co-author on the book was Hannah Dolan. I did quite a bit of research while working on this book, and I think it shows! The book looks pretty fantastic, and I’m very proud of my work on it. 

3. And I wrote The Despicable Me Little Golden Book, which will also come out in September of this year, from Penguin Random House. It’s an adaptation (Little Golden Book-style) of the first Despicable Me movie, and it was illustrated by Elsa Chang. While working on this book, I really started to empathize with Gru. Like me, Gru’s just an ordinary dad. He just so happens to also be a supervillain. Is that so wrong? (Yes. Yes, it is.) 

But that’s not why you’re here! You’re here to read another embarrassing anecdote about my writing career. Well, here it is:

For the past several years, I’ve been a writer for MAD Magazine. But before I was a MAD writer, I was a MAD intern. Before I was even an intern, when I was first getting ready to go over to the MAD offices to interview for the internship position, I wasn’t sure what I should wear. I dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, which is the standard “Arie Kaplan uniform.” That was true then, and it’s true now. However, just in case the MAD folks wanted me to dress formally, I had my finest suit dry-cleaned. Then I folded it ever-so-neatly, kept it on its wire hanger, and put it in my backpack. And then I went to the interview, which was conducted by Joe Raiola, who was at that time both the Associate Editor of MAD and the magazine’s internship coordinator. After talking to Joe for a while, I realized that the interview seemed to be going well. So I said, “By the way, I didn’t know what to wear to this meeting, so I brought a suit.” Joe looked at me and said, “No you didn’t! I don’t know how to tell you this, but what you’re wearing is NOT a suit.” And I unzipped my backpack and pulled out the suit. And Joe started laughing and yelled out, “He brought a SUIT in his backpack…and it’s STILL ON THE HANGER! He even had it dry-cleaned!” He called in the other editors to look at the hallmark of ridiculousness that was my carefully folded, dry-cleaned suit, still on the hanger. And everyone had a good laugh. I don’t know why I thought I might have to wear a suit. It was MAD Magazine, after all! But in my defense, I WAS eighteen years old. And eighteen-year-olds are pretty much incapable of making good decisions. Ancient Egypt’s King Tutankhamen (aka “King Tut”) made so many bad decisions that he DIED at age eighteen.

To any eighteen-year-olds who might be reading this: stop it. Just stop it. Whatever “it” is that you’re doing, stop it. You look ridiculous. That is all.



Thanos Demands Your Silence (Because He Needs A Nap)


Last year, I wrote an Avengers Little Golden Book, titled The Threat of Thanos, which is out now. The Threat of Thanos was illustrated by the incredible Shane Clester, and it was published by Penguin Random House.

The Threat of Thanos features Thor, Black Panther, Iron Man, and The Wasp. Oddly enough, those are the main characters in the last four MCU movies (Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Ant-Man and the Wasp). But seriously, that’s just a coincidence.

I should mention that The Threat of Thanos has a totally original plot, and it’s not an adaptation of the Infinity War movie. This was a fun book to write, and I’m really proud of it. If you look at the book’s cover art, you’ll see that Thanos has the Infinity Gauntlet and all of the Infinity Stones. The biggest challenge in writing the book was figuring out how to explain what each of the Infinity Stones does on a level that a 2-5 year old kid could understand. For example, how do you explain the Mind Stone (or the Reality Stone, for that matter) on a kindergarten level? But I think I pulled it off.

Whenever I write a Little Golden Book, I have to write the art notes as well as the text. (Art notes are notes to the artist, telling them what to draw on every page.) So as I’m writing the text, I’m usually drawing up really rough thumbnail sketches to try and figure out what the art might consist of. Then in the art notes, I describe what I’ve drawn. I usually don’t show the thumbnail sketches to anyone, even my editor. They’re just for my own reference. But they really help in terms of figuring out which specific images will help to tell the story, which images will complement the text, and how many of those images can comfortably fit inside a book with a very specific page count.

I don’t know if other authors draw thumbnail sketches while they’re typing up the art notes, but for me, it’s a vital part of my process. So is listening to the right music. While writing the Threat of Thanos, I listened to Alan Silvestri’s score from the first Avengers movie.

Oh! And as of this writing, The Threat of Thanos is the #1 New Release in Children’s Superhero Comics on Amazon

PS – Back in April, I was interviewed by AJ Frost, Staff Writer for the “geek culture” site The Beat. During the interview, I talked about The Threat of Thanos, as well as some of my other recent children’s book projects. You can check out the interview here.

Monsters (And Not The “Elmo” Kind)


I was recently interviewed by reporter AJ Frost for the geek culture site The Beat. We talked about my recent children’s book projects for Scholastic and Disney Book Group. We also talked about the series of lectures that I’ll be doing throughout 2017 at the NYC performance space QED Astoria.

I’ll be kicking off that lecture series with a talk titled “THE MONSTER MAKERS: UNIVERSAL PICTURES, CARL LAEMMLE JR., AND THE GOLDEN AGE OF HOLLYWOOD HORROR MOVIES.” It’s happening on Saturday January 7th 2017 at 2pm.

This first wave of monster movies (1931’s Frankenstein, 1933’s Invisible Man, 1941’s The Wolfman, etc) didn’t just inspire future generations of horror filmmakers. It inspired ALL purveyors of fantastic cinema, including Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, Peter Jackson, Joss Whedon, Clive Barker, and Robert Rodriguez. Not to be coy, but I can’t really tell you WHY or HOW it influenced them. Because then you wouldn’t come and see the lecture.

During my “MONSTER MAKERS” lecture, I’ll talk about people like Boris Karloff, Gloria Stuart, Bela Lugosi, Tod Browning, James Whale, Curt Siodmak, and Jack Pierce. By the time I’ve finished the lecture, you’ll understand why those people are important, why you should care about them, and how they shaped modern pop culture.

You’ll also understand what all of this has to do with the creation of the first wave of comic book superheroes, and how these horror movies were informed by then-recent events in world history.

And I just might explain how the story of these early horror filmmakers ties in to the narrative of my award-winning nonfiction book From Krakow To Krypton: Jews And Comic Books.


Jewish Comic Con 2016


jewishcomiccon-small-logoRecently, I was one of the programming consultants for the Jewish Comic Con, which was held on Sunday November 13, 2016, at Congregation Kol Israel in Brooklyn, NY. The event was the brainchild of Congregation Kol Israel president Fred Polaniecki and comic book writer Fabrice Sapolsky. I co-moderated most of the panels at Jewish Comic Con (alongside fellow co-moderator Danny Fingeroth), and there was quite a bit of press coverage for this event. Articles about Jewish Comic Con were written up in The Wall Street Journal, The Jewish Week, Bleeding Cool, and more. AJ Frost, a blogger for comics site The Beat, interviewed me about Jewish Comic Con, my work as a guest lecturer and public speaker, and my recent projects as an author/comic book writer.


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