Ever since I was a small child, I’ve been obsessed with animation. Every aspect of it. Who made the greatest animated cartoons in cinematic history, how many Fleischer brothers there were (and what each one did), how to spell and pronounce “Ub Iwerks.” All that stuff. And aside from my work as a writer of variousotherthings, I’m also an animation writer. (In fact, you can see some of my animation writing credits HERE and HERE.)
So I know quite a bit about animation, and I also know a lot about animation history. Pay attention to that last bit, because it’ll be important later.
In addition to all of the above, I’m a public speaker. In fact, for a couple of decades before the pandemic, I used to go all over the world (well, all over the US, as well as a few places in Canada and a couple of countries in Europe) and give lectures at various venues including universities, literary festivals, synagogues, libraries, museums, etc. For the past three years, I’ve been giving lectures virtually, because of the aforementioned pandemic (perhaps you’ve heard of it). Hopefully, now that everything’s opening up again, I’ll start lecturing in person once more. Which would be nice, because I really miss those speaking gigs where I’m actually in the same room as my audience. (What a concept!)
No matter whether I lecture virtually or in person, I usually talk about various pop culture-related topics, often from a Jewish perspective. That’s largely because my lecture career started out with me speaking on subjects like the history of Jews in the film industry and the history of Jews in the animation industry. And that kinda became my thing, for reasons too convoluted to go into here. * Then after my book From Krakow to Krypton: Jews in Comic Books was released in 2008, that was the topic I spoke about the most. I mean, I had written a successful nonfiction book on the history of Jews in the comic book industry. Why wouldn’t that be my most frequently requested lecture topic?
I’ve also done some work for the Union for Reform Judaism (aka “URJ”) over the past couple of decades. For instance, I’ve written several articles for them (both print and online), most of which are about various aspects of pop culture history as well.
At the tail end of 2021, the folks at the URJ hired me to make a video about the history of Jews in the animation industry for their “RJ on the Go” platform. It was called “Drawing the Line: The History of Jews in Animation,” and it was up on their site for about a month, from late December of 2021 to late January of 2022. It’s not up there anymore, but they gave me the link so that it can live permanently on my website. With that in mind, you can check it out here:
* I should clarify that I don’t exclusively talk about these subjects as seen through a Jewish lens, so to speak. Sometimes, in my lectures, I simply talk about film history (in general), or the history of television comedy (in general), or the history of the comic book industry (in general). Other times, I talk about my writing career and how it’s evolved over the years. I’ve even given lectures about specific areas of my writing career, like my career in the video game industry or what it was like working on those three LEGO Star Wars books I wrote for Scholastic. But, at least in certain circles, I am definitely known best for my lectures on the contribution of Jewish folks to various areas of popular culture.
Hey! Do you like Minions? Do you like stickers? Do you like art? Do you like puzzles? Do you like all of the above? If so, boy are you in luck! I wrote the Minions Sticker Art Puzzles Book, and it’s out now from Thunder Bay Press. You can learn more about the book HERE.
Speaking of that last book, a while back Claire Sewell interviewed me for her website, The Golden Girls Fashion Corner. In the interview, I talked to Claire about what it was like writing the Golden Girls Sticker Art Puzzles Book. You can read the interview HERE.
And I talked about the Nightmare Before Christmas Sticker Art Puzzles Book in a previous blog post. Check it out!
Hey, you know how they say that good things come in threes? Sounds like an arbitrary number. But there are some good things that DO come in threes: three-ring circuses, three wishes granted by genies in fairy tales, three Back to the Future movies, three Marx Brothers who were actually funny (sorry, Zeppo, you contributed nothing to the act). That sort of thing.
Here’s another good thing associated with the number three: I’ve written three Red Titan graphic novels. Well, so far, anyway. The first two Red Titan GNs came out last year. (I wrote about that in a previous blog post.) And I’m writing THIS post to tell you that the third one, Red Titan and the Floor of Lava, is out now. It was illustrated by Patrick Spaziante.
Red Titan is the superhero alter ego of YouTuber Ryan Kaji (who can be seen on the Ryan’s World YouTube channel).
And while the Ryan’s World videos are shot in live-action, the Red Titan shorts are animated. The Red Titan graphic novels are illustrated in a colorful, lighthearted style similar to that of the animated shorts.
All three of the Red Titan graphic novels are set in the Ryan’s World universe. They were all published by Simon and Schuster’s Simon Spotlight imprint, and they’re part of the Ready-to-Read Graphics line.
I had a ton of fun writing these books. I tried to give them a sort of “classic kids comics” vibe, similar to those Little Dot stories Harvey Comics used to publish. Or Sheldon Mayer’s Sugar and Spike comics (published by DC back in the day). That’s what I was going for, anyway.
Here’s the official publisher description of Red Titan and the Floor of Lava:
“Red Titan and his friends want to have a picnic, but…the floor is lava! Will Red Titan be able to use his super strength and his scientific observational skills to save the day?”