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.

Once a day, until Dec. 25, we'll be highlighting a specific small, good thing that happened in popular culture this year. And we do mean small: a moment or image from a film or TV show, a panel from a comic, a brief exchange from a podcast, or a passage from a book.

Once a day, until Dec. 25, we'll be highlighting a specific small, good thing that happened in popular culture this year. And we do mean small: a moment or image from a film or TV show, a panel from a comic, a brief exchange from a podcast, or a passage from a book.


It's that same old Hollywood plot, really:

Boy meets girl.

Boy loses girl.

Once a day, for the next 25 days, we'll be highlighting a specific small, good thing that happened in popular culture this year. And we do mean small: a moment or image from a film or TV show, a panel from a comic, a brief exchange from a podcast, or a passage from a book.


We open on the back of a woman's head. Her long black hair is arranged in an ponytail. She is sitting in an upscale restaurant.

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.

Actor and writer Gene Wilder, who brought his signature manic energy to films such as The Producers, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and the role that forever ensconced him in the collective memory of a generation of children, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, has died. He was 83.

Wilder died early Monday at his home in Stamford, Conn., of complications from Alzheimer's disease, according to a statement from his nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman.

Lace front, true believers!

RuPaul's Drag Race returns tonight.

Technically, RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars, wherein 10 drag queens who missed out on being crowned America's Next Drag Superstar over the show's eight previous seasons return to compete for a cash prize of $100,000 and induction into RuPaul's Drag Race Hall of Fame.

(This is the second All-Star season, and there were three seasons of the off-season offshoot RuPaul's Drag U, in which RuPaul did not appear in drag and about which we do not speak.)

Hey Hugh.

It's us, the sideburns you wore while you played the character Wolverine. All the times you played Wolverine. To refresh your memory: When Wolverine 3 comes out next year, we'll have been together, the three of us, for nine movies over the course of 17 years.

Seventeen years, Hugh. Do you know what anniversary that is? It's the furniture anniversary. We were gonna make you a footstool!

Gold, Silver ... and Bronze.

As hierarchies of merit go, it's got long historical legs, stretching all the way back to the ancient Greeks.

Not — as many believe — to the ancient Olympic Games, however; those athletes just got olive wreaths for their trouble. (Well, olive wreaths and sunburn, one supposes, as competitors observed the tradition of gymnos, or nudity.)

It's a weird one this week: Linda's off in L.A. with hundreds of other TV critics being wined and dined (or at least coffeed and breakfast burritoed) by various networks as they show off their upcoming wares, so Stephen Thompson clambers into the host chair to make the rest of us (me, the great Tanya Ballard-Brown and master-of-punching Chris Klimek) bow to his will.

Five Things That Are Awesome About the 2106 International Yo-Yo Slam Now Happening in Cleveland, In Ascending Order Of Awesomeness

The 1966 film Batman: The Movie was shot between the first and second seasons of the television show. It used the same sets as the TV show, the same characters, costumes, the same story formula, and — most importantly — adopted the same tonal jiu-jitsu: high silliness executed with grave seriousness.

As a teenager, James Alan McPherson worked as a passenger-car waiter on the Great Northern Railroad. The experience shaped him as a man and as a writer; he would spend his life producing short fiction and essays exploring race and class in America — the gulf separating white privilege from the black experience. One of his first published stories, "On Trains," included in his fiction collection Hue and Cry, chronicles a white woman's unthinking treatment of black waiters and porters on a train, and subtly reveals its lingering effects on all involved.

Warning: This post discusses the basic plot elements of the Netflix series Stranger Things, the comic Paper Girls, and the film Super 8.

Autumn 1979. Ohio. Five kids on bikes tool around their suburban development and stumble into an adventure involving monsters and sinister authority figures.

Autumn 1983. Indiana. Four kids on bikes tool around their suburban development and stumble into an adventure involving monsters and sinister authority figures.

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

On Wednesday night, the film Star Trek: Beyond held its red-carpet premiere at San Diego Comic-Con. They went all out – a live orchestra, fireworks, a laser show. Conan O'Brien hosted the gig. NPR's Nina Gregory reported on it for Morning Edition yesterday.

Full disclosure, here at the start: I don't know Pokemon.

That's not technically true; here's a list of everything I knew about Pokemon before playing the new smartphone app, Pokemon GO (this knowledge absorbed solely through cultural osmosis, given the phenomenon's ubiquity).

1. Pikachu is a kind (species?) of Pokemon. It is an "electric-type" Pokemon. It is yellow. It has a cutesy voice. Said voice is profoundly annoying.

2. Squirtle is another kind of Pokemon, a "water-type" Pokemon. It, as one might imagine, squirts.

Her name is Riri Williams. She reverse-engineered her own version of the Iron Man battlesuit in her MIT dorm room, got kicked out, and struck out on her own to do the superhero thing. Clumsily at first, but she's learning fast. So fast she's impressing Tony Stark, who's questioning his status as the Marvel Universe's go-to, super-powered Campbell's soup can. Readers first met her in the March issue of Invincible Iron Man.

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

[Spoilers ahead for the finales of both Veep and Game Of Thrones. Obviously.]

Chaos isn't a pit. Chaos is a ladder.

-- Petyr Baelish, Game of Thrones Season 3, Episode 6

Well then, why don't we send WARSHIPS into the South China Seas? I WANT! MY NOBEL! PEACE PRIZE!

-- President Selina Meyer, Veep, Season 5, Episode 10

Last night on HBO, two venal, scheming rulers saw their secret machinations come to ruinous ends — literally ruinous, for one of them.

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