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.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: Once a day until December 25, the Monkey See blog is highlighting a small good thing that happened in pop culture this year. And we do mean small - a moment from a movie or TV show, a passage from a book or poem, a panel from a comic. It's called the pop culture advent calendar. NPR contributor Glen Weldon is the brains behind this project, and he joins me now to talk about it. Welcome to the studio, Glen. GLEN...

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.) Westworld seems a show engineered for our cultural moment, inviting viewers to trade clues and...

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! I heard! It's fantastic! Both the fact that it won, and the comic itself, which is a deeply moving, eye-level, feet-on-the-ground account of the era that shows just how much hard, punishing work it took to change America....

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....

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). Many of those films have achieved the kind of cult status that often accretes to any cultural product made so cheaply, and with such a gleefully undisguised commitment to offend. A savvy marketer, Lewis knew that his...

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.) In theory, SPX seems a lot like many of the other comic-cons that have been popping up across the country over...

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. Whatever the reason, you can taste victory. And if you base all of your Emmy picks on our rigorous analyses below, you'll do more than taste it — you'll eat it. You'll spend tonight shoving meaty chunks of victory in your face by the greasy fistful,...

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. And in two ceremonies that took...

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 San Francisco feat. Mallory Ortberg: October 21 - SOLD OUT Los Angeles feat. Kumail Nanjiani: October 23 - ONLY STANDING ROOM LEFT Don't dawdle! Don't shilly-shally! Don't laze or lollygag! Get them now! Home decorating...

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 . Today, NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour's Glen Weldon looks at how portrayals of villainy on television continue to evolve. The New Golden Age of Television in which we find ourselves is marked by a few spots of tarnish. There's a sameness of tone (i.e....

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. "The decision to wait until this time to...

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...

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! But then you went on Twitter on Monday, after you finished shooting Wolverine 3, and shaved us off...

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 . ) No, it was the Greek poet Hesiod who first adopted a metallic taxonomy for assigning value to non-metallic things. He broke...

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...

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. NPR doesn't really do red carpets, so we figured we'd make the most of this one. (We were stationed right between the R and the E of Star Trek Beyond .) Nina asked a Klingon expert – who, in a move that will not surprise you in the least,...

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,...

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 . And according to an interview in TIME with Brian Michael Bendis , who...

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

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edCgQgZ63QI Last Friday, six members of the "vertical dance troupe" BANDALOOP marked the grand opening of a new 17-story building in Boston's Seaport District by suspending themselves from wires and dancing against its side. Actually "dancing" doesn't quite cover it. The performance is beautiful: they weave, undulate and soar with a muscular grace. The performance is also, if you're one of the millions who harbor even the thinnest sliver of a perfectly logical...

The mechanics of DC Comics' latest relaunch of its superhero line — precisely which books are returning to their original numbering, and the fact that several titles will now be published twice monthly, etc. — have engendered much discussion among retailers and collectors. But let's talk big picture. It is a truth universally acknowledged that superhero universes periodically reshuffle their narrative decks. The in-story explanations differ in often tortuous ways, but the only true driver is...

Tonight the game show To Tell the Truth returns to television on ABC, hosted by Black-ish star Anthony Anderson. It's proven a surprisingly scrappy, long-lived, battle-scarred veteran of show: since its first run on CBS from 1956 to 1968, there have been three different syndicated versions of TTtT , plus a brief one-year run on NBC (1990-91). With every iteration, however, certain constants endure. The format, for example, is simple yet durable: three contestants attempt to convince a panel...

My wife's the reason anything gets done She nudges me towards promise, by degrees She is the perfect symphony of one Our son is her most beautiful reprise We chase the melodies that seem to find us Until they're finished songs, and start to play When senseless acts of tragedy remind us That nothing here is promised, not one day This show is proof that history remembers We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger We rise and fall and light from dying embers Remembrances that hope...

Free Comic Book Day Free Comic Book Day, the comics industry's yearly attempt to bring new readers into the fold, is 15 years old. It's a peevish teen that smells of Speed Stick and Clearasil and a practiced, performative surliness. It demands that you drop it off a block away from school. For the past eight years, I've written a preview of the comics on offer on Free Comic Book Day for NPR. So I'm kind of like Free Comic Book Day's annoying third-grade little brother, always chasing after...

Yesterday the Library of Congress named graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang as its fifth National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. Here's why that matters. Yang joins the handful of notable, and notably prolific, authors of books for children and young adults who have served two-year terms since the Ambassadorship was created in 2008: Jon Scieszka ( The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales , The True Story of the Three Little Pigs , the Time-Warp Trio series); Katherine...

Let's make this perfectly clear at the outset: I don't work for NPR, and what I'm about to say doesn't represent NPR. I'm but a lowly freelancer they're dumb enough to publish a bunch, and what I say now I say as me, which is to say: 1. An inveterate Superman nerd, and 2. A gay dude. DC Comics has hired Orson Scott Card to write the first two issues of a new digital-first Superman comic. I won't be reading it. It will be the first piece of Superman-affiliated pop culture that I will bypass in...

Glen Weldon is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Monkey See . Let's make this perfectly clear at the outset: I don't work for NPR, and what I'm about to say doesn't represent NPR. I'm but a lowly freelancer they're dumb enough to publish a bunch, and what I say now I say as me, which is to say: 1. An inveterate Superman nerd, and 2. A gay dude. DC Comics has hired Orson Scott Card to write the first two issues of a new digital-first Superman comic. I won't be reading it. It will...

In 2012, several high-profile comics creators added landmark works to their already impressive legacies. With Building Stories , Chris Ware offered 14 volumes of comics, each with its own meticulous, anagrammatic take on despair, and stuffed them into a box. Alison Bechdel followed up her much-lauded 2006 memoir, Fun Home, with Are You My Mother? , another deep dive into the turbid waters of the parent-child bond. The result was messier and less finished, but profoundly personal — and vividly...

What happens to underground artists after they step, blinking, into the harsh, flat light of the upper world? If they are Robert and Aline Crumb, not a whole hell of a lot — at least, not in their approach to their art. As amply demonstrated in Drawn Together , which collects comics the two cartoonists have created together since the late '70s, their specific subjects may change, but how they go about depicting those subjects — their shared impulse for autobiographical, self-deprecating...

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