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.

Actor Michael Nyqvist, a respected Swedish actor whose achieved international fame originating the role of journalist Mikael Blomqvist in the 2009 Swedish-language film Män som Hatar Kvinnor (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) and its two sequels, died after a battle with lung cancer, according to a statement released on Tuesday.

(Daniel Craig assumed the role of Blomqvist for the 2011 English-language film adaptation and its follow-ups.)

The first book of the Harry Potter series went on sale in the U.K. 20 years ago today. It offers a convenient excuse to reacquaint yourself with a world before anyone on this side of the Atlantic had heard of muggles, horcruxes or pensieves, before tourists would crowd into London's Kings Cross railway station simply to peer wistfully at the space between Platforms Nine and Ten.

Here's the first story NPR ever aired about Harry Potter — a wonderful piece by the late Margot Adler, from All Things Considered in 1998.

Some gems, from that bygone era:

Contains spoilers for both Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad.

Two shows, two slow, inexorable descents into moral bankruptcy.

Over five seasons, from 2008 to 2013, Breaking Bad showed us feckless chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston) transforming — coalescing, really — into the coldly brutal drug-lord known as Heisenberg.

"Why is a welder like a woman in love?"

I'm 7 years old, standing between the two dogwood trees in my backyard. It's autumn; there's a crispness in the golden, late afternoon air. I've taken the hood of my parka and thrown it over my head, but my arms are not in the sleeves. The coat falls over my narrow, bird-boned shoulders and down my back.

Like a cape, you see.

Here at NPR headquarters in DC, MARVELous IMAGEs and FANTAstic GRAPHICS are dancing in our heads as we contemplate this year's edition of our famous Summer Reader Poll — who will make the cut? Will it be packed with old favorites or BOOM! Will a DARK HORSE muscle in?

This year, Free Comic Book Day turns sixteen years old.

The good news: It can drive itself to swim practice now!

The bad news: When you ask it to drive its younger siblings Record Store Day and Independent Bookstore Day to Gymboree it'll give you THAT LOOK IT GETS and spend the rest of the day sulking.

Here's the gist: Walk into a comic shop this Saturday, May 6, and you'll get some free comic books.

Forget the fava beans.

The main reason Jonathan Demme's Oscar-winning 1991 film The Silence of the Lambs gets its hooks in you — and leaves you feeling vaguely distracted and discomfited long after it's over — isn't anything Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter says.

It's how he says it. And to whom.

In the reality of the film, of course, he's directing his consummate, artisanal brand of creepiness at Jodie Foster's FBI agent, Clarice Starling.

"It was in the early morning hours of July 2 that I was kidnapped."

On the opening page of Guy Delisle's Hostage, those words hang in a slate-gray night sky, above a building in a nondescript neighborhood of what we soon learn is a small town west of Chechnya.

That same, muted grayscale color-scheme will stay with us throughout the book, because the man imparting those words — Christophe André, a Doctors Without Borders administrator assigned to the Caucasus region in 1997 — will spend the bulk of Hostage's 432 pages in darkness.

Cathy Malkasian creates fantastic worlds out of her proprietary blend of melancholy and dream-logic, and peoples them with characters who are all too dully, achingly human. Her landscapes and cityscapes, rendered in gorgeous colored pencils, can seem as chilly and remote as her facial expressions seem warm and intimate.

It's a Wednesday at Fantom Comics in Washington, D.C., and the store is bustling.

Every Wednesday is New Comics Day — when subscribers come in to pick up the week's new titles, check in with each other, and talk comics. This Wednesday is no different.

Well. It's a little different.

I'm used to comics-shop chatter that revolves around things like which new books are worth checking out, what storylines have gone one way too long, and which hero could kick which other hero's butt.

During World War I, some 223 members of the U.S. Army Signal Corps performed a highly specialized service which demanded great skill, nerve and tenacity: Over the vast network of telephone lines that had been hastily constructed across France, these soldiers worked the complicated switchboards connecting the ever-shifting front lines with vital supply depots and military command. At the height of the fighting, they connected over 150,000 calls per day.

Let's acknowledge this at the top: It's a thin slice.

To gaze across the great swath of written English over the past few centuries — that teeming, jostling, elbow-throwing riot of characters and places and stories and ideas — only to isolate, with dispassionate precision, some stray, infinitesimal data point such as which author uses cliches like "missing the forest for the trees" the most, would be like ...

Chuck Barris, the game show producer, emcee, author and songwriter who died Tuesday at his home in Palisades, N.J., at age 87, was in his time called "The King of Shlock," "The Baron of Bad Taste" and "The Ayatollah of Trasherola."

(... In fairness: It was the '70s.)

Robert Silvers, whose long career as an editor included terms at The Paris Review, Harper's and, most notably, as co-founder of The New York Review of Books, died Monday at his home in Manhattan. He was 87.

Silvers launched The New York Review of Books in 1963 with Barbara Epstein, intending to raise the standard of book reviewing. In its pages, a given book under consideration could be little more than a jumping-off point for an extended essay that directly engaged the political and cultural moment.

So. How'd you do?

Did you follow my advice in making your Oscar pool picks?

... You did? All of them? Hunh.

Well then. That means you got 13 out of the evening's 24 categories correct.

That's ... 54%.

So. Yes. Well. Cough.

12:39 a.m.: Next up on Pop Culture Happy Hour's end, we'll record a late-night Small Batch, which ought to be up in your feeds overnight. Too bad there won't be much to discuss...

Look: You want to win your Oscar pool. We want you to win your Oscar pool.

In truth, we feel we owe it to you.

You took our advice on the Emmys, last September, and you did ... okay. Seventeen right, out of 27 categories. Which, yes, if you're the kind of egregiously unimaginative churl who clings, with a willfully hidebound insistence, to the "rules" of "math," works out to 62%. A "failing" "grade."

We talk about movies often on Pop Culture Happy Hour, which means we've already devoted shows to most of the best picture Oscar nominees (see the bottom of this post).

Updated at 4:10 p.m. ET

A literary treasure buried for more than a century has been unearthed by Zachary Turpin, a grad student at the University of Houston.

Sunrise, sunset: light into darkness, darkness into light.

This perpetual cycling through archetypal phases of yin and yang, light slapstick and dour melodrama, is what lends Batman his unique mutability. His fellow heroes are a more stolid lot. They tend to pick a lane and stick with it.

Not Batman. Dude's ephemeral. A veritable will o' the wisp, that guy.

"That's a weird smile."

So says someone to Timothy Olyphant's manically grinning Joel Hammond, a few episodes into the smart, hugely funny Netflix series Santa Clarita Diet, and the thing is: they're right, it is weird.

Used to be, you could count on two fundamental truths:

1. Superheroes were jocks.

2. People who loved superhero comics were nerds.

Sweeping generalizations to be sure, and they grew steadily less and less true every time, over the last 75+ years, superheroes escaped the comic book page for radio, television and movies, where they found themselves embraced by a wider, less obsessive audience.

1. Don't.

2. No Seriously, Netflix: Do Not.

This is a thing for which no one — no one — was clamoring. There's still time to turn back! I'm the creepy guy at the beginning of the horror movie, imploring you not to enter the abandoned house/read from the blood-smeared tome/go for a swim, at night, alone. You don't have to do this. Save yourselves!

... Ok.

Updated 10:57 a.m.

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When the nominees for the 2017 Academy Awards were announced this morning, La La Land racked up 14 nods, tying records held by Titanic and All About Eve.

It's not fair to compare the 2004 film Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events to the new Netflix series A Series of Unfortunate Events.

But let's do it anyway.

Leather jacket ... over superhero tights.

Maybe with the jacket sleeves pushed up to the elbows jauntily? Finished off with some leather driving gloves, for precisely no reason?

It's ... a look. You can't say it's not.

At least, it was a look, back in the bad old days of the benighted '90s, when superhero fashion, like skiing, skateboarding, makeovers and underarm deodorant, got extreeeeeme.

This is not a review.

It started out as one: I fully intended to offer a considered critique of the new comics anthology Love is Love, in which various creators both within the comics industry (Gail Simone, Matt Millar, Jim Lee, G. Willow Wilson and more) and without it (Matt Bomer, Patton Oswalt, Morgan Spurlock, John Ross Bowie, Taran Killam and more) produce dozens of brief — one-or-two-page — reactions to the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

Some people possess a quality — a highly specific fuel mixture of intelligence and humor — that makes them seem like they've always got a secret they want to share with you, and only you.

It's not obvious. That's the whole point of it: It lives on the sly, this quality, around the edges of what they say and do. It sidles up to you and draws you in, it whispers to you that you are important and special, and that's why this person chose you. You share something, the two of you.

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