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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.

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.

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 ...

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.

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

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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.

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

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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.)

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.

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

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.)

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

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.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

At the San Diego Comic-Con now underway, toys, comic books and costumes fill the exhibit floor with color and light. It's a crush of bodies buzzing on adrenaline and fan joy.

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.

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