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.

Disenchantment, Matt Groening's new animated series that hits Netflix on Friday, August 17th, does for our mythical past what Futurama did for our imagined future, but it does so in a manner so closely reminiscent of that other show's wryly cynical sci-fi hi-jinks that it could have just as easily been called Pastarama, if that didn't sound quite so much like a seasonal promotion at Olive Garden.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

There are a bunch of historical anniversaries in August. The Watts riots happened 53 years ago. Woodstock was 49 years ago today in fact. And then there's the 46th anniversary of Wattstax.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

In a letter to its members sent this morning, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) listed three changes approved by its Board of Governors.

1. A three-hour Oscars telecast

We are committed to producing an entertaining show in three hours, delivering a more accessible Oscars for our viewers worldwide.

Charlotte Rae, who died Sunday at 92, was a seasoned performer by the time she landed the role of matronly housekeeper Mrs. Garrett on the NBC sitcom Diff'rent Strokes in 1978. She'd done musical theater, including Li'l Abner in 1956 and Pickwick in 1965. She'd released an album of satirical songs in 1955, and played Sylvia, the wife of Al Lewis' character, on Car 54, Where Are You? from 1961-63.

This post discusses the events of Sunday night's POSE season finale.

It wasn't layered. It wasn't nuanced. It was didactic in some places, and mawkish in others, often reaching for sentiment only to achieve sentimentality instead. Characters didn't so much converse as stand and deliver long declamatory paragraphs at each other, in precisely the way real people don't — you could hear the writing, always. The cast approached the material with great fervor, if not, in all cases, great finesse.

OK, look. I don't want to waste your time. It's hot, it's muggy and the news is an ever-widening gyre of flaming airborne chili-festival Porta Potties. So how about we forgo a review that seeks to advance any cool, objective argument on the relative cinematic worth of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, the sequel to the 2008 film adaption of the longest-running jukebox musical in Broadway history? How about, in the interest of efficiency, I just answer the questions I know you to have about the film — because I had them, too — in order of importance?

"Six feet of rugged manhood to stir the heart of every woman."

That's how one of his early movie trailers described Tab Hunter, the blue-eyed, blond-haired actor and recording artist possessed of a facial symmetry and bone structure so conventionally handsome they seemed preternatural. He died Sunday.

Friday evening, as word got around that Steve Ditko had died, the encomiums that bubbled up across the usual social media platforms assumed several distinct shapes. The reclusive comics artist and writer who co-created Spider-Man, Doctor Strange and a handful of other, lesser-known comics heroes beloved of only a hardy few (hi!), had clearly touched many nerdy lives, albeit in different ways.

It's fine.

Ant-Man and the Wasp, the sequel to 2015's feather-light and perfectly forgettable Ant-Man, is just fine.

"Are you ... my little bunny?"

It is impossible to convey, in paltry written English, the astonishing breadth of dark, rich, velvety plumminess with which Hugh Grant delivers that line in Amazon's gloriously fun 3-episode mini-series, A Very English Scandal.

It is plummier than an Argentinian Malbec. Plummier than the Williams family's icebox at midnight.

Put it this way: When you order moo shu pork, it comes on the side. Is how plummy.

"There are no second chances in life, except to feel remorse."

Spanish novelist Carlos Ruiz Zafón said that.

But what does he know.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Ken Jennings — yep, you got it: affable Jeopardy! champ/trivia doyen/comedy-adjacent media personality, that Ken Jennings — is worried.

Worried, not panicked. Not even distressed, really. No, what his book Planet Funny: How Comedy Took Over our Culture amounts to, really, is an extended, engaging, deeply knowledgeable, 275-page-long (312, if you count the endnotes) (come on, you knew there'd be endnotes) fret.

Brad Bird's virtuosic 2004 animated movie The Incredibles is the best superhero film that has ever been made and is likely the best superhero film that ever will be made.

This is a fact — a cold, hard one. The massive, resolute, essential truth of this fact is abiding and irresistible and immovable; it possesses its own magnetic field, its own solar day.

"FOR OUR FANS"

That's the phrase that appears on the screen at the close of Sense8's series finale. And, man: truer words.

This week, with Linda off galavanting around New York, Stephen and I are joined by the great and good Margaret Willison and Chris Klimek to discuss a certain quiet, subdued and exceedingly well-mannered topic that somehow we hadn't yet gotten around to: The Paddington films.

Science fiction often offers us cautionary tales about the role technology may play in humanity's future, but Ray Bradbury's 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451 isn't content to merely caution. It shrieks. It wails. It pulls out its hair, gnashes its teeth and rends its garments. It grabs us by the lapels and shakes us, screaming dire threats. It's ... unsubtle.

It's 1983. Late May. An unprepossessing strip mall in Anywhere, USA. You and your friend are leaving the theater in which you have just finished watching Return of the Jedi, the (so you think, you beautiful idiot) culminating chapter of George Lucas' soaring space opera, with which you are love-drunk. You have followed it, devotedly, passionately, since the moment the lights first went down in the theater of your screening of the first film (which you did not know to call Episode IV, you gorgeous naif) six years before.

Deadpool 2, like the 2016 film to which it is a sequel, stars Ryan Reynolds as a violent super-mercenary with the the ability to heal himself from any injury. In both films, Reynolds unleashes a logorrheic verbal torrent of meta-references to other movies — so many, so unceasingly, that their net effect is to hammer the fourth wall into a powdery dust.

"This thing you are looking at right now" he essentially says, often, "is like this other thing you have looked at in the past, when you were watching an entirely different film. Nutty, right?"

Not so very long ago, everyone agreed when Summer Movie Season kicked off. There was no subjectivity involved. It was dictated by the calendar: Memorial Day weekend meant the arrival of the big tentpole movies that would proceed to bust blocks over the course of the sultry summer months. Simple.

Nostalgia is a paralytic toxin.

It's killing us slowly, steadily: Every time an old, smarmy sitcom, or a pallid network drama, or a toy ad that masqueraded as a cringeworthy children's cartoon gets dredged from the feculent muck of history's lake bed and rebooted for a contemporary audience, our cultural blood pressure incrementally drops, our collective pulse grows that much threadier, our soft tissues go just a scosh more necrotic. That's because these properties exude nostalgia's deadly poison — they're sticky with it — and there is no antidote.

Walk into a comics shop this Saturday, May 5th, and you'll get some free comic books.

Free Comic Book Day has been an annual event for 17 years now. I've been writing up this guide to the FCBD books for the past 10 of those, so believe me when I say:

This year's a good 'un. The best yet. Don't skip it.

There are more all-ages books in this year's mix, more stories starring girls, women and people of color and a healthier, more robust selection of genres to choose from than ever before.

This post contains extensive spoilers for the ending of Avengers: Infinity War. If you do not wish to be spoiled, read no further.

....

I don't trust you.

You're reading this, but you haven't seen Avengers: Infinity War yet, and you don't want to be spoiled. Even though this whole post is about discussing the ending.

...

Avengers: Infinity War is — and truly feels like — the culmination of something.

It's not about the numbering.

You'll be hearing a lot this week about the publishing milestone DC Comics' Action Comics has achieved, with the publication of issue #1000, on shelves (physical and digital) today. And I don't mean to dismiss that achievement, believe me. It's 2018, and periodical publishing is a lot like the Man of Steel in the penultimate panel of 1992's "Death of Superman" storyline: Beaten to a bloody pulp and hovering at death's door.

Call them the Mighty Marvel Movie MacGuffins. They're the glittery objects that drove the plots of several individual Marvel movies and that collectively shaped the direction the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe has been heading (almost) since its inception.

They are the Infinity Stones — immensely powerful gems that contain and channel elemental forces of the universe. They're what the villains crave and what the heroes protect. They can be used to destroy or create.

Mmmmmostly that first thing.

"I'm — I'm literally vibrating with excitement."

That's it — that's when we knew. We had barely even introduced this week's fourth chair — charming host of NPR's Bullseye and podcast network mogul Jesse Thorn — when he volunteered how excited he was to discuss the venerable and venerated PBS staple Antiques Roadshow. If you know and love Jesse's smooth, sardonic persona from his show or his podcasts, you'll probably enjoy hearing him wax fanboy-passionate about objects that have a story — and about this very odd, and oddly appealing show.

The original Lost in Space, which ran on network television from 1965 to 1968, began as a straightforward, if high-concept, adventure show: A colony spaceship carrying a nuclear family, a dashing pilot and a sniveling doctor got stranded on a remote planet. They had adventures while wearing v-neck sweaters over their turtlenecks, presumably because Irwin Allen, who produced the show, imagined that the future would be a chilly place. Or maybe he got a deal on velour, who knows.

When the guy with a wicker bucket on his head (who only talks through androgynous android-clones in Tom Selleck mustaches and Beatle wigs) is the least weird thing about your show, that show can safely be called ... distinctive.

Welcome to season two of Legion, FX's not-your-daddy's-mutant-superhero-series, helmed once again by Noah Hawley, between gigs running FX's other stylish, genre-inflected offering, Fargo.

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