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An Interview with The Authors of The Official DC Superhero Joke Book

An Interview with The Authors of The Official DC Superhero Joke Book
The Official DC Superhero Joke Book is packed with more than 600 puns, knock-knocks, one-liners, riddles, gags, and tongue twisters, this book is sure to make you smile, laugh, and read jokes aloud to your friends. Illustrated with beloved classic DC comic book art, this first-of-its-kind, kid-friendly treasury is a great gift and a super-fun read.

I had the pleasure of interviewing the three talented authors involved in this book: Sarah Parvis, Noah Smith and Michael Robin.

MG: Who or what inspired you to become a writer?

Noah Smith: It runs in my family. My father was a journalist for many years, and he’s now a poet. My grandfather wrote seven novels. So, I’ve always been drawn to words and to writing, and especially comedy.

Michael Robin: Comic books made me want to become a writer. I was swept away in a barbershop at the age of six when I opened an issue of Legion of Super-Heroes. I even forgot about my imminent bowl haircut. I found a world that I more than anything wanted to be a part of and couldn’t wait to get back to. Writing seemed like a way to have that feeling again and again and maybe give it to others too. For years, my brothers and I made comics for each other. Actually, we sold them to each other, but since we all took the money from our dad’s coat pocket, I guess there’s no grounds for complaint. Our heroes had names like Blotch and Smoke Cloud—you can probably guess that writing, not drawing, was our strength.

Sarah Parvis: I’ve been telling stories since I could talk. Just ask my family. On second thought, don’t. They’ll tell you awful stories about how I would never shut up. Even as a 5-year-old, apparently, I could go on and on, telling incomprehensible stories that they couldn’t follow. I like to think it was a sign of creativity and general awesomeness—and storytelling success to come. But that’s why you should take my word for it, not theirs.

MG: What was your inspiration to write jokes about DC heroes and villains?

Michael Robin: I grew up watching Adam West’s Batman on TV, so finding the funny in super heroism comes naturally. Although when I was a kid I wasn’t always in on the joke. I had nightmares after Robin got swallowed by that giant clam! And I found the Siamese Human Knot rather disturbing. Although I’d really like to try it now.

Sarah Parvis: At Downtown Bookworks, we’ve been making children’s books with DC for six or seven years. We have a successful line of board books for kids up to 3 or 4 years old. For older kids, we have a dictionary (by Michael Robin), a cookbook and food styling book, some picture books (My Big Book of Superpowers and My Big Book of Girl Power), an activity book, and more. I’m often brainstorming what else should be on our list. I spend a lot of time looking through old comics and looking for perfect pieces of art for our books. And the humor is so campy and delicious. Last year, it hit me. I just knew we had to make a joke book. Once DC agreed, Michael and Noah were my first calls. And we’ve all been punning like mad ever since. 

MG: Favorite DC hero and or villain?

Noah Smith: Superman. I went trick-or-treating dressed as him when I was three and had a Superman night-light and Underoos and everything. As I got older, I sort of put Superman aside and moved on to other characters, but you never forget your first love. I sort of rediscovered Superman in college. I had dark hair and glasses, so I had a bit of a Clark Kent look about me. A year out of college I met a young woman who mentioned that she had always wanted to marry Clark Kent. We’ve been married for 14 years and we have four children.

My favorite villain? My gut instinct is to say the Riddler, since he really plays into Batman’s identity as a detective, which, for me, is the right way to play Batman. There aren’t as many great Riddler stories as I would like, though—it’s hard to write really good riddles. I love both versions of Lex Luthor—mad scientist and ruthless tycoon, and Mr. Mxyzptlk stories are always fun. Maybe that’s a three-way tie. 

Michael Robin: My first favorite DC hero was Chameleon Boy. He was an outsider within the Legion of Super-Heroes, had the most atrocious civilian name in the history of comics (Reep Daggle? Seriously?) and had powers that paled beside heavyweights like Superboy. But his outsider status gave him a perspective that saved the day time and again. That meant a lot to a kid like me. Espionage Squad forever!

If you want a mainstream choice, I’ll go with Green Lantern. Unlike, say, Superman or Wonder Woman, who have superpowers built right into their bones and muscles, Green Lantern’s power comes from will and imagination—things that even a nerdy kid like me possessed. I couldn’t imagine myself leaping buildings in a single bound, but I could imagine putting that ring on my finger and just wanting something so, so much.

My favorite DC villain is Two-Face. I always enjoyed the coin flip, the suspense. I loved that when Harvey was good, he was really, really good—a hero in his own right. It makes his villainy poignant. Redemption is always just one-coin flip away.

Sarah Parvis: Batman. I’ve always been drawn to the darkness of his storylines. Plus, he battles so many varied villains that there’s always something new and treacherous lurking in Gotham. It keeps you on your toes. And the gadgets and inventions are pretty wild too. That said, I shouldn’t underestimate the importance of growing up watching reruns of Adam West’s Batman series. For me, the nostalgia factor runs pretty high. It’s also why I am partial to villains like the Joker, the Riddler, and Catwoman—I guess you could say I’ve known them the longest.

An Interview with The Authors of The Official DC Superhero Joke Book

MG: Which joke was your favorite? My favorite was the Doctor Fate page. 🙂

Noah Smith: Again, it’s hard to narrow down. At the moment, I would probably say “Why didn’t the Flash chase after Captain Boomerang? He knew he’d come back,” is my favorite if my own jokes. My favorite in the book that I didn’t write is “What did Lex Luthor say when Mercy Graves gave him a comb for his birthday? ‘Thanks. I’ll never part with it.’” The joke of mine that seems to get the best reaction is “Why does Clark Kent wear a fedora? Because it makes him look fedorable.”

Michael Robin: My favorite jokes always end up being the ones that don’t make it in. There was this one caption for Dr. Fate that read “Does this costume make me look Fate?” That one still makes me simultaneously giggle and hang my head in shame.

Sarah Parvis: My favorite jokes absolutely change with my mood. I remember this joke making me howl: “How does Batman check out at the supermarket when he has 15 items or less? He uses the Express Wayne.” Just picturing Batman in full bat regalia impatient in the supermarket line with everybody else, pretending he only has 15 items in his cart, still makes me smile.

I just grabbed the book and flipped through it to see what today’s favorites are. Here are few:

*Why did Batman repeat himself?

He had to face Two-Face. 

*What does Black Canary tell herself when she needs a pep talk?

“Be a CAN-ary, not a CAN’T-ary!”

*What’s so special about Dr. Fate’s magical helmet?

Um. . . it’s magic.

This was a preposterously fun book to work on. I love that my favorite jokes change from day to day. It makes this little book a gift that keeps on giving. I hope readers feel the same way.


An Interview with The Authors of The Official DC Superhero Joke Book

MG: How was the image (artwork) of the book decided? The “Superfriends” version was the best pick as far as I am concerned.

Sarah Parvis: We only use the classic art. That way, parents get to show their kids the artwork they grew up with. We comb through the DC archive and look at old comics. We also use style guide art that features the iconic artwork of José Luis Garcia-Lopez, which is pretty awesome. For the book cover, I looked around for any art that showed characters smiling or laughing (not a small feat when Batman is involved). Then I sent those off to our incredible art director, Georgia Rucker, and she worked her magic. We experimented with a few covers and even tried some out where the Joker was front and center. But once we stumbled onto this particular piece of art—the Alex Toth piece from a Super Friends comics—we knew we had it!

MG: Is a volume 2 in the works?

Noah Smith: I would love to do a volume two. Every once in a while, I’ll jot down an idea for a new joke, just for fun. If we do more, I would love to get into some more obscure corners of the DC universe. The first book doesn’t have any jokes about the Legion, the Metal Men, Doom Patrol, or Metamorpho. There are some great oddball characters there could be real comic fodder. I know the average kid doesn’t know who most of them are, but most of them have names that pretty much describe their whole premise —This is Matter Eat Lad. He eats matter. Get it?

Sarah Parvis: If this book does well enough, then yes, we will totally make a volume 2! Right after the book went off to the printer, I had one of those amazing days as a writer, when you feel unstoppably creative and invincible. I sat down and wrote like 30 jokes, most of which I thought were pretty solid. My timing, as usual, was a little off, since the book was already done. But I have held onto them, and I even slipped a few jokes into Downtown Bookwork’s upcoming Awesome Activities for Super Heroes.

MG: Do you have any current or future projects you can talk about?

Noah Smith: I’m writing The Big Book of Superman and The Big Book of Batman for Downtown Bookworks. I’m having a great time with that, and it feels like a real responsibility. My books could be some kids’ first introduction to the mythology of these American cultural icons.
It’s interesting that with these books I have to settle on continuity compromises. The mythology has changed over the years, and will again, so what status quo am I writing about? How many kinds of Kryptonite are there? Is Dick Grayson still Robin, or do we mention Nightwing? Stuff like that. For the joke book, we had artwork from 70 years of comics and our only goal was silly humor. So, we could include jokes about super pets who’ve been written out of continuity, and we could have both mad scientist Luthor and tycoon Luthor in the same book.  For The Big Book of Superman, I can’t get into a lengthy digression about Pre- and Post-Crisis Krypton. I just have to blow it up on page two and move on.

Sarah Parvis: Yes! Next up for me is Awesome Activities for Super Heroes, which is an activity book full of DC character, mazes, picture puzzles, drawing games, word games, and stuff like that. Then I have a new book coming out in the fall as part of Downtown Bookwork’s “girl power” lineup with DC. This one is called Color Me Powerful, and it’s all about finding power in creativity. There are doodles, writing prompts, drawing prompts, and lots of space for girls and young women to express themselves and articulate their dreams. It’s a fun, empowering project. I am writing it with Julie Merberg, author of My First Wonder Woman Book, My First Book of Girl Power, and My Big Book of Girl Power.

Anyone interested in our in-print or upcoming titles can check them out here: Info about the new titles will be posted very soon!