Waiting For The Phone To Ring, by Dennis O’Neil
So here we were, writer/editor Jack C. Harris and myself, caught in a warp of eternity. Had we committed some hideous transgression to be doomed to this Purgatory? Well, no. What we’d done is agree to be guests on a radio call-in program about 30 years ago. Subject, of course: comic books.
We arrived at the small, shadowy studio early, earlier than the host, who breezed in a minute or so before air time and then, without notes, he was speaking into a microphone, introducing Jack and me, urging listeners to ask us questions and giving a phone number they could call if they wanted to speak to one or both of us.
We waited for that ol’ switchboard to light up. And waited. And waited. And waited. It seemed that nobody was interested in comic books, not that night in that city. We waited, and tried to make small talk, which I do not include in my skill set, and waited and waited.
Then there was a call! Hallelujah! Oh joy, oh happiness – a call! For us? Unfortunately, no. Some guy wanted to tout a community event of some sort, and fine, say I – more power to him.
There may have been one or two more calls – as noted, this was 30 years ago and I had no reason to cherish the memories – but basically, Jack, Mr. Radio Man, and I sat in that studio for two hours and then Jack and I left and I got on a train back to New York.
Got on the Amtrak, did I, little knowing that Jack, Radio Man and I were pioneers. What we’d done was fill up airtime without imparting any information, without saying anything anyone wanted or needed to hear
There’s a lot of that these days. All those long stretches at the recent political conventions when nothing was happening, yet the news people were facing cameras and microphones and had to say something, and did. The same thing often happens during disaster coverage. Often, all anyone knows is that something bad happened, but there are those cameras and microphones and the news folk have that airtime to fill, and do.
What worries me is that there seems to be a Gresham’s Law of information these days. (Gresham’s Law, for those of you lucky enough to doze through Economics classes, says that bad money will drive out good – paper that can’t be exchanged for anything of real value will bury paper that can.) We are inundated in factoids and not inundated in information about Ms. Palin’s tenure as a small town mayor, to cite just one facile example. And when good info is offered, maybe we don’t notice because there’s so many meaningless images, so much pointless verbiage.
Do you think that Jack and I have a shot at the Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame?
RECOMMENDED READING: Breathe Smart, by Aaron Hoopes.
Dennis O’Neil is an award-winning editor and writer of Batman, The Question, Iron Man, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and The Shadow– among others – as well as many novels, stories and articles. The Question: Epitaph For A Hero, reprinting the third six issues of his classic series with artists Denys Cowan and Rick Magyar, will be on sale in September, and his novelization of the movie The Dark Knightis on sale right now. He’ll be taking another shot at the ol’ Bat in an upcoming story-arc, too.