COMIC-CON BEGINS: Origin Stories of the San Diego Comic-Con and the Rise of Modern Fandom
The Kids of Widney High, presented by Mathew Klickstein
NERTZ the podcast that asks, "If nerds have won, why do we still call them nerds?"
On Your Marc, a feature length documentary that chronicles the Life and Slimes of Marc Summers, the messiest man in show business!
See You At San Diego: An Oral History of Comic-Con, Fandom, and the Triumph of Geek Culture
SLIMED! An Oral History of Nickelodeon's Golden Age, by Mathew Klickstein, foreword by Marc Summers
Springfield Confidential, by Mike Reiss with Mathew Klickstein, foreword by Judd Apatow
"Mathew Klickstein might be the geek guru of the 21st century." -- Mark Mothersbaugh
Morristown Public Library (Morristown, NJ), author talk with fellow author/pop culture historian Caseen Gaines; April 3, 7pm
Film Noir Cinema (Brooklyn, NY), screening French science fiction animated cult classic Gandahar, followed by discussion with audience and fellow author/pop culture historian Jake S. Friedman; April 4, 6:30 - 9pm
JHU Comic Books (NYC, NY), signing of See You at San Diego with book contributor and Troma co-founder/president Lloyd Kaufman; April 5, 2 - 4pm
Columbia University (NYC, NY), fandom panel with longtime DC Comics editor/executive Paul Levitz and ElfQuest co-creator Wendy Pini, moderated by Columbia librarian and comics/graphic novel expert Karen Green; April 6, 6 - 8pm; Room 523, Butler Library [Free but must register here]
Chizuk Amuno Congregation (Baltimore, MD), speaking engagement re: pop culture and Jewish culture; May 4, 7 - 8:30pm
Daisy Goes To The Moon, working with renowned artist and comics creator Rick Geary on adapting Mathew's early novella to graphic novel; to be released by Fantagraphics, TBD
With Great Power: Leadership, Character, and Conflict Beyond the Multiverse, contributing article about intersection of superhero mythos and business acumen to omnibus of such essays written by a cadre of authors, professors, filmmakers, et al including the likes of World War Z creator Max Brooks, to be published by Casemate, TBD
You Are Obsolete limited television series adaptation, TV series adaptation of Klickstein's critically acclaimed comic book series/graphic novel You Are Obsolete in active development
The Marx Brothers Make A Gookie, writing and developing children's book that will both entertain and educate kids about the iconic and impactful Marx Bros, with illustrator, animation/cartoonist legend Scott Shaw!, co-founder of San Diego Comic-Con
CIA Moms, a cartoon series developed with award-winning animator Patrick Mallek and voiced by longtime animation vets Maggie Roswell (Emmy Nominee) and Hal Rayle
Mathew Klickstein is a multi-platform storyteller who consistently works in the formats of: reportage, non-fiction books and novels, ghostwriting, filmmaking, episodical television, live theatre, public speaking, comic book creation, audiobook originals, and podcasting.
SLIMED! An Oral History of Nickelodeon's Golden Age (2013, Penguin Random House/Plume)
Nerding Out: How Pop Culture Ruined the Misfit (2017, Business Weekly)
Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons (w/ Mike Reiss, 2018, Harper Collins/Dey Street)
Being Mr. Skin: 20 Years of Nip Slips, Cheek Peeks, and Fast-Forwarding to the Good Parts (w/ Jim "Mr. Skin" McBride, 2019, Simon & Schuster/Post Hill)
Selling Nostalgia: A Neurotic Novel (2019, Simon & Schuster/Permuted)
The Kids of Widney Junior High Take Over The World! (2020, Schiffer Kids)
So You Need to Decide (w/ Beth Lapides, 2022, Recorded Books)
See You at San Diego: An Oral History of Comic-Con, Fandom, and the Triumph of Geek Culture (2022, Fantagraphics)
The Little Encyclopedia of Jewish Culture (2022, Callisto Media/Rockridge Press)
Daisy Goes To The Moon: The Graphic Novel (TBD, Fantagraphics; to be published ... STAY TUNED FOR MORE SOON!)
Flicks & Teevee (etc.)
National Lampoon's Collegetown USA (2003 - 2004; National Lampoon Network; co-creator, head writer, field producer)
Mysterious Skin (2004; Antidote Films; on-set dresser, location scout, background actor)
Act Your Age: The Kids of Widney High Story (2010; Independent Feature; director, producer, tour manager)
Restaurant: Impossible (2013 - 2016; Food Network; casting producer)
On Your Marc (2017; Marc Summers Productions; director, producer, writer, production coordinator, screening tour producer)
Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies (2020; Plausible Films; associate producer, film scholar/researcher, additional writing)
Comic-Con Begins: Origin Stories of the San Diego Comic-Con and the Rise of Modern Fandom (2021; SiriusXM/Stitcher; creator, producer, writer)
disLabled (2012; Phamaly Theatre Company; co-director, producer, co-writer, documentarian)
Ladies of the Fly (2016; Orange Mouse Theatricals; producer, co-writer)
Plagiarism Is Fun! The Musical (2021; TheatreLab Dayton; producer, co-writer)
MONSTERS -- From Outer Space!!! (2022; TheatreLab Dayton; producer, co-writer)
Mathew's writings have appeared in such publications as: WIRED, the New Yorker, New York Daily News, Splitsider (now New York Magazine's Vulture), Heavy Metal Magazine, Alternative Press, ABLE Magazine, Boulder Weekly, Yellow Scene Magazine, Colorado Daily/Daily Camera (as Staff Writer), OC Weekly, Willamette Week, Hammer to Nail, Entertainment Today (for which he was Editor-In-Chief), iTechPost (for which he was Deputy Editor), Bleeding Cool, Fade In Magazine, the Kansas City Star/Ink Magazine (for which he created and ran a regular foodie column), Decider (NY Post), the Baltimore Jewish Times (for which he was Senior Reporter), the Baltimore Sun, and Dayton Daily News.
Curiouser and curiouser ...
A wildly prolific writer at a young age, Mathew Klickstein wrote his first novel at age thirteen. He would write three more novels and countless shorter pieces throughout the rest of high school, during which time he also helped run his school's weekly newspaper and nationally award-winning yearbook teams.
Heeding the advice of a beloved English teacher, Mathew chose to concentrate on another lifelong passion of his -- film -- for his college studies. The very same day he graduated from the University of Southern California's prestigious screenwriting program (for which he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts), a few friends of his and he sold a weekly television show to the short-lived National Lampoon Network in 2003. Mathew was only twenty-one at the time.
In addition to being co-creator of the show -- a comedic travelogue called Collegetown, USA -- Mathew was head writer and field producer during season one. He left the series to pursue further work in feature/short film/music video/television production and journalism. He would additionally expand his interests to professional theatre and arts therapy.
Throughout his college and post-college "LA Decade," Mathew worked closely with the Kids of Widney High, a group of young adults with developmental disabilities who write, record and perform their own rock music. Mathew produced music videos, short films, fine art pieces and creative writing pieces with the Kids, including festival favorite Dinner Time.
He also directed/produced Act Your Age: The Kids of Widney High Story, the feature-length rockumentary that chronicles the Kids on their 2008 West Coast tour, which Mathew managed and which was sponsored in part by Sony PlayStation. Act Your Age was executive produced by Alfred Coffee founder Josh Zad. Starting November 2020, Act Your Age is available for streaming via Troma Now.
Mathew additionally worked with the Kids of Widney High as a production associate, featured player and behind-the-scenes documentarian on satirical television pilot Sweetwater Tides, which was produced and written by staffers at South Park in 2004, featured How's Your News? (a group of musicians/filmmakers with disabilities) and though did not go to series, does enjoy the distinction of being comedian/actor/Catastrophe co-creator Rob Delaney's first film/TV role.
Before leaving Los Angeles in 2009 to explore creative opportunities in other parts of the country, Mathew optioned a handful of screenplays including one that would ultimately be produced as Sony Pictures' Against the Dark. The film has the dubious distinction of being action veteran Steven Seagal's first and only horror film to date. (Incidentally, if you're curious how Mathew "accidentally" wrote Steven Seagal's one and only horror film to date for Sony Pictures, he recently divulged the entire Nathanael West-esque harrowing and hilarious true-Hollywood story here.)
After working on various projects in New York -- such as assisting bestselling author Laurie Graff with the screenplay adaptation of her book The Shiksa Syndrome -- Mathew moved to beautiful Boulder, Colorado. It was there, in 2012, that he co-wrote/produced/directed Phamaly's disLabled. Phamaly being the three-decade-old theatre organization that remains the only in the country to work exclusively with actors with various physical and mental disabilities.
The live, multimedia performance involved actors with disabilities who helped to write a series of comical, musical and intimate scenes revolving around their personal experiences. Mathew was also the behind-the-scenes documentarian for the show, which sold out each night at Boulder's Dairy Arts Center. This pilot program would be the first Phamaly enterprise produced outside of the troupe's longtime home in Denver.
It was at this time that Mathew became involved with Boulder-based design and animation studio Mighty Fudge, with whom he has produced short animated films and promos. He has also worked with the Fudge on developing teasers and pilots for potential animated series such as CIA Moms and Fartbot Ninja Princess Network.
After three productive years in Boulder, Mathew moved back to New York City to finish his book on the so-called "Classic Era" of the Nickelodeon network. SLIMED! An Oral History of Nickelodeon's Golden Age would end up culling together exclusive interviews with more than 250 VIPs from the First Kids Network. The book was published by Plume -- an imprint of Penguin Random House -- in 2013, and was included on such "Best Of" lists as those compiled by Entertainment Weekly, Publishers Weekly and Parade Magazine.
Mathew produced and hosted a series of reunion and book launch events for SLIMED! around the country, partnering frequently with the Jewish Book Council. The book's premiere launch was celebrated on Sept. 27, 2013 at the prominent 92Y cultural event space in New York City.
The sell-out event (900 seats), which Mathew produced and helped moderate, was hosted by Nickelodeon icon Marc Summers (host of Double Dare and, later, Food Network's Unwrapped) and featured panels with 40+ Classic Nick VIPs and live music, including the first-ever live performance by the Beets, a fictional band from the Nicktoon Doug. The event may remain the largest pop culture reunion of its kind and helped to kickstart the recent spate of similar fandom events, show reboots and overall media fascination with early Nickelodeon shows.
A special 5th Anniversary Edition of the book, including various tweaks/updates and a new introduction by Nick Arcade host Phil Moore, was released by Penguin Random House's Plume in Spring 2019. And on May 12, 2022, SLIMED! was a clue on that night's episode of Jeopardy!.
Taking the opportunity given to him by Marc Summers to become a casting producer for Summers' "restaurant rescue" series on the Food Network, Restaurant: Impossible, Mathew continued traveling around the country, focusing this time on the yet-unexperienced Midwest. He concurrently continued writing and producing his own material, outputting a great deal of multimedia journalism work for local, national and online media outlets along the way.
Ending up during this period of travel in quirky college town Lawrence, Kansas, Mathew spent much of 2016 conceptualizing and developing a topical, gender-bending twist on William Golding's immortal novel The Lord of the Flies with a local theatre organization called Orange Mouse Theatricals.
As producer and co-writer on the project, Mathew workshopped the script with a group of nine local Lawrence girls (ages 8-16) to produce a unique, immersive theatre experience based on the girls' own lives and personalities. The play Ladies of the Fly opened at the Cider Gallery in Lawrence, August 2016.
Mathew meanwhile contributed regular pieces to local alt-weekly Ink and its publisher the Kansas City Star, for which he created a "culinary culture" column called Kitchen Convo. Mathew guest lectured at the University of Kansas, establishing lasting friendships with faculty and local luminaries such as Academy Award-winning screenwriter/filmmaker Kevin Willmott (BlackKklansman, Da 5 Bloods) and filmmaker/author/critic Jon Niccum, with whom Mathew worked on various projects including a commissioned screenplay adaptation of a successful local play.
Mathew was later invited to become the senior reporter for the Baltimore Jewish Times, one of the oldest Jewish newspapers in the country (est. 1919).
Never one to sit still for long, while in Baltimore, Mathew coordinated work with his team members around the country on his feature documentary about Marc Summers, On Your Marc. In partnership with Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, the film was successfully screened over the course of a national tour in October 2017, which Mathew produced/managed, traveling alongside Summers to Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Baltimore, Austin and Chicago for a series of specialty events that included celebrity hosts, audience interactive games and live musical performances.
The screening events, some of which were live-streamed to theaters outside the main tour route, received standing ovations from thousands of fans as well as laudatory press from the likes of People Magazine and other print, online, radio and TV media outlets throughout the country.
Mathew was all the while developing and co-authoring Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons (with series writer/producer Mike Reiss; foreword by Judd Apatow). The book would later be published by Dey Street, an imprint of Harper Collins, in June 2018.
The book quickly became a best seller on Amazon, which chose this first-ever long-form "insider" story about The Simpsons as a "Best Of" pick for its month of release. Entertainment Weekly, USA Today, AV Club, Parade Magazine and the American Library Association's Booklist similarly included Springfield Confidential among their notable books of the week/month.
Springfield Confidential was also listed as one of Vulture's "Top Ten Comedy Books of 2018," one of NY Post's "Most Unforgettable Books of 2018" a semifinalist for Goodreads' "Best Humor Book of 2018," and a semi-finalist for 2019's Thurber Prize. The German translation and editions of the book in Russia, the Czech Republic and Spain have been following its expanded paperback release that came out in late April 2019.
During the process of finishing/touring with On Your Marc and finishing Springfield Confidential, Mathew and wife Becky made the decision to move back to the beautiful natural splendor and creative exuberance of the Boulder area.
Along with being on the programming board of the community's arthouse cinema, Boedecker Theater, Mathew continued partnering with equally productive area colleagues on various new endeavors such as active project development with Academy Award-nominated/Emmy Award winning documentarian Jerry Aronson and assisting renown humor scholar/behavioral scientist Dr. Peter McGraw, author of the groundbreaking Humor Code, with his latest book, Shtick to Business.
Mathew's two years of further Boulder adventures included re-visiting and developing his CIA Moms cartoon series with Mighty Fudge Studios for wide distribution and a new ghostwriting project for a private client who worked intimately with Mathew in the telling of her story as loving mother to a son who lived a vibrant life that came to a mysterious, tragic end.
Mathew's previous ghostwriting project was the characteristically tongue-in-cheek memoir Being Mr. Skin: 20 Years of Nip Slips, Cheek Peeks, and Fast-Forwarding to the Good Parts, which humorously details the rise of the unlikely pop culture icon and creator of one of the first-ever commercially successful websites, Jim "Mr. Skin" McBride, made (in?)famous by the likes of Howard Stern, the film Knocked Up and TV shows such as Saturday Night Live and Family Guy.
Comic strips written by Mathew and illustrated by Eisner Award-nominated underground comix mainstay Johnny Ryan were incorporated into the final book, as well. Foreword by Adam Corolla. Being Mr. Skin was published by Post Hill in May 2019 and distributed by Simon & Schuster.
The partnership with McBride also led to Mathew's being brought on as associate producer (providing scholarly cinema research and additional writing) on feature documentary Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies. Executive produced by McBride (released date: August 18, 2020), the project chronicles the volatile century-plus trajectory of nudity in cinema and includes thought-provoking interviews with: Kevin Smith, Richard Roeper, Pam Grier, Peter Bogdanovich, Mariel Hemingway, John Cameron Mitchell, Shannon Elizabeth, Malcolm McDowell, Amy Heckerling, and many other luminaries from in front of and behind the camera. The critically hailed film is available to watch on Hulu (where it quickly became a "Hulu Pick"), Amazon Prime and VoD.
Filling out perhaps his most productive year yet, Mathew's book Selling Nostalgia: A Neurotic Novel (a comedic look at today's so-called "nostalgia/geek culture" industry) was published by Post Hill imprint Permuted Press and distributed by Simon & Schuster in August 2019.
The Washington Post said of the book: "Klickstein ... delivers a searing critique of geek culture and the trouble with indulging nostalgia at the expense of reckoning with reality. Though he didn’t set out to write a social commentary, it’s on that level that he finds the most success." Bestselling author and columnist Allen Salkin says Selling Nostalgia "reads like Philip K. Dick on speed." The book's got one "totally rad" cover, too.
You Are Obsolete, the first comic book series by Mathew, was issued as a monthly five-part release by AfterShock Comics from September 2019 through January 2020. The series has been referred to as "creepy and highly entertaining" with "spot on dialogue" by the New York Times. The Denver Post's John Wenzel suggested the series "neatly sums up our predicament." And AiPT! has said You Are Obsolete "is a terrifyingly good read. It will keep you guessing with every turn of the page. The dialogue is solid, the pacing is on point, and the mystery behind the children is just terrific."
All five comics were bound together and released as a beautiful, single graphic novel collection June 17, 2020, after which Mathew traveled to promote the project on a six-state Midwest comic book store tour. In June 2021, the Spanish-language edition was released as well. You Are Obsolete is also now in active development as an adapted limited TV series run. (MORE ON THIS SOON: STAY TUNED!)
Mathew's first book for middle-grade readers (ages 8-12), The Kids of Widney Junior High Take Over The World!, inspired by the actual Kids of Widney High, came out from Schiffer Publishing, September 28, 2020. Illustrations by Baltimore-based artist Michael "Spaghetti Kiss" Bracco. A portion of the profits go to LA Goal, which for the past fifty years has offered vocational/recreational/artistic services to persons with disabilities.
The book became an Independent Publisher Book Award winner, was a best seller on Amazon and received plaudits from the likes of Mayim Bialik, star of The Big Bang Theory and Blossom, and new permanent host of Jeopardy! who said: "This book is tender, it’s funny, it’s perfect to read with your kids, and it gives me hope."
Legendary singer-songwriter Jackson Browne: "A wonderful story about inclusion and acceptance." Recommending it to school libraries everywhere, the School Library Journal wrote, "Klickstein’s story provides readers an opportunity to learn about their music and world while simultaneously modeling for readers how to sensitively interact with individuals with disabilities." The audiobook edition was released by Blackstone Audio in March, 2021. It too quickly became a best seller on Amazon thanks in part to further promotion by Bialik.
It was in September 2021 that Mathew produced and hosted "An Evening with the Kids of Widney High" -- reunion concert, rockumentary screening, thoughtful Q&A with the band, and book signing -- at Live Nation/Spaceland Presents' Regent Theater in downtown Los Angeles.
Mathew's next middle-grade reader, So Good To Be Bad, is a loving and humorous throwback to the likes of Matilda, The Phantom Tollbooth, and Sideways Stories from Wayside School. It was released as an audiobook original September 28, 2021 via Blackstone Audio. #1 New York Times bestselling author Gordon Korman joked in the vein of the topsy-turvy story, "This is the WORST BOOK EVER! Because it's good to be bad ... which means good. Which means -- oh, forget it, just give it a listen! If you like to laugh, this is the GOOD/BAD story for you!"
Meanwhile, Mathew continues hosting NERTZ, a podcast focusing on nerd-geek culture and based on his book published in China, Nerding Out: How Pop Culture Ruined the Misfit.
Starting in June 2020, Heavy Metal Magazine partnered with Mathew to distribute NERTZ through their streaming and social networks. Mathew is also interviewed in a new short documentary about Heavy Metal (the pioneering 1981 animated film based on the magazine's artwork) as per its 2022 4K/Blu-ray restoration collection, which also includes interviews with the likes of: Kevin Smith, Ivan Reitman, and Walking Dead's Norman Reedus.
In late June 2021, Mathew launched his six-part audio documentary SiriusXM entitled Comic-Con Begins: Origin Stories of the San Diego Comic-Con and the Rise of Modern Fandom in which he interviewed and collected stories from nearly 50 Con foundational members as well as "geeky" celebrity guests about the birth of the largest pop culture event on the planet, the San Diego Comic-Con and the fandom scene it helped foster.
Celeb guests include: Kevin Smith, the Russo Bros, Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, Felicia Day, Kevin Eastman, Trina Robbins, Sergio Aragones, Maggie Thompson, Stan Sakai, Bruce Campbell, and many other luminaries of the comics/sci-fi/film/pop culture scenes.
The book version of the Con/fandom oral history, See You at San Diego: An Oral History of Comic-Con, Fandom, and the Triumph of Geek Culture was released via Fantagraphics on September 6, 2022. The audiobook version came out at the same time via Blackstone. Forewords were written by Stan Sakai and Jeff Smith, and the afterword was penned by Wu-Tang Clan's RZA. Fangoria called the book "an essential and defining resource of the forces that have transformed popular culture over the course of the past century." Nerdist praised the book's chronicling of "the nexus of nerd culture." And Boing Boing called the book "a fantastic, exhaustive look at the rise of geek fandom and culture over the past century through the lens of San Diego Comic-Con." Longtime showrunner for The Simpsons Al Jean trumpeted, "Greatest history of Comic-Con ever."
Mathew spent nearly three years co-creating and working with acclaimed alt-comedy impresario Beth Lapides to bring together a stable of some of the most high-profile comedy personalities of our day discussing impactful societal issues for what developed into a humorous yet thought-provoking audiobook original called So You Need to Decide.
Special guest contributors include: Bob Odenkirk, Margaret Cho, Judy Gold, Sandra Bernhard, Phoebe Bridgers, Julia Sweeney, Dana Gould, and The Queen's Gambit creator Scott Frank. The audiobook original was published by the largest independent audiobook company worldwide, Recorded Books, on January 18, 2022. The book was named one of Vulture's "Best Comedy Books of 2022 (So Far)" in March 2022.
Along with his multitude of projects in development now, Mathew continues to lead various theater and filmmaking workshops, as well as guest lectures on such topics as: public speaking, creative writing, screenwriting, film history, media analysis, podcasting, pop culture history and, most recently, how Jewish culture continues to inspire The Simpsons.
With consistent travel becoming more of a major staple in Mathew's film/TV/writing work, his wife and he decided in February 2020 on settling for the time being in Dayton, Ohio where he's excited to get involved in the local arts/culture community (including new animated projects with Cincinnati-based SkyVengers Cartoon Studios), lecture at the various area colleges, host speciality events, lead new youth theater workshops, ghostwrite a slate of memoirs for global private clients, and explore what it is about this hidden gem of a city that makes it home to the likes of: Dave Chappelle, the Academy Award-winning couple who brought us American Factory, the Breeders, and Guided by Voices.
Mathew was named "Humor Writer of the Month" by the University of Dayton's renowned Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop for Sept 2021, with former honorees including such iconic comedy legends as: Alan Zweibel, Mike Birbiglia, and Mike Reiss.
Courtesy of his being tapped by Callisto Media, Mathew's next book was The Little Encyclopedia of Jewish Culture, released November 22, 2022. It immediately became a best seller on Amazon for new releases (Religion Encyclopedias) once preorders commenced and received early endorsements from the likes of Dr. Katz creator/star Jonathan Katz, Mike Reiss, and Steve Stoliar who wrote the Groucho Marx memoir Raised Eyebrows which is currently in pre-production as a film adaptation starring Geoffrey Rush. The adventure never stops!
And, yes, he's technically in a band, writing lyrics for novelty lo-fi death anti-folk band The Shenanigoats fronted by "The World's Most Adorable Art Critic," Daniel Rolnik and UK-based musician/producer Gareth Evans. Some of Mathew's favorites are: combination fried rice, Calvin and Hobbes, the Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Larry Sanders Show.
Any other questions or inquiries? Feel free to REACH OUT. We'd love to hear from you!!