Axel-In-Charge: Waid & Samnee on "Black Widow" and the Dawn of the All-New, All-Different Era
Students of DC Comics’ publishing history can probably rattle off at least a few editors from the company’s first few decades. Whitney Ellsworth edited the Batman and Superman books in the 1940s and ‘50s before becoming a producer on the Adventures of Superman television series. In the Silver Age, Mort Weisinger presided over an exponential expansion of Superman’s mythology, including all those varieties of Kryptonite, the introductions of Supergirl, Krypto and the Legion of Super-Heroes, and ongoing series focused on Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. Similarly, as editor of the Batman titles, Jack Schiff supervised one of the character’s most recognizable periods, filled with colorful mysteries and giant-sized props.
Of course, the phrase “Silver Age DC” is virtually synonymous with Julius Schwartz, who worked with writers Gardner Fox and John Broome and artists Carmine Infantino, Mike Sekowsky and Gil Kane on rebuilding DC’s superhero line. One could argue fairly reasonably that without them DC Comics as we know it today might not exist (and neither would today’s Marvel).
However, while Ellsworth became DC’s editorial director in 1948, Schwartz Schiff, and Weisinger weren’t in similarly lofty positions. Today we readers hear a lot about “editorial control” and the dreaded “editorial interference,” charges aimed largely at the men at the top: Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras, Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee and Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns. We hear a lot from them (illuminating and otherwise) about the general direction of the company. We also hear a good bit from various writers and artists, including Johns and Lee, regarding specific titles.
Nevertheless, on the management tier in between are the books’ editors themselves; and that’s the area about which I’ve become rather hazy. Therefore, I started looking through New 52 credits boxes, and supplementing this research through the Grand Comics Database, to see who was editing what.
When I talked about DC Comics’ April solicitations a few weeks back they hadn’t yet been “WTF-Certified.” (Caleb has an excellent roundup of the WTF specifics, and I am unlikely to improve on his observations.) That phrase suggests strongly either that DC is no longer interested in anyone young enough to use “Why The Face” in casual conversation; or, conversely, that polite society now freely tolerates even an abbreviated F-bomb.
Whatever the reasoning, DC wants its April fold-out covers to be SO! SHOCKING! that even the casual browser cannot refuse them. This is not a bad goal in and of itself. Indeed, we might quibble about which quick exclamation best captures such a “must-read” impulse — OMG! would be too Bieber-feverish, and “wait, what?” is taken — but as far as real WTF covers go, these are a bit tame.
See, back in the olden days, when print publications actually sold well, a comic’s cover absolutely had to command the consumer’s attention, and thereby encourage him or her to spend a few hard-earned coins (ask your parents, kids) on the new DC titles. The late Julius Schwartz is supposed to have said that a book would sell well if its cover boasted a gorilla, a motorcycle, the color purple and/or a question posed to the reader. (During Mark Waid’s editorship of the 1980s Secret Origins, its 40th issue got all four.) As there was no Internet providing potential readers with constant updates — and therefore requiring a steady stream of update-friendly factoids — the cover had to do all the heavy-lifting.
My parents were born in 1942, four years too early to be baby boomers. It also means they were just the wrong age to be exposed heavily to either the Golden or the Silver age of superhero comics. By the time they would have started to read, the Golden Age was half over; and when the Silver Age started in 1956, they were too old to be interested. I confirmed this with my dad, who has vague recollections of the original superheroes, but whose comic collection included more Archies and Little Lulus. (Had I known how much 21st-century hipster cred this would have given me, I’d have pressed him harder about those ….)
Still, these days they can’t get away from the Spandex set. When Conan O’Brien asserted (rightfully) that the Hulk had been in the Fantastic Four, Dad emailed me for confirmation. This itself was a big step up for Dad, who at one point several years ago thought Batman was in the FF. (In fact, I don’t think my folks have seen either of the Christopher Nolan movies, although they did watch a revival of the 1940s serial at the local art-house theater. Dad especially didn’t have any interest in the Schumacher movies, because the characters just “looked like toys.”) Last year, after the Green Lantern movie had been playing for a while, Dad thought he remembered seeing it — but actually, he and Mom had enjoyed Seth Rogen’s Green Hornet. Their nerd knowledge (what there is of it) is more likely to include Star Trek and Sherlock Holmes, although lately they’re into Downton Abbey.
Regardless, when I think about the impact of outing Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, I tend to gauge it in terms of my dad. He may not be the best representative of the generation that grew up with the Justice Society, but among people I know he was in the best position to become a fan, and for whatever reason it just didn’t stick. Therefore, when I mentioned the revelation of Alan’s sexuality to Dad over the weekend, it really didn’t register one way or another.
If you work in the industry for as number of years, you’re bound to gather a number of unique artifacts from your time spent. People have been delighted in recent weeks with Tom Brevoort’s “The Marvel Age of Comics” Tumblr showcasing the editor’s collection of original art and assorted oddities, and now The Hero Initiative is partnering with a Florida gallery to show off one-of-a-kind printer’s proofs for covers collected by renowned editor Julius Schwartz during his 42-year tenure at DC Comics.
Titled “Proof of Heroes,” the exhibit at Bear & Bird Boutique + Gallery will feature nearly 300 comic book cover printer’s proofs from 1964 to 1974. These printer’s proofs were sent to Schwartz for final approval before going to press, and features artwork from such comics legends as Nick Cardy, Neal Adams, Mike Kaluta and Carmine Infantino. The exhibit is set to run from Jan. 20 to March 3 at Bear & Bird’s Lauderhill, Florida, location, just above the comic store Tate’s. On Jan. 21, DC icons Paul Levitz, George Perez and Alex Saviuk will be on hand from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. for a signing, followed by a reception from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The printer’s proofs will be available for just $100 each (certificate of authenticity included). All proceeds benefit The Hero Initiative.