Axel-In-Charge: Bringing "Dead No More" to FCBD, the Original "Civil War's" Legacy
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.
“[Mort] Weisinger took all these things he didn’t care for because they weren’t his ideas and turned them to his advantage. Instead of resenting another character with a LL initial as a love interest for the character, he created three or four more and did the whole LL curse. He was really very good, as were his writers, of finding ways to ‘brand extend’ Superman. They expanded on little themes because he knew — and this is something we don’t see comics do anymore because we don’t perceive of them as being for kids — but he knew that one of the things that was really appealing for kids was a certain sense of repetition. He had a wonderful gift, along with his writers, for being able to balance repetition in theme or in ritualistic kinds of things with new invention. If you look at the DC stuff as opposed to the Marvel stuff, which was created with a different audience in mind, you see that ritual. You see that idea of consistency. Flash’s costume always came out of ring. There was the whole ‘In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night’ oath in Green Lantern. There were certain things in Batman, like the Bat Signal. They knew that those things not only created a comfort zone for the reader, they were things the kids looked forward to. ‘Let’s see how they do it this time!’ It was all about finding ways to do variations on those themes and depending on readers’ familiarity with them to create ideas that were new and exciting for kids…those ways of doing comics don’t really relate to today, and I don’t know if anyone wanted to go backwards, that they could do it.”
– former Superman writer Martin Pasko, in a wide-ranging interview with Comic Book Resources about the 75th anniversary of the man of Steel
Ask someone in comics what they think about Jim Shooter, and you’re bound to get very strong, and very different, opinions. Sometimes, in fact, from the same person. The self-described “writer. editor. large mammal.” has been innovative on several fronts, not only in founding Valiant, Defiant and Broadway, but also in serving as editor-in-chief of Marvel during the pivotal early ’80s, and even breaking into comics at the tender age of 13. And now he’s started telling stories about his time in the industry.
On the newly launched JimShooter.com, the respected creator has begun talking at length about his experiences and acquaintances in comics — from Stan Lee to Mort Weisinger and more. Of particular interest to me has been a post about regrets he has in the industry, as well as describing that he pitched to DC’s Legion of Super-Heroes back then because he thought that team’s stories in Adventure Comics were the worst comics on shelves.