A Tribute to the of

It is my privilege to share a remembrance of Arnold Drake by one of his friends, Clem Robins, who was kind enough to put me in touch with him:

Arnold Drake, arguably the best writer this medium ever had, and without any doubt whatsoever the best writer DC had during the Silver Age, died on Sunday night.

He was a brilliant, funny, and generous man. And, for what it's worth, he was also the author of the first story I ever got to letter, a gazillion years ago. We have all lost a great talent, and a great friend.

If you've never read the original Doom Patrol series, and particularly the last two years of its run, you'd be well rewarded to check these stories out. It's for writing like this that the medium has earned the right to be taken seriously. There was one story arc, in which the deliciously evil Madame Rouge was held hostage at Doom Patrol headquarters (#112), and she attempted to seduce the Chief. It is an absolute classic.

Drake had it all: economy, pacing, a sure ear for dialogue, humor, and the ability to invent characters you believed in and cared about. He also had a great partner in the late Bruno Premiani, who could draw absolutely anything.

He also had a long run on DC's "Jerry Lewis" book, where he got to demonstrate his macabre sense of humor. There was one issue (#95) that parodied "The Great Escape", in which a summer camp's inmates attempt to bust out from under the watchful eye of the head counsellor, Uncle Hal, who dressed in a Gestapo uniform and whose sexuality was extremely questionable. It was all pretty risque for 1966, but it was almost unbelievably funny.

He was all over the place at DC, working for various editors on various books. He wrote Superman for Mort Weisinger about whom Drake has said that absolutely everything you have ever heard about him is true. He created Deadman in 1967 for Jack Miller, and in one stroke invented the adult comic book, while somehow managing to write about drug peddlers without the Comics Code noticing it four years before Stan Lee put Harry Osborne on heroin on a Spider-Man book released without the Code seal.

But Drake's best work was done under the wonderful Murray Boltinoff, who hired talented people and had the good sense to let them do whatever they wanted.

Drake did with his characters what Boltinoff did with his freelancers: he let 'em do whatever they wanted to. In the case of Doom Patrol, his ensemble of heroes were real people flawed, sympathetic, and occasionally great. They bounced off of each other in quirky and unpredictable ways. He often referred to his characters as his children, and he clearly loved them. Even when those children were adopted by other writers, and taken in directions that he would not have chosen, he found it delightful that they continued on in comics and other media.

DC disposed of him in 1968, when he attempted to form its freelance writers into a guild. He moved on to other publishers, mostly Marvel and Gold Key.

He was in the process of writing a Doom Patrol prequel story for DC, and I was hoping to get to letter it. I guess this will not happen now. Nobody could ghost-write Arnold.

All of us work in his shadow. Arnold Drake was the best there ever was, and he will be deeply missed.

2007 by Clem Robins

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