A Tribute to the of

Despite the way it appears lately, we really truly are still mad about the Silver Age.  I mean, heck, just look around the site, but it's Bronze Age time again, and another issue #1 for purposes of this review when we behold another ultra-brief debut with Man-Bat.  The publication date for this issue is December/January of 1975/1976 (on sale the first week of September, 1975).  The writer/editor is Gerry Conway.  Pencils by Steve Ditko and inks by Al Milgrom.  The cover, however, came from the great Jim Aparo.  Let's take a peek at the story titled, "Beware the Eyes of Baron Tyme!"

That splash page is classic Ditko with a character half a step removed from Doctor Strange conjuring at a place with outlines of demonic visages very reminiscent of some of the creatures Steve dreamt up for the Stalker series.  The conjurer is summoning Francine Langstrom and commanding her to become a she-bat.  So speaks Baron Tyme.

At that moment in the home of Kirk and Francine Langstrom, she immediately is transformed into a she-bat.  She clocks her husband with a vase and flies out the window in search of an unnamed man in Gotham City that she must kill.

Kirk soon revives and apparently this has happened before.  His thoughts betray that he must take his bat gland serum, that he'd once given Francine.  He is now Man-Bat and is in hot pursuit, though he encounters horrific illusions, to include an image of Tyme himself and even the transformed Francine as delaying tactics.  He despairs that he won't be able to find her before she carries out her orders and indeed it appears that she has found her quarry and is closing in when Man-Bat successfully intercepts her and knocks her unconscious.  He then questions her would-be victim, who reveals himself as Professor Raymond Arthur of Antioke University.  He knows no Baron Tyme, but does have a colleague named Clement Tyme who teaches medieval history.  He is about to reveal a quirk about Tyme when Francine recovers and attacks and succeeds in taking the man's life.  Langstrom knocks her unconscious again and flies away into the night with her in tow. 

Switch scenes now to Wayne Manor where Batman announces to Alfred that he's probably going to be gone all night in search of the bat-killer like the one in Las Vegas the prior year.  The Masked Manhunter soon locates a Mr. Wilkins, a colleague of Kirk Langstrom.  The man explains that Kirk hasn't been with the museum for some time, devoting himself to pure research at his new home.  The Dark Knight departs.

We now find the Langstrom's at a place outside Gotham.  Man-Bat is applying an antidote to his restrained wife and it seems to be working.  Kirk thinks to himself that the radioactivity she encountered in Las Vegas is the source of much of their trouble, reactivating the bat-gland chemicals in her bloodstream.  Batman had apparently assisted them in the past and thought a transfusion would be helpful.  Just as the transformation of Francine is complete, a piercing sound erupts, followed by total darkness.  A disoriented Man-Bat flies toward an open window that isn't truly open.  Crashing through the glass, he is met by the Batman, who had set the trap.  The two grapple, with Man-Bat gaining altitude and then kicking Batman free, but he then orders the World's Greatest Detective to cut off the sonar device so that he can function well enough to rescue him.  Man-Bat then explains what has been happening and the two return to where she is recovering.  Langstrom further elaborates that he'd placed her under hypnosis when he learned of the scheming of Baron Tyme and his insidious orders to her.

Francine revives and is still distressed; still receiving the mental commands of Baron Tyme.  Batman sedates her and offers to help Man-Bat, but he insists on going it alone and flies away to find and confront Tyme.  First stop; Antioke University.  Man-Bat is intrigued with a tower, remembering Francine mentioning a tower.  Flying in he encounters none other than Baron Tyme in his Star Chamber.  He gestures and tentacles emerge from the walls, trapping Langstrom in mid-flight.  Tyme then gloats that he's been manipulating the Langstrom's and reveals that his goal is to gain the power of sorcery and black magic and that indeed he has summoned a hell-spawn and struck a bargain with it:  Human lives for the power he lusts after.  Thus he has directed Francine Langstrom to commit these murders as payment to the demon.  He then turns and begins another incantation.  Langstrom, desperate to stop him, emits sub-sonic bat sonar sounds to split Tyme's ears with pain.  The tentacles, conjured by the Baron, then disappear and Langstrom is flung free.  An enraged Baron Tyme is then engulfed in flames from the brazier and the tower explodes.  Kirk flies off into the night, ending the story.

As to the story, it was really kind of confusing. Gerry Conway made editorial references here and there to that very thing, and the obscure references to prior events in issues of Detective Comics and such were helpful, but...only a little.  I think if I'd purchased this issue off the spinner rack, where it proudly trumpeted 1st DC issue, I'd have been expecting a free-standing storyline.

Man-Bat had a total of 2 issues and then went the way of the wild goose, presumably another victim of the DC Implosion, but I'm not 100% certain of that.

Steve Ditko's art in this issue was exemplary and once again, no one can do the bizarre, macabre and surreal like Steve Ditko.  I did notice one interesting anomaly:  With just a couple of exceptions, every panel that contained Batman's face had it either blacked out or otherwise obscured.  Very interesting, since, of course, this may have been Ditko's only work on Batman, which was his old teacher, Jerry Robinson's original claim to fame in the world of comic books.  Al Milgrom's inks were a superb compliment to his pencils, which of course brings us to the conclusion of the interview I enjoyed with Al.  For your reading pleasure:

Prof:  It's interesting the different theories you hear as far as what does and does not make a good editor.  It seems, especially in the era I like to roam, the Silver Age, so many of them were just tyrants and yet the product seemed to turn out well enough for all that.  

AM:  As a matter of fact, one of the things that was interesting is, since I worked for both Marvel and DC as an editor, which at the time was a little unusual, but I think has become a lot more commonplace in recent years, but working for DC, Joe Orlando had an interesting theory about it.  In the old days, he said cartoonists would do the whole job themselves.  They'd write, they'd pencil, they'd ink, and they'd probably letter, and sometimes color.  Of course those were the newspaper strip guys primarily.  He said, "But what happened was, as the demand for material grew, and they started having to come out with comics books with new material, not just newspaper strip reprints, there was just no way that a single guy could do the entire job.  Not if he wanted to stay on deadline.  So people would tend to get pigeonholed in the job they did best and/or fastest.  So you'd get a writer, and a penciler, and an inker and a colorist, and the editor's job was to take all those different and disparate people, and sometimes desperate people, and meld them into a cartoonist."  So he felt his job as an editor was to do that and we used to discuss what made for a good story and what made for good story-telling and what with Joe being an artist he tended to be somewhat visually oriented, but he also had a good sense of story and drama and so on and so he was a real good guy to learn that from and then when I went to work at Marvel, Jim Shooter had may of his own ideas about it, and of course Jim had been one of the youngest, if not the youngest writer ever to work for DC Comics.  In many ways he sort of espoused theories of editing that were very similar to DC's.  That was really where he got his basic training.  He had very strong ideas of what made for a good story, and visually what made for good story-telling and I know Jim's gotten some bad press over the years, but I think that his basic ideas, his theories of story-telling and drama, both in terms of visually and the story content, were very sound.  The problem was that it was hard to implement all those things exactly the way he saw them in his own head.  And whenever you couldn't do it the way Jim saw it in his mind's eye, he felt like either you weren't getting it, or you were sort of trying to undermine him.  That became a problem ultimately with him, and some of the freelancers, but in terms of the way he said things and expressed things and illustrated them, I think he was very sound and he had very good, solid ideas about it.  But I think in some ways, if Jim could have had the ability to clone himself, he would have written, drawn, and maybe inked everything (chuckle) that Marvel did.  Maybe not inking.  He never claimed to be an inker, but he did have theories about what inkers should do and what their work should bring out in the pencils and so forth.  Anyway, it was interesting getting both his viewpoint and Joe Orlando's and they both had really good ideas and I tried to implement some of them, but always your own personality sneaks in there, too.  

Prof:  Oh, of course and it sounds like Joe was another popular editor back in the day.   

AM:  He was.  

Prof:  Tony DeZuniga and a couple of others spoke very highly of his mentoring and coaching and the time he would take to help them develop their talents and ideas.  

AM:  I think the Filipino guys also used to get American comics or reprints in the Philippines and Joe, because he'd been a guy who had been an EC artist, and they really loved the EC stuff I've heard, so he was held in very high regard, so they would take what he said very much to heart.  

Prof:  The story that Michael Golden and Bob Smith did for "Bat-Mite's New York Adventure."  Do you think they depicted you very well in that?  

AM:  (Laughter.)  Yeah, I thought it was a funny story.  Bob Rozakis wrote it, I believe.  He came into my office and I was editing Batman Family at the time, and he said, "Al, I've got an idea for a Bat-Mite story," and I said, "Oh, really?  Bat-Mite?  In this day and age?"  "Well, here.  It features you."  So I said, "Sold!"  No, I don't really remember the details, but it was probably something like that and I was flattered and of course amused, and I actually own that entire story.  

Prof:  Really?  

AM:  Yeah, I bought that from Michael Golden.  "Mike I'd like to own that."  I bought his share and Bob's share.  

Prof:  Oh, good deal.  That's a nice little thing to have sitting around, I'm sure.  

AM:  It's cute.  

Prof:  I've got to admit when I was looking through my volume of "The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told" and saw that one in there…  

AM:  Oh, really?  It's in there?  (Laughter.)  

Prof:  I thought, "What?"  

AM:  I'm not sure I'd have gone that far.  "The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told."  I guess the fact that Golden drew it had something to do with it.  He's such a popular artist.  A phenomenal talent.  I don't know what he's doing these days.  

Prof:  Beyond the commission work I don't know myself.  Do you do commissions, Al?  

AM:  I do.  It's funny.  I don't have a website and I've never advertised anywhere, but between word of mouth and also Spencer Beck, the art dealer, who puts some of my stuff up on his website (www.theartistschoice.com), he's gotten some inquiries and some guys who commission something will then mention it to their friends or they'll post it on this comic art fans board where they'll say, "Hey, I just got this great commission from somebody-or-other and people will then contact you and as a matter of fact I've got a handful of them lined up right now.  My problem is if I have freelance work for one of the companies I tend to put the commission stuff aside.  

Prof:  Sure.  Priorities.  

AM:  Well, in some ways it makes sense, because you want to keep busy and keep your name out there so you'll get work from DC or Marvel or whoever, but at the same time, in terms of the amount of time involved, you'd probably do a little better doing commissions.  (Chuckle.)  So in some ways it would almost make more sense for me to do more commissions and less stuff for the companies.  Well, right now I couldn't do less stuff for the companies, other than Archie, which is keeping me supplied with semi-regular work.  I had one commission where a guy wanted a fairly difficult recreation of an old cover that I'd done and there was no excuse for this, but I think it took me more than a year to get it finished.  It wasn't that hard a cover, it's just that I kept getting busy with deadline work and kept putting it aside.  Toward the end he was getting a little annoyed with me and rightfully so.  But I did get it done and I did a very good job recreating the cover and when he saw it he said, "Well, it was worth the wait."  

Prof:  All's well that ends well.  

AM:  And he proceeded immediately to ask me to do another commission for him.  I actually want to try to get that going in the next week or so.  I've got a couple things to finish up and then I'll be working on that as well as a handful of others, so I've got stuff to keep me busy.  I like the commission work.  It's fun and is usually less tedious than having to draw an entire story, which I'm so out of the loop and so out of practice that I don't know if I could any more.  I mean I haven't drawn a story, let alone a complete issue of anything in a number of years and I like to think it would come back to me if I got an assignment, but I don't know that for a fact.  I'm most happy doing inking these days.  

Prof:  It seems that might be your greatest forte, even though you are a multi-talented threat between writing and editing and penciling and inking.  I think I even saw a stray lettering credit for you someplace.  

AM:  I don't think I ever lettered anything.  God help me if I did.  I can't letter and I make no pretense. I colored a job once.  It was a humorous job that I did for I think Bizarre Adventures for Marvel.  I did a story about Santa Claus trying to deliver presents in New York City and the problems he ran into there.  I wrote it, I penciled it, I inked it and I colored it, but I think that was the only time I ever colored a job and it was like pulling teeth. (Chuckle.)  It took far longer than it should have.  I kept sticking my hand in the wet dyes.  It was good, though, because I could really appreciate the work the colorists do, which in the old days they did fairly quickly.  Now, of course, it's a much more difficult and elaborate process.  Another case of the computer making life harder rather than easier.  You can get much more ornate coloring and more detailed coloring and stuff like that, but in the old days if a book was running late you might get it sent out like a week before it was supposed to go to press and you would still get it done.  Now, if you get something in there less than 5 weeks ahead of the printing schedule, you incur all kinds of late fees and you can't possibly make the deadline.  

Prof:  This is progress.  

AM:  It's sort of like one step forward and four steps back, but again the kind of color you get nowadays on the computer…there's just no comparison.  And it's not always necessarily a good thing.  To a certain degree, the coloring is so ornate that sometimes it either gets very dark or there's so much color it sort of drowns out the line work.  As an inker that's especially hurtful, but also in some ways I think they're trying to take these black and white illustrations and turn them into Alex Ross.  They can almost do that.  They can really saturate it with so much color.  I remember there was a job I inked over Starlin a few years back for Marvel.  He did an issue of Captain Marvel…why not?  And this was when I think Peter David was writing it and Jim drew it and I inked it and he put in a lot of very nice, fine-lined detail, which I inked faithfully and then when the book came out I remember somebody called up and said, "Al, you really butchered Jim's stuff."  I said, 'Well, what do you mean?"  They said, "Did you see the issue?"  I said, "I haven't really looked at it."  I dug it out and looked and sure enough everywhere that I did any rendering in pen, the colorist had decided, "Oh, look.  He shaded this with a pen, so I'll go him one better and shade it with a bunch of gray tones."  So there would be some rendering on Captain Marvel's ribcage, say; nice crisp, visible lines, and it would be colored almost like an airbrush effect of fairly dark gray.  So instead of having these crisp ink lines, it was just a mass of a sort of gray, amorphous shapes.  And the guy who called me up thought I had done a bad job…thank you very much.  I said, "I'm going to send you a photo-copy of the inked page, and you tell me what you think," and when he got it he said, "My God, what did they do to the artwork?"  I said, "They COLORED it."  And he said: "Oh, I had no idea."  "Well, maybe before you accuse somebody of doing a bad job, know whereof you speak."  Obviously it was one of those ego things on my part, but I think I complained to the editor and he said, "Hey, Al, that's the way we color these things these days."  I said, "Okay."  What can I do?  To get any more work, just try to go along.  

Prof:  As an inker I'll bet you felt a certain degree of satisfaction doing your Warren work in black and white.    

AM:  I enjoyed it.  I did very little for Warren.  But what I did do was a couple of Carmine Infantino jobs.  Of course that was a bit of a treat because again it was one of my all-time favorites from when I was a kid growing up and I tried to mesh, as I always do try, to mesh my inking style to Carmine's pencil style which was, again, a lot more angular and graphic than you might know when Murphy inked him, for instance.  I had a good time with it.  It's funny, because I did, I believe, three Carmine jobs altogether.  There's actually a fourth job that I started and didn't finish when Warren went under.  So I still have that job, partly inked, which I'm trying to figure out how to sell it and get some use out of it.  It features this warthog character that Nick Cuti created called Cronk, I think it was.  

Prof:  I'm not familiar with it.  

AM:  He was a humanoid warthog with the body of a man but the head of a warthog and it was an ongoing series and one of the three stories I'd previously inked for Warren was one of his.  I also did one about some sort of sports story that maybe Bill Dubay had edited.  It was a football story and I inked that and used a lot of Zipatone for tone and then I did another one about a black tennis player, probably loosely based on Arthur Ashe, I'm guessing, and I used marker and crayon to get tones on that one and I remember Jim Warren wrote me a note saying that he really liked the first story that I inked, but that he was less impressed with the second one because he just didn't think the tones were as good as the line work in the Zipatone.  I think I dropped him a line back saying, "I understand that, but I'm a relatively young artist and I'm trying to develop my vocabulary and I wanted to do this to stretch my muscles and trying other ways of getting tone on a story."  I never heard back from him, but he was right, I think the first story was stronger, but I didn't think the second one was horrible.  It helped me learn some stuff, which I think was important, too.  But my run was three stories and I have this fourth story and I'm actually trying to see if I can sell it to Dark Horse because they're doing Creepy and Eerie now I understand.  

Prof:  That's right.   

AM:  I contacted an editor up there and said, "Look, here's this story and Cuti says that Jim Warren said it would be okay to use.  The copyright was returned to the creators and therefore if you think it's a viable story…"  It's an 8-pager and I think I've got 3 or 4 pages inked, so I figure I could finish inking it and get paid and divvy up any remaining money for the story, penciling and inking between the entire creative staff, which was Nick Cuti, Carmine, myself and whoever lettered it.  

Prof:  That would be cool.  

AM:  It would be cool, but I don't know if Dark Horse is going to go for it.  In fact I've got to remember to write back to them and see.  

Prof:  It's worth a shot.  I hope something comes of it.   

AM:  By the way, at some point I went off on a ramble.  We were talking about inking Kirby and Ditko and I started talking about doing cover layouts for Kirby, but I always had this thing in my head where I wanted to work in some capacity with all the original guys who I loved at Marvel.  When I say that, I mean the original four guys who did most of the very early stuff and that was Kirby, Ditko, Dick Ayers and Don Heck.  Those are the four artists and of course Stan.  So doing that stuff with Kirby was one of them.  I've inked and been inked by Don Heck, so I got him, and I've inked and been inked by Steve Ditko.  I think Steve only inked a cover of mine, but I've inked a number of his things over the years, and Dick Ayers, I had never worked with, either inking him or penciling something for him to ink, but a few years back now, I don't know how many, five or six or seven, some little independent publisher…I think they were Mecca comics or something like that, though they didn't seem to have anything to do with Mecca or Islam or anything like that, but they had hired Dick to do some stuff for them.  It was very weird.  They were posting stuff on the Internet and they were really sort of trying to create the atmosphere of Marvel of the 60's, I think, but they got Dick to draw a pinup of one of their characters and they offered me a chance to ink it.  It was for a nominal fee, but I did actually finally get to ink Dick Ayers as well.  I did also pencil one short story for Fantastic Four Annual or something that Stan wrote, so I actually got to work with all five of the original big five at Marvel.  Actually I should say I did work with Larry Lieber who worked with them back then, too.  He didn't work on any of the major characters, but he was doing Westerns and would fill in on stuff here and there.  I've inked Larry and I think I maybe drew some Hulk strips for him.  Newspaper strips back when they were doing newspaper strips of the Hulk briefly.  I think I either laid them out or penciled them and Giacoia inked them.  I have a vague recollection.  So that's where I was originally going with that story when I got sidetracked.  

Prof:  That's quite the accomplishment, especially when you consider how iconic those names are and what they mean in the history of the genre.   

AM:  I've been lucky that way.  I've worked with many if not all of the guys I really admired when I was growing up as a kid.  I've inked Carmine, I've inked Gil Kane, I've been inked by Murphy, of course and I've actually inked Joe Kubert on a couple of Sgt. Rock stories, so.  

Prof:  That's a rarity in and of itself.  

AM:   And I've been inked by Jack Abel and inked Jack Abel and he was a good friend as well.  Yeah, but about the only guy I never did any real considerable work with, outside of helping on some Crusty Bunker stuff, I never inked Neal Adams.  I don't think Neal's ever inked me.  He'd probably run screaming from the room if he had to.  (Mutual laughter.)  I've actually been inked by Russ Heath, which is sort of unusual.  It was on one Mister Miracle cover that I did.  So I've had a chance to really work in some capacity with almost all the guys whose work I grew up liking and admiring and that's kind of a nice thing to have on your resume.  

Prof:  Very much so.  I noticed that you had a run there for awhile with the Legion and I wondered if that assignment was intimidating at all considering how fussy Legion of Super-Hero fans can be.  

AM:  I wasn't intimidated until I got the job and I started getting letters from these guys and they had a lot of ideas and I think they sort of felt like you should listen to their ideas.  But that's not really what an editor does.  I mean, look, if they'd sent in an idea and it was good I might have done it, but a lot of times the fans have ideas about what they'd like to see the characters do, but if you do that it's like the death of the character.  I'll give you the best example:  At Marvel they used to get a lot of letters about Ben Grimm being The Thing.  They would write in and say, "Poor Ben Grimm, the Torch can turn back into a regular looking guy and Reed Richards can return to normal after he stretches, but The Thing is a monster…"  They wanted to give him the power to be able to become Ben Grimm at will and Stan had actually played around with that.  Sometimes he would have him change to Ben Grimm at an inopportune moment or Reed would find him a cure and he'd have to give up the cure like in "This Man, This Monster," where he'd have to become The Thing to save the world from some situation.  Shooter said this, which was very insightful:  "The fact that they want him to be able to turn into Ben Grimm at will doesn't mean you should do that.  Because then the character is no longer empathetic.  All that means is that it's their way of saying, 'I feel bad for him.'  They empathize with his situation.  If you then give him the cure to the situation, then the empathy's gone.  The Thing is not a tragic, heroic figure if he can turn into a normal human at will."  I thought that was a really brilliant observation and an example of what the fans would like you to do, but if you did it, it would ruin the character.  So I kept that in mind with the Legion and I would politely listen to some of their suggestions and then I'd go ahead and do whatever the hell I wanted.  

Prof:  (Laughter.)  

AM:  I'd hire guys who were good writers and good artists and go from there.  I was only at DC for one year.  That was my editorial tenure almost to the day.  We had problems with deadlines so I called in a bunch of my buddies and I remember Starlin did an issue or two of the Legion and I got Joe Staton to be inked by Jack Abel, which was kind of interesting and I remember Wiacek inked some and Howard Chaykin did an issue for me.  So I got a bunch of guys who had never been associated with the Legion to do Legion stories for me and it kind of got things back on track.  Jim Sherman did several issues of the Legion and he was a really good artist and I remember some fan writing in and saying, "You can't fool me.  This guy is really using a pseudonym and it's so and so."  Which was totally wrong, Jim was an actual human being.  But Sherman drew really cute girls and he shared space up at the studio where Walter and Chaykin and Starlin and Frank Miller all worked at one time.  He did not have a long career in comics.  He used to do a lot of commercial work in storyboarding and comps and things like that for advertising.  He did some female American Indian character in a yellow costume.  

Prof:  Dawnstar.  

AM:  Yeah, Dawnstar, thanks.  This guy drew her really cute and sexy and I think I got him inked by Bob McLeod, and maybe Joe Rubinstein and it was nice stuff.  Beautiful stuff.  And the lucky bastard actually got to draw the Fly for Archie when they did that short revival under the Red Circle banner back in the early 80's. Of course I was exclusive to Marvel at the time and couldn't have done the Fly even if they'd wanted me to.  

Prof:  I always think of Mike Grell with DC at that time.  

AM:  Mike is one of the few artists I didn't work with.  I used to bug Marvel when I was working on staff for them to try and hire him.  I said, "Look, this guy is popular, why don't we hire him away from DC?"  They said, "Well, maybe as an inker."  They were very snobby about his penciling.  I thought, "Hey, the guy is popular and he's developing."  He was very obviously a Neal Adams influenced guy in the early years, but I liked Mike and it turned out he was maybe even a better writer than he was an artist and I thought he would have been an asset.  I also tried to hire Jim Aparo to come work at Marvel.  

Prof:  Really?  

AM:  I thought with his Batman stuff and his urban drawing chops he'd be a good artist for Spider-Man.  He said, "No, no, they keep me busy up here.  I'm fine."  I offered him a very good rate.  I think maybe it was better than the rate he was getting at DC and I think he felt like I must be lying to him.  That's just conjecture, of course.  It was one of those things where on the phone I could sort of hear him hesitate when I offered him the rates for penciling and inking.  He used to letter his own stuff, too.  

Prof:  He thought it was just too good to be true.   

AM:  That was my sense because there was this hesitation on the line.  I offered what was near our top rate to him and he hesitated and I thought he couldn't believe the rates could be that high, but at the time Marvel was paying better rates than DC.  But he declined, saying DC had been loyal to him all this time.  I said, "I understand, but if you ever change your mind…"  I'm sure he was thinking, "Who is this guy?"  I don't think he had any idea who I was or who I worked for or if it was legitimate.  I never met Jim and I think that was the only time I ever talked to him.  Maybe he thought it was some prank call and I was recording him to play it back to DC.  I don't know what he thought.  I also once called Will Eisner to see if he'd do some work for Batman Family.  

Prof:  Wow!  

AM:  It was the funniest thing, because Murphy had worked for him on the P.S. Magazine for the armed forces and after the one year I worked for Murphy he actually took over producing that magazine (Eisner had given it up).  Murph put in a bid to the military and got that gig.  He said, "Hey, why don't you come work for me?"  I said, "I've got to do comics," and he said, "Okay, I understand."  Anyway, he gave me Will's phone number and I called him up and said, "Hi, Mr. Eisner, my name is Allen Milgrom and I got your number from Murphy Anderson.  I worked as his assistant and now I'm an editor at DC comics and there's a book that I edit called Batman Family and I would love to have you do a cover for it if you're willing."  He said, "Oh, no, no, no.  I can't."  I said, "Why not?"  He said, "Well, I never draw Batman."  I said, "Well, yeah, that's sort of the point.  Everybody loves your Spirit stuff and you're a great artist and we'd love to have you do it and it would be a real coup for us and we'd pay you the top rate."  He said, "Oh, I just don't think I'd do the character justice."  I said: "No, no, you would, but I understand you don't really want to do it."  "Well, maybe another time."  As I hung up the phone, Mike Gold, who was an editor at the time also at DC, comes lurching into my office and he said, "Did I just hear that correctly?"  I said, "What's that?"  "Did you just call up Will Eisner and ask him to do a Batman cover?"  I said, "Yeah," and he goes, "You're my god."  I said, "But he turned me down."  "But you called Will Eisner!"  "Well, what was the worst that was going to happen?  He'd either say yes or he'd say no.  It's not like lightning was going to strike me dead."  Having the temerity to ask him, he said, "I don't care.  It takes balls to call up Will Eisner!"  "I don't see why, but okay, thanks."  (Chuckle.)  I got a lot of mileage out of that story over the years.  

Prof:  (Laughter.)  I bet you have.   

AM:  I never got so much cachet as when I was turned down by an artist to do a cover for me.  I also tried to get Steranko to do some stuff for me and he was funny, too.  "I want the top rate.  I mean the top rate.  The Neal Adams rate!"  "Yeah, I hear you."  Then we never were able to reach an agreement on that, either.  Not getting Steranko is not as impressive as getting turned down by Will Eisner, I guess.

A huge thanks to Al for his time and remembrances.  I always learn things along the way and Al was gracious and kind in every possible way.  A genuine gentleman with a strong portfolio.

Long time readers may recall that here at the Silver Lantern we sometimes celebrate milestones with a little giveaway.  While this one is a repeat of sorts, I hope it will still be appreciated and sought after by one of you fortunate folk.  By way of background, when I started doing the interviews I would often ask if the creator I was speaking to would mind signing a book from my collection that they'd worked on.  For the mere token of return postage, nearly everyone happily obliged.  Dick Giordano, who sadly left us recently, was no exception.  I fired off two copies of Secret Six #2, which he'd just taken the editorial reins on.  The extra copy was for the webmaster as a surprise gift later.  So, I fired them off and waited...and waited.  Finally I sent Dick an e-mail to see what the status was.  He replied with, "Oh, my gosh!  I never got them!  I'll check around!"  No sign of them, and of course I'd used regular mail, so no way to track them.  Curses!  So, I haunted eBay and naturally I had the devil's own time finding some reasonably priced copies of Secret Six #2.  Finally I did and I sent them via UPS.  Those arrived just fine and Dick sent them back and then a few weeks later...yep.  The other envelope showed up!  "I can sign these, too, if you like.  I don't think it will lessen the value of them."  So, I ended up with 4 signed copies courtesy of Mr. Giordano.  I don't think he'd mind one bit if I found a good home for one of my extras.  So, if you'd like to be considered for this little treasure as a token of our esteem, just drop me an e-mail at the address below and I'll drop your name in the hat and announce the winner with the next new posting of this ongoing feature that is now officially 10 years old! 

We extend sincere gratitude for your time here and hope this will continue to be your destination for all the wonders that entail the great Silver Age of DC Comics.  We'd like to hear from you, too, whether it be with roses or brickbats or with suggestions for future reviews or interviews.  Start tapping away to:  professor_the@hotmail.com.

See you in about two weeks and…

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2010 by B.D.S.

Interview copy edited by Al Milgrom

This feature was created on 05/01/00 and is maintained by



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