A Tribute to the of

Did you catch that recent news story about the "found" Silver Age art in the Dallas area? There was much discussion about it on a comic art board I frequent and the overall conclusion was that it would be mighty strange indeed to find twice up art boards from the 1960's tucked into a coloring book in a garage sale. I tend to agree, particularly since the original art in question, one being the splash page from Avengers #1 by Jack Kirby, had come up missing at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out and maybe by the time this edition of the Sage hits the web we'll know more, but as someone mentioned, why don't I ever run across original Silver Age art at garage sales?

Do you recall the two reviews (numbers 109 and 124) I've done about Superman's death? Apparently, like most of the ideas, this one wasn't new, because I was recently introduced to another attempt on the Man of Steel's life that predates both those efforts, going back to November of 1961 in Superman #149 (an old 10-center, no less) with that eerie cover penciled by Curt Swan and inked by Shelly Moldoff, (this team also did the interiors) proclaiming "The Death of Superman!" Fortunately for those of us who cannot imagine a world without the Metropolis Marvel, our creative team is kind enough to tell us up front that it is a three-part imaginary novel. Let's see where the imagination of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel, edited by Mort Weisinger, takes us.

Part I is entitled, "Lex Luthor, Hero!" The splash page shows Superman's arch foe being flown through the concrete and steel canyons of Metropolis in a bunting-draped platform worthy of a presidential whistle-stop courtesy of Superman himself while the ticker tape descends. The following page, where the tale begins, shows Luthor in the big yard of the Metropolis prison where he spots a boulder on the rockpile that is unlike the others. He decks a guard in order to be put on the rock-busting detail, gathers some samples and determines it is indeed a meteorite that likely contains element "Z." He petitions the warden to allow him use of the prison hospital lab for 24 hours to try and atone for his past crimes. A very reluctant warden agrees, but only with an armed guard present. To the surprise of everyone, Luthor's experiments result in a serum that instantly cures cancer. When Superman learns of the breakthrough he heads for space to collect a huge mass of Element "Z" for further serum development and then goes to speak on behalf of the felon at the parole board. Parole is granted and the two men bury the hatchet. Luthor requests a "lift" to his former secret headquarters in an abandoned museum and asks Superman to destroy his "Hall of Heroes" which includes mannequins of Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Captain Kidd and Al Capone. Lex announces his plans to open a legitimate laboratory. The two men reminisce about some of their encounters over the years, including the recreation of Bizarro, and then the Metropolis Marvel departs. Soon afterward a couple of members of the underworld arrive and insist Luthor kill Superman, leaving us with a little bit of a cliffhanger to end Part I.

Part II, "Luthor's Super-bodyguard!," shows the rapid return of the Last Son of Krypton, who saves his erstwhile nemesis from the hoods' bullets. He then presents his new pal with a duplicate signal watch to the one worn by Jimmy Olsen. It isn't long before Lex has need of it as Gangland continues to try to kill him. After a few saves Superman has a strategy discussion with his cousin, Supergirl, who is still unknown to the outside world about how to deal with the threats to Luthor. Soon Superman comes upon the idea of creating a safe haven in the form of a space satellite laboratory. No sooner is he set up in the new surroundings, however, when the thugs plot, scheme and strike again with a missile. Superman intercepts this latest threat to Lurthor's life and reinforces the satellite with additional transparent shielding. He also provides a new signal method since the watch's signal can't travel through space. This new gizmo is a jet rocket that resembles Lex to fire as a sort of interstellar flare. A week later, the rocket is deployed and explodes in the upper atmosphere with great sound and fury. Superman responds quickly, enters the escape hatch to see what's wrong and finds himself in an ambush. A ray projector behind Luthor responds to a thrown switch with Green Kryptonite rays that drop our hero to the floor, helpless. Acting swiftly, Luthor straps the Man of Tomorrow to a bench with metal straps containing more green K. Then, twisting the knife, he reveals Superman's closest friends, Perry White, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen behind a thick glass partition so they can view the awful scene.

Luthor gloats that this is his ultimate triumph, first gaining the trust of Superman and then springing the death trap. He intensifies the rays and finally determines that the Man of Steel has succumbed to Green Kryptonite poisoning. He lands the satellite, turns Superman's body over to his friends and gleefully announces to a stunned populace that he has destroyed Superman, ending Part II.

Part III, "The Death of Superman!," shows him lying in state as countless mourners pass, including many members of the Justice League. Foreign and even alien dignitaries pass by, as do his closest friends, Krypto the superdog, the 30th century Legion of Super-heroes and of course his disguised cousin.

Elsewhere the underworld is in full celebration and Lex Luthor is the toast of the party. The revelry is soon broke up, however, by the dramatic arrival of Superman, who proceeds to wreck the room. Only then is the disguise torn away to reveal the heretofore unknown Supergirl, who whisks Luthor away after arresting him in the name of the planet Krypton. The murderer soon finds himself before a court held in the bottle city of Kandor, tried by Kryptonians for killing a Kryptonian. After much damning testimony, the smug villain pleads guilty and is promptly sentenced to be exiled to the Phantom Zone, but he craftily offers to create an enlarging ray in exchange for his freedom, but the judge flatly refuses to deal with a murderer and the sentence is carried out, making Luthor a phantom for all eternity.

The story ends with Supergirl assuming the mantle of her cousin as guardian of the Earth with Krypto by her side.

This was a pretty good yarn, and I must confess I'm glad we knew up front it was strictly of the imaginary variety. Jerry Siegel seemed to do a pretty good job of killing off his greatest creation, even though it was just for this one issue. The story seemed to include enough twists to keep things interesting and I always enjoy the guest shots of Kandor. The Comics Code was strictly adhered to as well, with full justice being done to the criminal in the end. Overall, a pretty enjoyable tale that I'll give a 9 on the 10-point rating scale.

You may be interested to know that this issue is the favorite story of Bob Rozakis. Bob was, as many of you know, the fabled DC "Answer Man" back in the Bronze Age. Additionally he drove the short-lived, legendary Comicmobile. Later, he was Julie Schwartz's assistant editor and later moved into the production department with Sol Harrison and Jack Adler, ultimately taking the helm and winning a bushel basket full of awards for that work as he led the way to vast technological refinements in the separating process, among other things. Bob remains a wealth of information about the DC Universe and is a nice guy to boot. He took some time out of his busy schedule to answer a handful of questions I e-mailed to him and following are the things he had to say:

Prof: You lived out the dream of many fans, by getting on staff at DC. Were your letters to Julie written as a means to an end or just for fun?

Bob Rozakis: I was writing the letters just for fun. When I was a senior in college, I went to visit DC and Julie was very cordial, owing to the fact that I had been one of his "lettercol regulars" for so long. It was after the visit that I thought, "Gee, maybe I can get a job here."

Prof: What's your favorite DC Silver Age story?

BR: "The Death of Superman!," hands down.

Prof: Tell us about your first visit to the DC offices.

BR: Well, it was pretty amusing, actually, because they were treating me like I was a celebrity. (Or they werejust amused that "this is one of those guys who writes all the letters, but he almost seems normal.")

Anyway, at the time, I had been doing some crosswords and word find puzzles for a fanzine and brought copies along because I thought Nelson Bridwell would enjoy them. Nelson shared an office with Julie and when Julie saw the puzzles, he grabbed them and ran out of the office. He came back a few minutes later with Sol Harrison, who asked if I could make up puzzles that were specific to Superman and Batman. When I said yes, he said, "Okay, do it and we'll buy them!"

So my visit led to immediate work. That was on a Friday afternoon; on Monday I was back with nine puzzle pages. They were eventually used in the 100-PAGE SUPER-SPECTACULARS and the LIMITED COLLECTOR'S EDITIONS.

Prof: What's your fondest memory of Julie Schwartz?

BR: Julie was a big fan of bean soup. One time when I was in the supermarket, I noticed that they had a bean soup "Cup-o-Soup" and mentioned it to Julie. His response was immediate, "And you didn't buy me any?"

Well, I went back to the store the following weekend and there was no bean soup to be found! It turned out to be some kind of test marketing in limited supply. (It did not come out "officially" for about six months after that.)

But that didn't stop Julie from asking, "Where's my bean soup?" Finally, my wife Laurie cooked up a pot of homemade bean soup and I brought it in for him. Which resulted in him asking, "When's your wife going to make some more bean soup?"

Prof: Did E. Nelson Bridwell keep notes on DC's complex continuity or did he just trust his memory?

BR: Nelson didn't need any notes; his memory was incredible. We would be talking about something happening in an oldstory and he would go to the files, find an issue, and open it to the page and panel.

Prof: Let's say you had to look up an obscure bit of continuity from a Golden Age story, how was this accomplished? Did DC have a "morgue?" (storage for back issues)

BR: DC has a library with copies of virtually everything they have ever published. Over the years, much of the early stuff has been crumbling, so no one is allowed access to it any more. But when I started there, we junior members of the staff were in the library all the time. I even spent a lot of time indexing the stories on books like ACTION, ADVENTURE and DETECTIVE. Since this was before computers, it was all done on 3x5 cards and it was quite impressive when I finished. Unfortunately, when we moved from 75 Rock to 666 Fifth, someone threw out the entire file drawer of cards!

Prof: When sales went into a slump at DC what would you attribute it to, or is it simply a cyclical industry?

BR: There were periods when the market was flooded with titles, so sales on individual books suffered. But I think the bigger problem is that the audience for comics has been steadily shrinking. The older "fanboys" have more money to spend than they did as kids, but there are fewer of them.

Prof: Julie liked stories that had a beginning, middle and end and yet the modern format seems to rely on endless story arcs. Which do you believe is superior?

BR: I far prefer the self-contained stories. Today's comics seem to follow the pattern of "action scene - talking - action scene - cliffhanger." I find myself flipping through many of them just to seem what is on the last page. Too many stories are padded out to fill the eventual trade paperback. Julie always insisted that your story have a plot with a beginning, middle and end, regardless of how many pages long it was. (And if it was a book-length story, there had better be some sub-plots too!) I look at stories that run for issues and issues these days and say, "Julie would have made me do this whole thing ineight pages!"

Prof: You wrote for Teen Titans for awhile. Have you seen the animated cartoon? If so what's your impression?

BR: I think I saw the cartoon once, just to see the Bumblebee, a character I created. It was certainly superior to the cartoon like "the Superman-Aquaman Hour" that I grew up watching.

Prof: You scripted some of the Hostess ads that featured DC characters. Who drew and lettered them? According to Joe Giella those jobs often paid more. Was that your experience?

BR: Curt Swan drew most of the ads, as I recall. It was either Ben Oda or Gaspar Saladino who lettered them.They did, indeed, pay more than regular script pages.

Prof: Carmine Infantino told me that Julie heavily edited all his writers' projects. Was that your observation?

BR: Yes, Julie did some pretty heavy editing on virtually all his writers' scripts. Apparently, he did his heaviest work on Gardner Fox's stories, though I never saw one of those scripts first-hand. Of my "generation," the most editing was on Cary Bates' scripts and the least was on Elliot Maggin's. Mine fell somewhere in between.

Prof: When you were scripting Aquaman your work was interpreted by Jim Aparo and edited by Ross Andru. What were your memories of Jim? Do artists make good editors?

BR: Did Jim really draw some of my Aquaman stories? I don't recall.

I can think of some artists who were good editors and others who were not. (But I can think of some writers-turned-editors who also fall in both categories.) I would say that the artist-editors were more appreciative of page design and how the story looked where their writer-counterparts would be more concerned about the plot and dialogue.

Prof: You were the writer for the Freedom Fighters. Did it occur to you that you were handling one of the characters squarely in Dr. Wertham's crosshairs, the Phantom Lady?

BR: Never crossed my mind.

Prof: How was Ramona Fradon to work with on that title?

BR: I don't know that I ever had any interaction with Ramona. I know that I enjoyed working with Dick Ayers on the issues he did. No matter what I asked for or how many characters I would squeeze into a page, Dick would make it work.

Prof: Joe Giella inked some of your Batman Family work. Did you interact with him much?

BR: I knew Joebecause he came in regularly, but Julie's writers didn't have any direct interaction with the artists about the work. You handed in the script, Julie edited it and gave it to the artist. I got to see thepencils and inks when they came in because I worked on staff. But I think most of the writers didn't see the stories until the printed books came out.

Prof: Is Duela Dent, the Joker's Daughter, the same character that appears in Kingdom Come?

BR: I'm not sure who Duela Dent is any more. I know that they recently killed her off as a kick-off point in COUNTDOWN. For a character that many people at DC spent years deriding, she certainly has had an influence.One thing I have to laugh about: When we first introduced her, readers (and some of my colleagues) complained about my explanation of "selective aging" that allowed Duela to go from birth to college age in the same period that Dick Grayson went from 12 to 19. Now Dick, who was a teenager when Barbara Gordon was introduced, seems to have caught up to Babs; I guess selective aging works after all.

Prof: Why do you think the Famous First Editions didn't sell well?

BR: There were no direct market or comic book stores back in the early 70s. The books were too large for many of the newsstand outlets to carry.

Prof: Why did it take so long for the old classics in that format like Action #1 and Detective #27 to be reprinted?

BR: No film negatives existed for the early issues and the technology used at the time involved destroying actual printed copies of the original books. It was a long, tedious process. Nowadays, all the clean-up is done on a scan of the printed page on a computer monitor. No actual books are harmed in the production of the DC Archives or Marvel Masterworks.

Prof: You were a production guy and according to Carmine, with the exception of editors, you guys were the only ones on staff. Can you tell me a little about how a book was put together? How were freelancers chosen? How were they lettered, colored, separated and printed?

BR: The editor had control at the start, picking whichever writer he wanted to do a particular story. For the most part, each editor had his own "stable" and kept them busy. Artists were, for the most part, exclusive to one editor or another. (During my first couple of years at DC, Julie and Murray Boltinoff "shared" Dick Dillin.) Letterers and colorists were usually assigned by the production department, though the editors usually had some input about the colorists. Once all the art and coloring was done, the pages were sent to Chemical Color Plate in Bridgeport, CT, where the color separations were done by painting acetates for each of the 25%, 50% and 100% screens of red, yellow, and blue. (This changed with the advent of computerized coloring and separations.)

Prof: You've doubtless seen the piecemeal auctioning of the fabled "Jack Adler Collection." I even have an approval cover (Adventure Comics #374) I received as a gift. How did he get hold of those? How did they work, exactly? I've read the accompanying certificate and an article published in Comic Book Marketplace #85 about it and still don't quite get it.

BR: From what I know, Jack took the proofs home with his original color guides and now they are being sold off. The proof was created at Chemical using the separations they'd generated. If it was okayed, the film negatives were shipped out to Spartan Printing in Sparta, Illinois, for printing.

Prof: Neal Adams told me a long and complicated story about the way the comic shops came into being. Can you give me your view?

BR: The "mom and pop" candy stores that were the traditional place for most comic sales were vanishing and newsstand sales of comics were dwindling. Phil Seuling came to DC and Marvel and asked about buying books directly, on a non-returnable basis, for a better price. His Seagate Distribution was the first in a market that is now almost exclusively Diamond's.

Prof: How did DC change under the different publishers like Donenfeld, Carmine, Sol Harrison, Jenette Kahn and Paul Levitz?

BR: I was not at DC until after Donenfeld left, so I cannot say what it was like when he was there. Carmine's reign was rather free-wheeling, but he seemed to spend a lot of time answering to "the people upstairs" (at Warner Publishing), who seemed to watch every nickel and dime that was spent. Carmine used to have Bill Gaines come in as a business advisor.

While Sol had some interesting ideas (the Comicmobile, publishing AMAZING WORLD OF DC COMICS, the Junior Bullpen program), he seemed stifled by trying to achieve immediate, substantial results (again, to gain approval from the bosses at Warner)rather than letting things develop for the long term.

Jenette, initially, had no experience in the comics business, having been brought in by Warner management. She looked to a variety of people for advice; some of them were good, but some usedthe opportunityto their own advantage.

Paul, to a great extent, is a victim of fanboy mentality. I think the company has spent too much effort focusing on a dwindling market and has not been able to find ways to bring in substantial numbers of new readers.

Prof: Shelly Moldoff was telling me that logos were the production department's baby. Who pulled the trigger when it was decided a new logo was needed?

BR: Usually the editor or editorial director. Then one of the letterers would be given the assignment. Gaspar Saladino did a lot of them while I was there. Todd Klein did a number in the later years while Joe Letterese did some in the earlier years of my DC tenure.

As you can see, Bob Rozakis is still the undisputed Answer Man and has plenty of stories about the comics we all enjoyed so much 'lo those many years ago. My humble thanks to Bob for taking the time and energy to explain a part of the business I'd never learned much about.

My work here is far from finished, Silver Age fans. You can count on more reviews of great and not so great stories from the vault along with more interviews (yes, there are more) with creators from those fabled days of yore. C'mon back in the requisite two weeks for the latest and don't be shy about dropping me a line: professor_the@hotmail.com.

Long live the Silver Age!

2000-2007 by B.D.S.

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