A Tribute to the of

By now I've learned that Bob Kane had more ghosts than a haunted house and while he seemed to know instinctively that he had a very good thing with the Batman franchise (and took credit for anything with the Dark Knight's imprint on it, deserved or not) he seemed to lose all interest in doing any actual work in the production.   Instead it was his "studio" doing the artistic chores, whether it was Jerry Robinson, Lew Sayre Schwartz, or Sheldon "Shelly" Moldoff, to name a few of his more prominent assistants, or "ghosts."  The scripting detail for many years in the early days came through the efforts of Bill Finger.  So, through very little effort on his own part, Bob's character (though even his creative credits are in some dispute; check out this fascinating study) was successfully shepherded along by many talented creators who toiled in obscurity, basically as subcontractors.  Fortunately the veil has been parted and today we can give proper credit where it is due.   Thus, for this edition of the Silver Age Sage, it's time again to explore the Golden Age with Detective Comics #168 from February of 1951.  The feature story, "The Man Behind the Red Hood!" was written, of course, by Bill Finger.   The artwork was penciled by Lew Sayre Schwartz (with an assist from Win Mortimer, who drew Robin on the splash page) with inking courtesy of George Roussos.  The editor was Jack Schiff.

This story begins in a rather unusual way.  Batman and Robin respond to a summons from Commissioner Gordon courtesy of the Bat-Signal and learn that Dean Chalmers of the State University is in attendance and wants to invite Batman to be an adjunct professor of their new course in criminology.   The World's Greatest Detective accepts and begins his duties by privately interviewing his students, who include Paul Wong, who has ambitions to become a medical examiner for his native Hawaiian police department and Jimmy Kale, son of a notorious gangster who murdered an FBI agent.   Jimmy intends to repay his family's debt to society by pursuing his own career with the FBI.

Having gained a better understanding of his class, Batman proceeds to use his experiences and knowledge in his lectures as he demonstrates how to observe and make deductions from clues at crime scenes.   He also shows them how to properly handle potential evidence and other nuts and bolts instruction from his work in the field.

After a month of teaching, the Masked Manhunter issues them a test case wherein they will attempt to solve a crime that has remained unsolved for 10 years and involved a villain called The Red Hood.   Batman gives them the background, that each time The Red Hood robbed and was seen he baffled his victims by wearing a featureless crimson hood and cape that didn't even have eye holes.  When Batman finally encounters the thief in an ice plant, he gloats that he bears the perfect disguise, giving no hint of eye color or other characteristics that could identify him.   As our hero goes for the apprehension, The Red Hood fires his weapon at some nearby pipes carrying ammonia gas that overcome the Caped Crusader long enough for a clean getaway.

A month later, the criminal and hero cross paths again, at a factory next to the Monarch Playing Card company.  The Red Hood leaps into a catch basin filled with waste chemicals that empty out into the river to escape capture.  They presume the swim will be fatal to the felon.

Batman concludes his lecture by telling the class that The Red Hood was never seen again, leaving them to speculate whether his chemical bath was his undoing or if he abruptly retired from a life of crime.   Outside the open window we note the gardener caring for the flower bed and the text box tells us this:  "And perhaps you, too, have the answers, reader!  Follow the rest of the story closely, and see what you can make of the clues which turn up!"

The next day, the students are excitedly reading the news account of their attempt to crack the case.  Again, our gardener is looking on and as the class works to unlock the secrets of The Red Hood, that selfsame villain makes a dramatic reappearance at the college cashier's office, intent on robbing the payroll.   The security guard manages to trip the alarm, but is kayoed for his effort and soon Batman and Robin are in foot pursuit of the criminal.  When Robin tries to land a punch he encounters an unyielding solid hood that breaks his finger.

Batman continues the pursuit into the Physics Hall where The Red Hood successfully eludes him among the massive scale models of molecular structures.   The only possible escape seems unlikely; a hatch leading to the school gas main clearly marked with a warning of poison gas.  The Dark night Detective does secure a clue, however, in the form of a soft felt rollup hat that was dropped by the crook.

Back at the Batcave, Bruce and Dick are analyzing a hair extracted from the hat, but Dick's bandaged hand causes him to bump the desk lamp directly onto the hair, charring it to blackness.   Bruce suggests that Dick use the experimental chemical formula he's been working on that is designed to restore the original color to burnt fibers, but when he does so, the hair turns green, so Dick apologizes for erring with the formula and ruining their clue.

Later, when Batman returns to his heroic identity and the campus, he spots someone in Jimmy's room wearing a Red Hood!   He pounces and discovers it is Paul Wong, wearing a replica of the hood he'd fabricated.  The roommates explain to their instructor that the hood works through the use of two way mirrors that blend in with the shiny metallic surface of the hood, making it appear blank.   They further elaborate that the hood is not only a disguise, but a gas mask and diving helmet, which allowed The Red Hood to escape through the gas main.  Jimmy further speculates that the thief retired after securing a million dollars through his robberies, but Paul counters that he has inexplicably reappeared.   Batman suggests that it's a way to mock them since they've reopened the case.

That night, spotters are in place and radio Batman that The Red Hood is on the move.  Soon the Batmobile is crossing the football field on an intercept course and Batman swings into action in the college museum's Mayan exhibit.   Paul and Jimmy soon join the chase and Batman notes with interest that the criminal avoids the room used to disinfect exhibits.  The felon smashes through a window and minutes later, Paul and Jimmy catch up with Batman, who has just captured…the gardener, who he quickly identifies as Earl "Farmerboy" Benson, a former convict.   Benson acknowledges his identity and record, but professes that he has gone straight.  Jimmy thinks Benson may have had time to stash The Red Hood disguise, but Paul argues that 10 years ago, Benson would have been only 12 years old, so he couldn't be the thief.   They release him and Batman then coordinates with the Dean to lay a trap.

The next day, the school paper carries a phony story about a golden football trophy being displayed in the school gym.  That night, in the wee hours, a familiar figure breaks in only to find himself in an ambush.   Batman descends from the ceiling via a rope while Robin floods the room with red lights that, combined with the red lenses in the hood, render the criminal blinded, only able to see a wall of red.  When the hood is removed, "Farmerboy" Benson is revealed to Paul, Jimmy and the Dynamic Duo, but Batman says he is an impersonator and demands to know where the real Red Hood is located.  Benson admits that he locked him in the tool shed.   Batman then begins to explain his detective work to his pupils, mentioning that the real Red Hood attempted to rob the payroll, ultimately escaping via the gas main.  Benson replies that he spotted The Red Hood leaving the gas main and surprised and captured him, thinking of a reward, but then reconsidered and used the disguise to commit his own crimes.   Batman tells his puzzled students that he observed and deduced that Benson, disguised as The Red Hood avoided the gas-filled chamber in the museum, revealing that he didn't know the hood afforded him the ability to survive such an environment and also revealing it was an imposter in the hood.   Our hero also mentions to Robin that his chemical formula was correct and that he knows the identity of The Red Hood.  When they enter the tool shed, there, bound in stout ropes is The Joker!   The Clown Prince of Crime reveals that he was a lab worker who decided to steal $1,000,000 and retire, so he became The Red Hood.

"Finally, I reached my goal—by stealing from the Monarch Playing Card Company!  My hood's oxygen tube enabled me to escape by swimming under the surface of the pool of chemical wastes, but at home I looked at myself with growing horror…   That chemical vapor—it turned my hair green, my lips rouge-red, my skin chalk-white!  I look like an evil clown!  What a joke on me!  Then, I realized my new face could terrify people!   And because the playing card company made my new face I named myself after the card with the face of a clown—The Joker!"

The arch-nemesis of the Batman then chortles that he'd kept his identity from them all these years, laughing the whole time, but Batman counters that they knew his identity before they entered the shack and the origin story of The Joker then ends.

Twelve pages of story with a twist.  This was Bill Finger at his best and was a very logical choice for inclusion into the collection "The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told."   It was an enjoyable read that I recommend to any Batman or Joker fan, and with the inextricable nature of their relationship, how could you be one or the other? 

If you'd ever like to have a fascinating and enjoyable conversation with a true gentleman, do what I did and contact Lew Sayre Schwartz, the penciller for this story.   Lew was generous with his time and remembrances and I'm proud to share them with you here:

Prof:  When did you first become interested in art?

Lew Sayre Schwartz:  I'm told when I was about five years old.

Prof:  Ah, crayons?  (chuckle)

LSS:  No.  I recall a lot of excitement, very, very early and then I'd say the buds began to show at eleven or twelve.  Like most kids, I think, I used to run for the Sunday funnies and I would copy them and the copies I did, I still have some of those, by the way, they were remarkable for what they were.  I loved to draw.  Since I was…I thought I was fat, let's put it that way.  I wasn't good at any spectator sports.  I didn't play ball or any of that stuff, so I would sit home and draw.  I think the story repeats itself with a lot of my colleagues over the years, but one way to get attention or achieve any status more than likely would be if you could draw, so that's what I did.

Prof:  Oh, yeah.  That makes sense to me.  When I talked to Denny O'Neil a few weeks ago he said the same thing as far as what led him to writing.  He said, "I wasn't much on sports."

LSS:  Yeah, and it happens that way and then when I got into high school I contributed to the school paper for four years.  I was extremely lucky, and this sometimes happens, because there was a young fellow, about a year younger than myself who was also very interested in art and he truly had talent and when I thought Chic Young was a great illustrator and looking at Milton Caniff, well, we became very close friends and there was a mediocre art school in New Bedford where we both went and we'd go to Saturday morning classes there and compare things and I must say that thanks to him I began to see things that developed a case for people like Milton and Alex Raymond, some of the bluebloods, the masters, very early on.  Initially I thought Blondie was a great comic.  I still do, as a matter of fact, interestingly enough.  It's surprising how that has lasted out it's time.

Prof:  Did you ever imagine this would become a career for you?

LSS:  I think that in the back of my mind I had hoped that it would, but I don't know.  As you probably know I worked with Bob Kane from 1946 until about mid-1953, but in the middle of '53 I had drawn the last Batman that I wanted to draw.  I had put pages side by side to try and balance the design, page to page, anything to prevent boredom, but it set in very strongly.  I was doing a tremendous amount of work for Bob and his contract called for I think 12 stories that would amount to 12 pages to a story, so that's 144 pages and I always did, in the years I worked for him, on average, I would turn out 20 stories.

Prof:  Oh, wow.

LSS:  And I had a job in New York working for King Features, but in '53 I just got bored stiff and with my wife's acquiescence joined a cartoonist's junket to Korea, so I spent 90 days with the 10th Army, which I will never forget as long as I live.

Prof:  I'll bet that was a tremendous experience.

LSS:  The best way for me to describe it, or the way I did describe it is that I spent 2-1/2 years in the Navy during World War II, but the bulk of that had to do with airplanes.  I was an aerial gunner.  I flew the greater part of that time, not as a pilot but as a radar operator and aerial gunner and so you're very apart from reality, sitting up in an airplane, unless you get shot at, and getting on the ground in Seoul, and you've seen pictures of this modern city.  When I was in Seoul, there was not a paved street.  They'd all been blown away.  There was no glass in any of the major buildings in the city and it's beyond comprehension in terms of what you see today.

Prof:  I can only guess.

LSS:  I was in London in 1947 and London didn't look much better.  (chuckle)

Prof:  No, I'm sure it didn't.

LSS:  Well, there were all kinds of things that happened.  There's a wonderful little guy, you probably see his name from time to time, Irwin Hasen?

Prof:  Yes.

LSS:  We're dear friends.  Irwin was on that trip with me and we had incredible experiences.  We were with a communications group and we went over, the cartoonists that volunteered to do this, usually there'd be twelve guys.  The oldest they'd leave in Japan and then eight of us went into Korea.  Four, they sent down south to where the prison camps were and the other four lucky ones, namely Irwin, myself and two other guys went up with the 8th Army.  But being on the ground with people shooting at you is pretty wild.

Prof:  How did you happen to get acquainted with Bob Kane?

LSS:  A funny story.  I was discharged from the Navy in April and I had family in Florida at that time, my sister and her husband were living there and I went to Miami after I was discharged before going back home to New Bedford and there was a very pretty lady that caught my eye and there was this obnoxious guy that was trying to hit on her at the same time and I suddenly discovered one day that this obnoxious guy was Bob Kane.

Prof:  (Laughter)

LSS:  Anyway, the girl was nice and said that I was an amateur artist and for whatever reason he asked to see my work and when he looked at it he asked me if I'd be interested in working for him.  And 'lo and behold he said he would call me in the fall and he did and I started to do some things for him.  Interestingly enough, very recently, the period of time that I worked with Bob is being archived by DC.  I don't know whether you've seen them or not, but they have a Batman archive from the beginning.

Prof:  Yes, I have one of those copies.

LSS:  They have now reached number six, which just started I think to have one of my stories, and when I say one of my stories, I penciled for Bob and of course you're probably aware that this is sort of a factory operation the way DC operated.  There'd be a writer.  In many cases that would be Bill Finger, who worked with Bob from the beginning, and not so incidentally, the best scripts that I ever got to work on were Bill Finger's.  Most imaginative.  I think, in a way, the most successful because they were so damn visual.  He was brilliant and he got no credit.

Prof:  Totally criminal, the treatment he received.

LSS:  That's a good word for it.  That's exactly it, which I'll give you a little anecdote.  Number seven is being put together right now.  In number seven I have three out of the, I think it's seven stories in that one, and the bio on number six and anything else that I've done where there's been credit on it, the bio apparently was written by Bob for them, because it describes how he broke me in, to the extent that I used to do backgrounds.  (chuckle)  I never did a background for him in my life, and in fact when he first hired me it was to work on a joint venture that he said he and Will Eisner were doing.  This goes back to '46 when he first hired me and I was doing pencils and inks on that one.  So it just galled me because the way the portrait was painted was demeaning.

Prof:  Yeah and unfortunately, what I've learned from talking to some of your other colleagues and so forth that's very consistent with the way Bob operated.

LSS:  Oh, yeah.  I'll put it in a very specific framework, and this is the last time that I talked to him that I can recall.  It was around '93 and he had been trying to hawk his biography for 20 years and couldn't get anybody to buy it.  Publish it.  "Batman and Me?"

Prof:  Yes.

LSS:  And I heard that it was finally published and I called him and I said, "Congratulations, Bob."  I said, "Why don't you send me a signed copy?"  And there's dead silence.  And I said, "What's up?"  He said, "Well, you're not in it."  And I said, "Well, that makes perfect sense.  I worked for you for seven years and apparently that wasn't sufficient cause to mention it."  (chuckle)  "Isn't it lucky for me, Bob, I went on to have another career?"  Which is exactly what happened to me.  I got out of…first of all the only comic book work I ever did was Batman and I got out of that in '55, went into an advertising agency and if you've read anything that our good friend Will Eisner wrote about sequential art, it trained me for the film business.

Prof:  I understand you were tremendously successful in those efforts, too.

LSS:  Well, I got the recognition that I never got in the comics, and so in '02 when I was an invited guest to San Diego and got handed an Ink Pot Award by Will Eisner and I must tell you it was a shock.  I never expected that.  But I had a good 40 some odd years in the film business and it did well by me and I got all the recognition that I didn't get in the comic business.  So strange, you know, what goes around comes around.

Prof:  Yeah, and cream always rises.

LSS:  And you know, it's amazing to me, every week, well not every week, but I mean every month, certainly, I've got at least one or two e-mails from somebody, the last one from Germany wanting commission drawings and it's a hoot.

Prof:  It's wonderful.  So you still do commissions on occasion?

LSS:  Yeah, oh yeah.

Prof:  Good.  And you get to sign them.  (chuckle)  

LSS:  Yeah.  You know DC, bless their hearts, I guess they started giving royalties to everybody that did either the pencils or the inking or the writing or the coloring.  Even the letterers.

Prof:  It's high time.

LSS:  Yeah, well they started doing that back in the 70's.  I got a phone call, and this is a funny story, I got a phone call from a guy in Michigan, I think, and he said, "Did you work for Bob Kane?" and I said, "Yeah, many years ago."  He said, "My name is so and so," and he said DC had hired him to begin to try and get a record of who's who.  Well during the course of all of this he suggested that I get in touch with a guy who was sending out the royalty checks and I was in New York for one reason or another and went up there to see him and my God they took me around that place for about an hour.  Every editor knew who I was.  I mean it was just like the strangest experience because by that time I was very committed to the television business and the film business and this is all coming out of nowhere.  (chuckle)

Prof:  I imagine it was a little surreal.

LSS:  Oh it was, absolutely.  And then at the end of the tour, he said, "Wait here."  It was a fun day.  I was with a guy who was handling art for Sotheby auctions for comic art and we waited in the anteroom and he walks out and hands me a check for $6,500 bucks (chuckle), which is very nice.

Prof:  Oh, yeah.  That'll make your day.

LSS:  It's interesting.  At that time they were paying 32 bucks a page for pencils, but that same page after 10 years was paying $2.40 a page.  It dropped considerably.  But the point is I'm not even sure that Marvel pays any royalties.  Maybe they do and maybe they don't.

Prof:  The last time I knew anything, I had the pleasure of talking to Neal Adams about a month ago and of course he did a lot of crusading for artist's rights and so forth, and on his webpage it shows him receiving a residual royalty check from DC and he was castigating Marvel for not following the example.  So I don't think that's changed unless it has very recently.

LSS:  That's amazing, isn't it?  Some of these guys got real money and he's always in there with a big smile and getting credit is Stan Lee.  (chuckle)

Prof:  Oh, yeah.  Carmine Infantino had a few stories to share about Stan with me, too.  He definitely knows how to market himself.  (chuckle)

LSS:  Well, there were those guys who were very proficient in that.  I remember when I left, I had a staff job at King Features from '47 or '48 to '55, I think and I went into an advertising agency called J. Walter Thompson, which at that particular time was a big gun in the ad business.  They hired me primarily because I had drawn Batman and I had, without realizing it, I had been churning out a tremendous amount of product.  I'd never thought about it.

Prof:  It adds up quick, doesn't it?

LSS:  Well, in the course of events, over the last few years, I discovered, I didn't even know this myself, but I did about 115 of the Golden Age stories.  That's quite a body of work.

Prof:  Yes it is.  It's an impressive amount, especially over a relatively short period of time.

LSS:  Six or seven years.

Prof:  You were quite productive.

LSS:  Well on top of that I rode the train three hours a day.  An hour and a half from Connecticut and an hour and a half home and freelanced other stuff.  (chuckle)

Prof:  What did you freelance on?

.LSS:  Oh, I did some magazine illustrations and I did illustrations for a number of newspapers, a newspaper feature called "Disturbia," for about a year.  One of the Sunday sections.  I did a lot of stuff.  The major thing was Batman, of course.  He always complained about it, but he paid me pretty well.

Prof:  I guess so.  When I got a note from Shelly Moldoff he said he was just happy to be working.

LSS:  That's exactly about the size of it.  We were happy to have the work.  We weren't very proud of the fact that...  Listen, my mentor, as a kid, was Caniff, and this guy was a giant in the business and probably one of the most influential cartoonists that ever lived.  Prolific, the amount of work he turned out.  Unbelievable.  But I would never in a million years tell Milt that I was drawing Batman.  That was very demeaning.  I remember sitting…where I lived in Connecticut I lived close to a lot of artists, in Westport, all the great illustrators were living in that area.  One of my neighbors was a guy named Robert Fawcett.  Do you know that name at all?

Prof:  It's not coming to me.

LSS:  Do you remember the famous Artist's school with Norman Rockwell?  Twelve famous illustrators, one of whom was Robert Fawcett.  Brilliant.  He did all the P.G. Wodehouse stories for the Saturday Evening Post and Colliers.  All the Sherlock Holmes.  Possibly, aside from Sickles, probably the most prolific craftsman and just breathtaking art work.  I'm fortunate enough to be able to look up on my wall and I've got a couple of his pieces that are just breathtaking.  I look at them all the time.  Anyway, I was going to tell you a little story.  We became, my wife and I, became friendly with Fawcett and his wife and they came to dinner one night.  He had just signed a contract with the Saturday Evening Post and he said, "It's amazing.  I have seven million people that see my work every month."  Now, that's a pretty good showing, except that I was drawing Batman and there were 20 million.  I would have never dared make any comment like that.  (chuckle) And so it goes.  But can you imagine what a put down that would be?  The newspaper strips always had a status, which is again part of my story.  When I was going to the Art Student's League in New York, my best friend was Murphy Anderson, and we both lived at the YMCA on East 63rd Street for a buck a night.  Worked during the day.  Murphy went into comic book work and I shunned that and I went and became an errand boy for an illustrator's studio and I would always look down the end of my nose at what Murphy was doing and of course you know with the books he became a super star.

Prof:  Oh, yeah.  I saw one of his old Hawkman covers [#1] recently sell for I think it was the low to mid-5-figures.  I was just dumbfounded.

LSS:  Well that day that I was at DC, Jerry Weist, the guy handling comic auctions at Sotheby's and my splash with the Red Hood, I don't know if you're familiar with that story.

Prof:  Oh, yeah, I've got a reprint of it in my collection.

LSS:  Well that splash, which I didn't think much of, but that sold, and I didn't own it, somebody sold it, at the Sotheby auction for $7,500.00 at that time.

Prof:  Wow.

LSS:  So, it's insane.

Prof:  Quite a following for those.  I noticed you followed some of what Jerry Robinson and others have done with the oversized villain on there.  Whose idea was that?

LSS:  The oversized villain?

Prof:  Yeah, that Red Hood splash where it showed of course the Red Hood in the background and then a smaller Batman and Robin swinging in.

LSS:  Yeah, you know what, I think that those are instinctive things that you just do.  For example, if the medium begs for anything that will make it attention-getting…take the gorilla cover, for example.  The Gorilla Boss, [Batman #75, 1953] do you remember that one?

Prof:  Yes, I sure do.

LSS:  Well, the contrast between the small figures and the giant ape just adds to the drama.  But we live in a world of contrasts, don't we?  (chuckle)

Prof:  We surely do, and you're right.  Ultimately that's part of the marketing.  You want someone to be curious enough to plunk down their dime or twelve cents.

LSS:  Yeah.  Exactly right.

Prof:  Did you ever actually meet Bill Finger or know him at all?

LSS:  You know, to my regret, I never did.  I didn't know any of the guys at DC with the exception of Jerry Robinson because Jerry was very active in the cartoonists society, so I got to know Jerry early on and of course Jerry had worked directly for Bob just before Bob hired me.  I'm told that Jerry kept, among the few of us, a lot of that old stuff that he got back.

Prof:  Yeah, that's what I understand.  I think I've seen photos of an old Joker splash page that he did and of course I haven't had the pleasure to talk to him yet, but it seems to me I read somewhere that he claims creation of the Joker and of course Bob does, but of course Bob claims creation of everything.

LSS:  Well, let me put it to you on this basis.  At one point I owned page #4 of the first Joker story and that page was the first appearance of the Joker.  I finally succumbed to an offer for it (chuckle) because it looked like an awful lot of money.  But Bob, you could always tell Bob's work because Bob very rarely drew an arm coming out of an arm pit.  Arms would come out of the waist.  (chuckle)  If you look carefully at his work, and I'm sure you know the difference, the timeframe, if you look, you see arms that have fingers spread and the elbow seems to be attached to the waist.  Just below the line of committal where the border ends, but the arm would never have come from the arm pit.

Prof:  (chuckle)  I think I know what you're talking about.  As I think back, I think I understand exactly what you're saying.

LSS:  That's exactly right.  Bob…let me put it on this basis.  When I was a kid, long before I knew him, I was a Batman fan and I loved the work.  And I liked Bob's work and was drawn to it because it was comic, as opposed to a Neal Adams or any of those guys.

Prof:  Right, not quite as realistic.

LSS:  Getting even further into the blood with Frank Miller, and what a wonderful craftsman Miller is, but, you know, come on.  (chuckle)  These were the comics, not medical charts.  They became so dark and I relate back to one of my influences, who was a guy named Roy Crane.  Are you familiar with Roy Crane?

Prof:  No, I'm sorry, I'm not.

LSS:  Well, if you want to learn about the comic business, this is the guy who invented the adventure strip.  A book came out three or four years ago giving that credit to Hal Foster, but neither Tarzan nor Prince Valiant were ever comic strips if you think about it.  They were illustrated adventures of specific characters and the figures…there was nothing comic about it.  Roy Crane, in 1924, invented a comic strip called Wash Tubbs.  Roy Crane was the father of "Pop!", "Sock!", and "Slam!" outside the panels.  Roy invented it.  He was the first one to take sound and put it on a flat surface.  He created pop art, unbeknownst to him, but he was that unique combination of an incredible craftsman…he was the first guy to come along and use Ben Day chemicals on his stuff.  Roy Crane was the godfather of the comics.  You will see the most…well, when I was a kid I wouldn't miss one of those for all the world.  The most inventive, exciting, beautifully drawn adventures of this little sawed-off guy, Wash Tubbs and Captain Easy.  They were great stuff.  Caniff was the disciple and Crane was one of Caniff's favorite artists. 

Prof:  And he went on to make his own mark, so that says a lot.

LSS:  Well, Crane told me that Hal Foster told him that he used to use his composition, pictorial composition, in Prince Valiant.  Even though it was like apples and oranges, Crane always was the comic.  Do you remember a strip called Buzz Sawyer?

Prof:  Yes.

LSS:  Well, that's Roy Crane.  If you look back to the development of the adventure comic, that's Roy Crane.  These guys were just such masters, they're just great.  I twice started a book on Crane and have never gotten a publisher, but there's just nobody better.

Prof:  He sounds like a most worthwhile study.

LSS:  What had happened was I visited with Crane and I asked about the pop sounds.  He was a very shy Texan and I visited with him in '79 just before he died and he said, "Well, I could show people what was happening, but I wanted them to hear it."  (chuckle)  Isn't that great?

Prof:  I love it.  So a true pioneer.

LSS:  A true pioneer.  A brilliant, brilliant artist.  And character and story-telling?  None better.  If you can find them, get them.  There were a whole series of reprints done by Kitchen Sink years ago, as a matter of fact.

LSS:  Do you have Jerry Robinson's book?

Prof:  I do not.

LSS:  Oh, okay.  Because there's plenty on Crane in that one.

Prof:  I've still got a few gaps in my collection and even though I will always and forever appreciate what Bob Kane did, I haven't quite gotten around to buying his autobiography yet.  (laughter)

LSS:  You want to know what?  Neither have I.  (chuckle)

Prof:  Now I do have Julie Schwartz's and that was interesting reading.  You're not related to him, are you?

LSS:  No and not only that, you know, it's funny, he was one of the few guys that for some reason…I was at a con, maybe five or six years ago and I introduced myself.  He was not friendly.  For whatever reason, I don't know.

Prof:  Oh, how strange.

LSS:  Anyway, I got that feeling and I dropped it, which doesn't mean, that since we didn't know each other, it should have any meaning at all.

Prof:  Yeah, he might have been having a bad day or something, but that's very strange.  Now what about Alvin Schwartz?  Was there any connection with him?

LSS:  That has always been a curiosity to me, because in 1953 or '54, my wife and I built a Tech-built house, which was an MIT design that was very fascinating and advertised at ultimately half of what it wound up costing, but it was an appealing design and one of the people who came to visit us, we had people from all over.  We put the first one up in Connecticut and you'd get up in the morning and go downstairs and there would be people on your terrace looking in.  (chuckle)  But one of the people who came to look at that house was a guy named Alvin Schwartz who was, I thought, the writer, and wrote children's books and I always wondered whether it was the same guy.  I have no way of knowing.  It's funny, though, the one I knew, it was a very superficial relationship.

Prof:  Okay, so you didn't know him well at all.

LSS:  No, but I always wondered when I looked at the products and a lot of the Batman or Catwoman books, you know that have come along since, his name is there a lot, yet I never knew whether it was the same guy.

Prof:  Yeah, that's a good question and as I understand it primarily his work was on the strips rather than the comics themselves.

LSS:  Oh, really?

Prof:  That's what I understand.

LSS:  But he was strictly a writer, wasn't he?

Prof:  I think, but I'm honestly not certain.  I tried sending him an e-mail once and never heard back from him.  Perhaps I should try again.

LSS:  I can't help you there.

Note:  I did make another attempt to contact Alvin Schwartz, with no success, but I located this information, which I forwarded to Lew:



Obviously we were thinking of two different men, but that solves that little mystery.

Also, during some of my web travels I stumbled across some scans of correspondence from Bob Kane that appeared to be written to Lew .  I printed them out and mailed them to him for confirmation and he said they were indeed to him and the drawings were for a new project titled "Dusty Diamond," which was to be a strip about baseball.  Apparently Bob's hopes for hitting another one out of the park, if you'll pardon the pun, didn't come to fruition, but I thought the letters and drawings were very fascinating and I was glad to be able to pass the copies along to Lew as a small gesture of my appreciation. Click on the following links to see the scans: #1, #2, #3 and #4.

I was so very impressed with Lew's quick wit, intelligence and wealth of information that he freely shared.  I enjoyed this interview a great deal and hope you did as well.

The next foray into the Silver Age of DC comics happens here in approximately two weeks and yes, I'm pleased to report that my lucky streak continues and I have another interview in store that you won't want to miss, so please make your way back and in the mean time if you have comments or questions, I'm always glad to hear them at my handy e-mail: professor_the@hotmail.com.

Also, if you've missed any of my previous interviews with creators from both the Golden and Silver Age, just scroll down to the Special Features section below and click on any name of interest.

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2007 by B.D.S.

Interview copy edited by Lew Sayre Schwartz

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



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