DC’s Move West Brings Back Memories
I have no recollection of who my father met while a salesman for IBM, but one day he announced that he arranged a tour of the DC Comics offices. I flashed back to that sense of wonder as the news spread across the Internet that after 75-plus years, the comic book publisher was going to be following the Dodgers to Los Angeles.
At the time I visited in 1971, the company was still at 909 Third Avenue and I was shown around by Carol Fein, who was then a secretary for Carmine Infantino. She did this so often through the years that by the time I joined staff in 1984 and she worked for Jenette Kahn, there was no way she could recall this one incident. But I remember it. I must have been 14 and the corporate offices looked unlike any place I had seen before (and I never did visit Dad at IBM so had no basis of comparison at the time). It resembled offices I saw on television shows, with comic books replacing flow charts and spreadsheets covering the desks. As we stood in Robert Kanigher’s office, Infantino himself brushed by, cigar leading the way. I got a quick nod and he kept going. In a spare office, Neal Adams was hunched over a drawing board, pencilling the cover to World’s Greatest Super-Heroes. The highlight though was being taken into the austere library where Mark Hannerfeld made my eyes pop by casually grabbing a volume from the drawer and let me thumb through the first few issues of All-Star Comics – from the 1940’s!
The company moved to 75 Rockefeller Plaza soon after and I would visit there a few times during the years. The coffee room that was the hub of freelancer life at 909 was gone and the place always felt on the tight side. But when I was hired in 1980, the company had grown and it was definitely tight. I was summer help that year, stuffed in a small, glassed-in office with Andy Helfer. The best part of working in such tight space was that we were across the hall from Murray Boltinoff and heard him and Kanigher plot, yell, debate, and argue with one another. We were visited regularly by Bob Haney, in his final years as a writer, and he’d regale us with stories. Newcomer J.M. DeMatteis would also hang with us while waiting for editors to be free and I think we both envied his early success.
When I was hired for good in 1984, they had relocated to 666 Fifth Avenue, once more sharing the floor with another company. As the company thrived under Kahn’s guidance, the staff continued to grow and no matter how they rearranged the space, it was never enough. That didn’t stop Bob Rozakis from staging numerous morale events highlighted by his Easter egg hunt. He’d make us all file into the hallway, lock the doors, and hide the plastic eggs. When I arrived, I had a half desk, formally used by part-time editor Marv Wolfman, sandwiched between Alan Gold and Karen Berger. In time, I took over Karen’s desk and when Alan moved on, shared the room with Mark Waid and then Barbara Kesel and others. I didn’t have a place to call my own until I became Editorial Coordinator and then stuffed it with a computer desk that was too big for the space available.
I recall with vivid delight being among the first staffers to see 1325 Avenue of the Americas where we would have two whole floors to ourselves. We’d each have nice offices, with new furniture and room to grow. At the time, though, we reported to Warner Bros and Bob Daly’s secretary was given the task of helping us decorate the new corporate space. It was a hierarchical design and I happened to merit a floor plant. I didn’t want it and kept moving it in to the hall for the custodial staff to move but they kept putting it back. This was one fight I won and it soon vanished to the astonishment of local management.
But all good things come to an end and while I was away from DC, the company moved once more, this time to 1700 Broadway, now the final New York address. I returned in 2002 and started on the seventh floor and was relocated down to three as the company made adjustments to new management structures. The five floors were just a tad too much for us and part of the fourth floor was rented out to other Warner divisions until we grew and finally needed the space.
After I left in 2006, the company continued to chug along until the current regime took over and split things between two coasts. I contended then that DC would always maintain NY space since so much of their business is based in New York plus a cadre of freelancers was still in the area and it made all manner of sense. Apparently, someone crunched the numbers and came to a different conclusion.
I’ll miss have a set of offices, staffed by friends, where I could visit whenever I was in town. I’ll miss the friends who choose to relocate in the coming years. I’ll miss the friends who choose to stay put and find other work. I know I have some photos of me at some of the offices and need to unearth them — should I prove successful, they’ll be posted here.
The addresses still conjure memories for mew but to the casual reader and the current base of freelancers, it changes little. Still and all, a change this substantive is time to pause and reflect, sifting tea leaves and seeing what memories have been stirred and what events may come next.