It was 39 Years Ago Today

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Dick Giordano as he looked when I joined DC in 1984.

Sometime in June 1983, I was told Comics Scene was being canceled. My newly hired managing editor, Patrick Daniel O’Neill, would be laid off while I would be reassigned within Starlog Press. This reduced me to being the in-house traffic manager for the boxing and pro wrestling magazines being produced by freelance editors. I was also going to help publisher Kerry O’Quinn with his nascent and short-lived, car mag. Whatever time was left would be given to Starlog or associate publisher Milburn Smith’s licensed movie and TV titles.

I was not happy.

So not happy that I made it clear to people I knew at DC Comics and Marvel Comics that I was looking for a new gig. Carol Kalish, Marvel’s Direct Sales guru, brought me in to talk about working with her, but we both agreed it was likely not a good fit (which turned out well, since she hired Steve Saffel instead and shows what a strong choice that was).

I wrangled Starlog into sending me to the San Diego Comic-Con that August, where I managed a half hour with Dick Giordano, DC’s Executive Editor. Although I knew and respected his work, we hadn’t met until Paul Levitz’s wedding three years earlier. We then interacted now and then, thanks to Comics Scene so he got to know me. He thought there might be something at year end, he had some ideas, but couldn’t commit to anything (especially with his impatient wife Marie in the background trying to get him to leave for dinner).

The floor plan at 666 Fifth Avenue as created by Todd Klein. When I arrived, the office on the right marked Wolfman, Colon and part-timers became Alan Gold, Karen Berger, and me. A year or so later, we expanded further across the eighth floor, marked new construction later.
Design Director Neal Pozner, who I had known through NY fandom since the 1970s.

In December, I finally got a call, inviting me to DC to talk about coming on board as an associate editor, to work exclusively with Len Wein and Marv Wolfman on the still-evolving Crisis on Infinite Earths and Who’s Who projects. He explained that they had begun doing more hiring from elsewhere within publishing, pointing to editors Janice Race and Alan Gold along with managing editor Tom Condon. I’d make a good fit, given my magazine experience plus my in-depth comics knowledge.

An offer was extended and accepted and on January 9, 1984, thirty-nine years ago today, I first walked into the DC offices, was  full-time employee. Previously, in the summer of 1980, Paul Levitz kindly hired me as summer help, bridging the gap between graduation and Starlog Press (a post for another time). Todd Klein does a brilliant job recounting the DC Offices through the years, notably the years I was there.

Managing Editor Tom Condon, brought in from traditional publishing to help the company grow and evolve. Editorial’s non-traditional behaviors drove him crazy.

As it happened, Dick was so busy we didn’t talk until my second day. Instead, I was told I was getting Marv’s half-desk in a room already occupied by Alan and Karen Berger. Someone, I forget who, showed me the small warren of offices at 666 Fifth Avenue and I had to go to security to have a photo ID taken. There were several people in various departments I had met in 1980 and who made me feel welcome, including old fanzine pals Mike Flynn and Neal Pozner, and Andy Helfer, who was also summer help in 1980 but was given a full-time role.

After that, I was given two mammoth three-ring binders that Peter Sanderson maintained as he meticulously read every comic the company had published between 1935 and 1983. All of this was to prepare for our 50th anniversary projects and were now mine to use. Pretty quickly, it became clear I was an early bird like Janice and Alan. We’d arrive, brew coffee and chat for a bit on the long couch in the shared office and it was a terrific way to get things rolling.

It was several years later when I learned that I was Plan B. The original idea was to lure Denny O’Neil back to DC after his falling out with EIC Jim Shooter. Denny was having health issues and didn’t want to jeopardize his health insurance so grit his teeth and stayed, ultimately coming over at the end of 1985.

There was no knowing what lay ahead of me that first day. I do know that as someone who began reading comics with Superman in 1964, this was the ultimate fanboy dream come true.

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8 thoughts on “It was 39 Years Ago Today

  1. Sounds like you had a much better first day than I did. Not really knowing the subway systems, I walked from the Port Authority–in the pouring rain. After toweling off, Jonathan Peterson showed me to the office I’d be sharing with Julia–Nelson’s old office, fittingly enough–and Dick himself gave eager little me my first assignment. Would I be reading over upcoming Secret Origins stories? Perhaps putting together some lettercols, or sitting in on an important meeting?

    No. He had me erase the under-ink pencils from Green Arrow #1. All day. For two days.

  2. I woulda sworn you were in the office marked ‘proofreader’ across from Dick and Pat, but old age memory might be playing tricks from a later different office building. Also remember you sharing space with Barbara (Kesel) at some point..

    1. You’re off by five years. When the proofreader moved from that space, Jonathan Peterson moved in as Editorial Coordinator and then I replaced him in 1989.

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