It was 40 Years Ago Today…

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I’ve thought about this column long before the “How long have you been in comics” meme began circulating on social media. After all, today is a very special day for me. It was 40 years ago that I officially joined the staff at DC Comics, where I would stay for 16 wonderful years (returning a little later for another four mostly wonderful years).

I detailed most of those early days in a post last year.

But I don’t know how many of you know that my first DC credit was four years earlier. In May 1980, I was graduating from SUNY-Binghamton, and my job at Starlog Press wasn’t going to begin until September. I happened to mention this to my friend Paul Levitz, who at the time was DC’s Editorial Coordinator. He kindly offered me a summer post since he thought I might be good for a project he had in mind.

So, around the beginning of June, I was reporting to 75 Rockefeller Plaza and was sharing a small, glassed-in office with the newly hired Andy Helfer. Jenette Kahn brought him on to help her create a program to celebrate Wonder Woman’s 40th anniversary. We got along really well, which was essential given the cramped quarters.

Courtesy of Bob Rozakis, a shot from the 1985 DC Retreat. Seated, from the left, are Chantal d’Aulnis, who was the head of the Foreign Publishing department; Lisa Saladino, one of our Production artists and the daughter of famed letterer Gaspar Saladino; me; Audrey (?), who was a member of the licensing department; and Lionel Martinez, another licensing department member.  Standing behind us are Julie Schwartz, Paul Levitz; and Diane Perla, a long-time member of the Accounting department.

Paul wanted a property catalog created for Chantal d’Aulnis, the newly hired head of international licensing (it wasn’t long before DC reacquired those rights from an agent, Carroll Rheinstrom, who had just retired). So, I was assigned to the Print Library and needed to create one-pagers about each character in the company’s publishing history. I, of course, began with the A’s and found myself taken with the Hop Harrigan stories I found in All American Comics #1 (April 1939).

I was in heaven. Sitting and reading comics (which foreshadowed my work on Who’s Who) and getting to know librarian Mark Hannerfeld was cool. I’d help him unbox and assemble the comp bundles that arrived weekly, which was a wonderful perk.

Andy and I delighted in eavesdropping on the loud plotting sessions between Robert Kanigher and Murray Boltinoff when I was in our office. Not that Murray was loud. He was soft-spoken and calm, but as he poked holes in Kanigher’s ideas, the writer raised his voice for emphasis. Slowly, I got to know the various editors, from Jack C. Harris to Julie Schwartz to Joe Orlando, who was in the process of developing his special projects department with Laurie Sutton.

One day, Harris came to me and needed something to run on the inside back cover of a forthcoming World’s Finest Comics digest and suggested that since I was already combing through the bound books, I could create a list of every feature to appear in the title.

Anyone who bought DC Special Series #23, World’s Finest Comics Digest, which went on sale November 25 that year, would have seen my credit on the inside back cover. (I am forever grateful to Jack for the opportunity, and he is happy to remind me of that every time we see one another).

Also on sale that day was DC Special Series #24 The Flash Digest. Ensconced in a small office was Ross Andru, who was done editing for the most part, and he was happily drawing covers for the company. He was so gracious with his time, chatting, telling me stories, and answering questions about his career. At one point, as he began work on the cover, he needed a reference to verify if the Elongated Man story in that book needed the mask or not. I was too happy to go and check. Later, when the artwork was returned to him, he gifted it to me just before I departed for Starlog.

There are plenty of other stories from that summer, but I’ll save that for another time.

Forty years ago, I was an assistant editor, working with Len Wein and Marv Wolfman as we prepared for Who’s Who and Crisis on Infinite Earths. However, I had time on my hands and quickly found myself assisting them on their other editorial projects. Always behind, Len asked me to help him with his letter columns, and for the next few years, I regularly wrote the columns for Batman, Detective Comics, and Green Lantern. As a result, my first official credit as a staffer turned out to be in Detective Comics #543, which went on sale on July 3, 1984.

The memories and friendships I made there are cherished ones, and I miss those early years.

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