A Conversation with Editorial Legend Julius Schwartz
Interview Conducted and Edited by Roy Thomas
Transcribed by Jon B. Knutson
Ego Vol. 3 #7
(Left) Photo of Julius Schwartz which he says was "taken August 10, 1945...
how I looked in my All-Star days!" And yes, he hyphenated "All-Star"!
(Right) Julie's recent memoir, Man of Two Worlds: My Life in Science Fiction
and Comics, written with Brian M. Thomsen, is a 200-page treasure trove for fans
of the Golden and Silver Ages, available at better comics shops, via online booksellers,
and through Bud Plant, among others. [©2000 Julius Schwartz]
[INTRODUCTION: Julie Schwartz needs no introduction to anyone who knows
anything at all about the Silver Age of Comics, since as the original editor
of The Flash, Green Lantern, Justice League of America, Hawkman, The Atom,
The Spectre, et al., from 1956 through the 1970s, he practically invented
the damn thing. Earlier, he was a science-fiction fan, then agent, in the
1930s and early '40s; and from 1944 he was an editor at All-American
Comics and later for DC Comics proper. (All-American, a company which included
all comics featuring Wonder Woman, Flash, and/or Green Lantern, among others,
lasted from 1939 to 1945, when it was wholly absorbed by National/DC; however,
DC's symbol had graced all AA covers during those years except for a
brief time in 1945.)
[Julie, who is one of the people most responsible for (or guilty of, take
your pick) helping Ye Writer/Editor break into the comic book field in 1965,
graciously agreed to be interviewed this past August in conjunction with
The All-Star Companion, and for this issue of Alter Ego. The limited _purpose
of the interview-his first since publication of his memoirs-was
to be the JSA in the 1940s, and to some extent the influential JLA-JSA team-ups
he initiated with writer Gardner F. Fox in 1963.
[My intention in what follows was simply to ask Julie all the questions
I could think of about All-Star and the Golden Age JSA, which he edited from
1944-50. Julie has been swearing for decades that he remembers few details
about individual stories or even the original series; but I felt I had nothing
to lose by asking. Until I did, none of us could ever be certain he might
not, under gentle prodding, recall some detail that had just never occurred
to him before. And, indeed, while Julie is understandably uncertain about
many events now more than half a century in the past, the reader is still
likely to find a few surprises in what follows. I know I did.... -Roy.]
ROY THOMAS: Basically, Julie, what I'd like us to talk about is
the Justice Society, which means mostly All-Star Comics in the 1940s, but to
some extent the JLA-JSA team-ups, as well. We'll send you a free copy
of The All-Star Companion.
JULIUS SCHWARTZ: [laughs] I'd expect that "irregardless"!
All right, go ahead.
RT: You've often told the story of how you bought three comics
on the way to be interviewed at All-American in 1944, and how that's the
only thirty cents you ever spent on comics in your life. Do you know what kind
of comics those three were?
SCHWARTZ: What titles and issues? Only my memory bank knows. I don't.
RT: Well... did they help? With the interview, I mean.
SCHWARTZ: I guess I'd have to answer positively, because when
Shelly Mayer interviewed me, my answers must've been good enough for him
to hire me on the spot! [laughs]
RT: So he did the actual hiring? You didn't meet with [publisher]
SCHWARTZ: No, no, no. Just Shelly. In fact, he offered me $60 a week.
I never thought of mentioning that before. $60 a week was pretty good back
in those days.
RT: 'Twasn't bad. I started out at DC in '65 for only
$100 a week-$110 at Marvel-and that was twenty years of inflation
SCHWARTZ: I must have been doing well enough, because once he'd
offered me $60 a week-it was during the War years-he could not raise
me in salary [due to a Wartime wage freeze], so what he did was give me a $100
a month bonus after a couple of months.
RT: That was really good!
SCHWARTZ: Yeah, that was much more than I was making as a literary
RT: Did the fact that you were a science-fiction fan and reader and
agent probably help you get the job?
SCHWARTZ: It wasn't the fact that I was a fan; it was that I was
a literary agent. Writers would submit scripts to me, and if I liked one well
enough to submit to magazine editors, I had the know-how whether the story
was good or bad. Shelly knew I was well-versed in pulp magazines, with their
strong plots, and that's the type of stories All-American was doing.
RT: Did you know Dorothy Roubicek, whom you replaced as script editor
under Shelly Mayer in 1944?
SCHWARTZ: Very well. She had replaced Ted Udall a couple of years earlier.
You know who Ted Udall is? His real name? If you check the early All-American
Comics, there were several text stories written by "Ted Yigdal." I
believe that's how you spell his real name. He was an editor for Shelly
prior to World War II, and he wrote stories.
Before Ted Udall came along [in 1940-RT], I believe Shelly Mayer may have
gotten some editorial help from-what was the name of that artist who did "Hop
RT: Jon Blummer. He both wrote and drew it, I think.
SCHWARTZ: Well, I think he may have helped Shelly with the editing
for a while, too, earlier. Now, when Ted Udall got drafted [in 1942-RT],
that presumably is when Shelly hired Dorothy Roubicek. What Dorothy had done
before, I have no idea.
The reason Dorothy was leaving in '44 is, she was getting married to a
comic book artist named Walter Galli, and she gave notice; she was just going
to stay another week. As a matter of fact, I think it was a short week. [laughs]
I was hired February 21, 1944, and began working on February 23. February 22
was Washington's Birthday, which in those days was a legal holiday. It
wasn't until years later that we instituted Presidents' Day.
For three days, as I roughly remember, Dorothy briefed me. She advised me that
my main job would be plotting stories and editing them. I would not have to
bother with the artwork, which was a relief. I knew nothing about art.
She left behind a series of index cards containing plot ideas. Hey! Now that
I think of it, I haven't thought about this in years. You're pretty
RT: [laughs] It's a gift, Julie.
SCHWARTZ: She left a series of index cards. If she had to plot an "Atom" story,
she'd go to that index card and come up with a plot she'd already
prepared. I don't think I ever mentioned that to anybody before.
RT: You mean she just thought of ideas for "The Atom," for
this character or that character, in spare moments, and wrote them on index
SCHWARTZ: Right! Let me tell you something about Dorothy. She married
Walter Galli and later divorced him, her second husband, to marry Bill Woolfolk
[prominent comic book writer and later a bestselling novelist]. Let me tell
you an anecdote I probably should've put in my book....
RT: Well, you can put it in the second edition.
The JSA's first meeting in 12 years, as served up by Schwartz, Fox, Sekowsky,
and Sachs; repro'd from a photocopy of the original art, courtesy of Jerry
Bails. [JLA & JSA ©2001 DC Comics.]
SCHWARTZ: This is roughly in the early '90s. After the San Diego
conventions, I used to go up to Los Angeles and spend three or four days with
Harlan Ellison, Gil Kane, and Forrest Ackerman. I'd go to the Golden Apple
comic book shop, and just hang out. I'd stay at the Holiday Inn in Westwood.
One day, exiting the Holiday Inn, to my stunned amazement, I see Dorothy! I
say, "Dorothy?" She says, "Julie?" And we hug each other.
Listen, is Dorothy still alive?
RT: Yes. Bill and her son Don both wrote me recently that she is. [NOTE:
Sadly, Dorothy Roubicek Woolfolk passed away in Dec. 2000.]
SCHWARTZ: I hadn't seen her in twenty years! When she was back
at DC briefly during the 1970s, editing the romance books, I used to go into
her office and talk with her.
RT: You went to work for AA in '44. Later that year, things began
to fall apart between the All-American group and DC. For seven or eight months,
there was an AA symbol instead of a DC one on the books like All-Star, All-American,
Flash, Sensation, Wonder Woman, All-Flash, Green Lantern, and Comic Cavalcade-plus
a few humor and Bible titles-which finally made AA look like what it was-a
totally separate company from DC.
And then, late in '45, suddenly everything folded into DC. It's always
seemed to me like two different periods. Were you aware of what was going on
at the time? And what was going on, precisely?
SCHWARTZ: I was aware of it, but I had no knowledge of what was going
on. All I can recall is, presumably at the end of 1944, Shelly Mayer told me
we were moving uptown to 480 Lex [= Lexington], because we were now part of
DC Comics. We moved uptown, and when you got out of the elevators, as I recall,
the first office was Whit Ellsworth's; next to him were the offices of
Mort Weisinger, Jack Schiff, Murray Boltinoff, and Bernie Breslauer. Did you
know Bernie Breslauer?
RT: Only by name. He used to edit Leading Comics, among other things,
SCHWARTZ: And further down the hall I had my office with Robert Kanigher.
Do you know how Jack Schiff got into DC Comics?
RT: Not really.
SCHWARTZ: Well, lucky you! I'm going to tell you! Because you
just asked me, didn't you?
RT: Yeah, sure. [laughs]
SCHWARTZ: Ask me!
RT: How did Jack Schiff get into DC Comics?
SCHWARTZ: I'm glad you asked me that question. Mort Weisinger
always wanted to be a writer and an editor. So in the early '40s there
was a group of magazines called Standard Magazines; they put out Thrilling
Mystery, and other "Thrilling" magazines. Mort submitted a short
story to Thrilling.
Leo Margulies was the editor-in-chief. The way he worked was: When a script
came in, it was read by a series of assistant editors. If three of them okayed
the story, Leo bought it. So Jack Schiff read this story by Mort Weisinger,
whom he didn't know, and he asked him to come visit him at Standard. And
that's how Mort became an editor there; Schiff was the editor, really,
Later, Mort switched over to editing comics for DC. When he was drafted, he
persuaded Jack Schiff to take his place at DC until he got out of the service.
Mort would get his job back, which was the law at that time. But after the
War, DC had increased its output so much that they needed not only Mort; they
needed to keep Jack Schiff, too. Somewhere along the line he brought in Bernie
Breslauer, who was also an editor at the "Thrilling" group.
RT: It must've been good for you as a science-fiction agent to
have your old friend Mort working for Standard.
RT: When he went to work for Standard, he gave up being an agent with
SCHWARTZ: Mort liked Henry Kuttner, whom he'd met while we were
in California, and I persuaded Kuttner, who'd only been writing stories
for Weird Tales, to write science-fiction. So his first science-_fiction story
was sold to Mort.
Henry Kuttner had a thousand pen names. My favorite one-when he lived
in Hastings-on-the-Hudson, a town on the Hudson River-was Hudson Hastings.
RT: Of course, he and his wife C.L. Moore together were Lewis Padgett.
SCHWARTZ: We're going far afield from All-Star...
RT: That's all right. The thing I was thinking before was-well,
the given story about M.C. Gaines is that at some stage he was fighting so
much with Harry Donenfeld and especially Jack Liebowitz that he insisted on
them buying him out-but it seems to have been done in two stages, or else
why is there more than half a year's worth of a totally separate All-American
SCHWARTZ: I know absolutely nothing about it. All I know is that we
moved uptown, about the end of '44.
RT: Are you sure? The reason I'm wondering is that, during most
of 1945, books were coming out with just an AA symbol...
SCHWARTZ: Wait a second, let me think. Somewhere in the office, I had
a photograph of a big Christmas party in 1945. There's a shot of everyone
who ever worked there... there's a shot of Harry Donenfeld, there was
a shot of a guy who tells me he was Joe Kubert-he was so young at the
time! [laughs] There's a shot of Ted Udall sitting at a table with the
girl I later married.
RT: Really? Where is that picture?
SCHWARTZ: Missing. I was not in the picture, because I went to the
men's room at the time. [laughs] There's a shot of a guy named David
Vern, who wrote a lot of short stuff, and Judge Goldstein, who helped out in
the lawsuit against Fawcett. The original photograph was held by Milt Snappin.
He was originally a letterer, but later he was in charge of the foreign sales
department. He gave me a copy of that photo, and I gave it to Paul Levitz [now
DC's publisher]. So, let's get back to All-Star.
RT: Actually, we never did quite get to it yet! This is all preliminary,
but that's okay-this will be a "Julie Schwartz Golden Age Interview." After
DC took over AA, did you ever get the feeling that the AA people, like you
and Mayer and Kanigher and so forth, were second-class citizens there?
SCHWARTZ: Well, I wouldn't say second-class. Just say-how
can I put it? Maybe we were the junior members. In other words, Mort and company
being there ahead of us were the senior members, and we were the junior members.
But we had no editorial contact with each other, really, not even after Gaines
sold out. We didn't interfere with their magazines, and they didn't
interfere with ours. Mayer was our boss, and Ellsworth was their boss.
RT: Besides All-Star, the other All-American super-hero books were
any comics that featured Flash, Green Lantern, and/or Wonder Woman. Did you
work editorially on all those for a number of years?
SCHWARTZ: On all but Wonder Woman.
RT: I guess Kanigher eventually took over the Wonder Woman stuff, especially
after [co-creator William Moulton] Marston died in '47.
SCHWARTZ: Kanigher got the job, or he took it upon himself. I don't
remember. The way I recall it, on the books I worked on, I did all the plotting
and editing on stories, on the script. Shelly did not interfere with my plotting
RT: Shelly Mayer said that, right up to when he left in '48, he
was still co-plotting with the writers, but I'm wondering if he hadn't
cut down on that some years earlier, and given more of it over to editors like
you and Kanigher.
SCHWARTZ: During my tenure, I don't recall Shelly plotting any
stories with Gardner or Kanigher. After I plotted the story and edited the
script, I would turn it over to Shelly, and Shelly would give it to the artist.
When the artist had done the work, Shelly looked at it, but eventually I'd
RT: So, in some cases, the first he would see of a story was when there
was a completed script?
SCHWARTZ: That's the way it was.
RT: Did Shelly earlier know what the general plot was? After all, when
you're talking about All-Star in particular, you're talking about
practically the whole book being one story.
SCHWARTZ: My recollection is that he did not. He didn't know what
was going on until I handed him the edited script.
RT: So Shelly's memory of co-plotting probably reflects those
earlier years, when he used to plot All-Star with Gardner in the early '40s?
SCHWARTZ: When I plotted with Gardner, there was no co-plotting [by
Shelly], as I recall. You're talking about 55 years ago, and everything
just blurs, and we have to speculate.
I'd like to briefly say, I think my job was to plot the story, edit it,
give it to Shelly, and when the artwork came in, Shelly would look at it and
give it to me and I would proofread it.
RT: That means you were most likely the co-plotter on many of the AA
comics I liked most, including on what I consider the high point of All-Star,
in 1947-48. In late '46, after #34, Gardner Fox quit writing All-Star.
Was he edged off the book?
SCHWARTZ: I've been thinking about that, and I really don't
RT: He mentioned the change as being fairly amicable, but he never
gave any more details.
SCHWARTZ: Let me put it this way: When I first met Gardner, when I
started to work in comics in '44, I persuaded him to write science-fiction,
and I sold maybe half a dozen or more scripts of his to Planet Stories.
RT: He even got his name on the cover once or twice.
SCHWARTZ: This also reminds me-see how you're making me think?
RT: That's my talent, Julie.
SCHWARTZ: Let me tell you something: I persuaded Ted Udall to write,
too. He wrote a number of stories for Weird Tales, published under the name "Charles
King." That would be between '45 and '47.
RT: By the end of '46 Gardner seems to have gone over at least
partly to westerns and humor. One feature he says he worked on was "The
Dodo and the Frog," in Funny Stuff. Did you have editorial duties on the
humor books, too?
SCHWARTZ: Absolutely not.
RT: I didn't think so, but I was curious. You probably worked
with Gardner on some of the westerns he wrote-in All-American Western,
or Western Comics, or later All-Star Western.
SCHWARTZ: When you say "worked with," don't forget Kanigher.
By this time Udall had left, and Kanigher had taken his place. As far as I
can recollect, I was editing the western books, but Kanigher did a lot of writing,
and he may have plotted some of the stories in the westerns. I know he plotted
with Robert Haney a lot. I was in charge of the final layout, you might say-what
stories would appear, and where. I also kept the books. Kanigher never kept
any of the books.
RT: You mean records and things?
SCHWARTZ: Records, yeah. The reason we don't have any records
is, in those days we had what were called-what the hell was that called?
There was a book, maybe half the size of a comic book, in which, if I bought
a story, I would write, "Pay to Gardner Fox for script," I'd
give the title, the payment, and so on, right? I'd tear out the front
page, and that would go to the accounting department, and I would keep the
carbon. When the book was finished, we'd throw it away. So the only record
of what was bought was in Accounting!
DC must now have no records of the '40s, because when they print those
Millennium issues, they say, "Author Unknown" or "Artist Unknown."
RT: #35 and the last nineteen issues of All-Star were written by John
Broome, but there were at least two issues that were scripted by Kanigher.
Would you and Kanigher have co-plotted the issues he wrote?
SCHWARTZ: Sure. I didn't have to put in as much detail as I did
with Gardner or John Broome, because Kanigher was such a good plotter. I knew
what he was doing and I would look it over and edit it, but there's hardly
any editing on Kanigher.
RT: Years ago John Broome told Jerry Bails that he did the issue [#35]
right after Gardner's 32-issue run ended. But then Kanigher evidently
came in for at least two issues, maybe three. Then Broome's records showed
that he did all the rest, from #39 on. Do you know why All-Star would have
bounced from Broome to Kanigher to Broome?
SCHWARTZ: I don't remember. No recollection.
RT: There was a period of nine issues [#33-41] which were very good-Gardner
Fox's last two stories, then Broome's and Kanigher's. At the
same time, the art was getting better. Was there a conscious effort to try
to upgrade the book starting in late '46 and in '47? Over a fairly
short period, suddenly Irwin Hasen and Alex Toth and Lee Elias and Carmine
Infantino all came in, and some of the _earlier guys were eased out-while
Joe Kubert just kept getting better. All those people were in place when Shelly
RT: One guy who also came in around this time, but became more prominent
after Shelly left, was Arthur Peddy, who was mostly teamed with Bernie Sachs
SCHWARTZ: Yeah, I can't remember when they came in. Did they work
RT: Oh, yeah! Not only did they do many of the covers; they even penciled
and inked entire issues. Peddy and Sachs did more work in the last two years
of All-Star than any other artist or team.
SCHWARTZ: Really? I don't remember that. They did the covers?
RT: Most of them. Well, according to Craig Delich, Bob Oksner confirmed
that he inked one of Peddy's covers, but mostly Bernard Sachs inked them.
SCHWARTZ: Oksner did an All-Star cover? Really? I don't remember
that. You've surprised me.
RT: Another guy who did some work on All-Star in the last year was
Frank Giacoia. He's noted mostly as an inker, but he seems to have done
some nice penciling in All-Star and on "Atom" stories in Flash, and
later he did the early "Strong Bow" in All-Star Western.
SCHWARTZ: I think a lot of the stuff he did was ghosted by Mike Sekowsky.
I'm just guessing.
RT: It might have been, though I'm more aware that Mike ghosted
Frank's penciling later, like on the Sherlock Holmes newspaper strip.
SCHWARTZ: On much of Frank's syndicate stuff, he had a lot of
RT: Yeah. I worked with Frank at Marvel, and he was very insecure in
his penciling, like on one Avengers we did together, because everything had
to be swipes. He was a great inker, so maybe he'd get an assignment as
penciler and then get somebody else to do it for him. But whether or not he
did that as early as on All-Star #54-57...
SCHWARTZ: All I can tell you is an anecdote about Frank Giacoia. Ready?
I should've put it in the book, but I never thought of it. Frank Giacoia
was late, late, late, late. On one occasion he was getting married to a girl
named Celeste, and I went to the wedding. And after the ceremony was over,
I told Frank, "You cannot go on your honeymoon. I've reserved a room
at a hotel. You're staying there until you finish the goddamn story." [laughs]
Every time I saw Celeste years later, she'd say, "I'll never
forgive you for not letting me go on my honeymoon!"
RT: I don't blame her! About All-Star: I noticed that some of
those primo 1947-48 issues I love had a looser format than the earlier ones.
Do you recall any conscious plan to make the book a bit looser, a bit less
RT: Now, I have a bunch of specific questions about particular issues
of All-Star-you probably won't remember them, but I'll ask anyway,
just in case they stir something. In the first story Broome wrote [#35], there
was a time villain, Per Degaton, a really good character who looked like a
short Napoleon type in a stormtrooper outfit....
SCHWARTZ: Was he out of another time?
RT: No, he was a lab assistant who stole a time machine. What's
interesting to me is, he changed the outcome of a particular battle between
Alexander the Great and the Persians. I'm curious: Who was the history
buff who came up with that, do you think? Would that have been you, or Broome?
SCHWARTZ: Oh, no! Not me!
RT: Did John read much history? Important as it was, the Battle of
Arbela isn't one of the most famous battles, nowadays.
A "family portrait" of the full roster of the Justice Society, by Murphy
Anderson. [JSA drawing ©2001 DC Comics.]
SCHWARTZ: That's way beyond me. John was extremely well-read,
he was well-versed in everything. He went into all forms of literature and
art. He was a-how can I say it? He was always kind of afraid of himself.
For a while, I didn't know that he was an artist! An amateur artist, but-of
course, you know about his traveling. Eventually he left DC and went to Israel,
Taiwan, Japan, Paris. He went all over; he sure loved to travel!
RT: All-Star #36 is the one about whose writer we're not certain.
This was the one where suddenly Superman and Batman guest-star. Do you have
any idea as to why they might have been shoehorned into the JSA, especially
just for one issue?
SCHWARTZ: I don't know.
RT: Issue #37 has an idea you'd have thought would have happened
a long time before, an Injustice Society. Of course, you used that idea later
in Justice League. Do you know how that happened? That was a Kanigher story.
SCHWARTZ: It just came about.
RT: It must've worked, because there was another one only four
issues later. Then there was the issue [#38] where almost all the JSAers died,
or seemed to. It's never been reprinted....
SCHWARTZ: Let me tell you something about the JSA stories that were
never reprinted. There's a possibility-When I was hired by Shelly,
he said, "You really have no deadline worries, because we're three
issues ahead on everything." So eventually, when All-Star was cancelled,
there were three issues still hanging around!
RT: But he'd been gone for two or three years by the time All-Star
SCHWARTZ: What I can't remember at all is whether any of the material
that was hanging around was done even before I was hired. Some of the stories
you mentioned, I have no recollection of. Some of those stories may have been
bought by Shelly as inventory.
RT: They still had to be done no earlier than 1945 or '46, though,
because the unpublished issue of All-Star that partly exists has Flash and
Green Lantern in it.
SCHWARTZ: I have no knowledge of it.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: For more on the "lost issues" of All-Star, especially
the dozen-plus extant pages of the unpublished 1945 JSA tale "The Will
of William Wilson," see The All-Star Companion, published December 2000
by TwoMorrows. End of shameless plug!]
RT: "The Will of William Wilson" isn't the greatest
story in the world-but throwing away two, three, four stories means a
lot of money being wasted, when you take a whole issue that's basically
written and drawn, and you don't publish it.
SCHWARTZ: Presumably you could write it off. Financially, if you buy
something and don't use it, you could take it off your taxes.
RT: And they did. The date "September 30, 1949" is stamped
on a lot of the pages that were "written off."
Broome also wrote an All-Star [#40] about juvenile delinquency. Some of us
are tempted to see Kanigher's hand in that one, because Black Canary is
so prominent in it, and he's the one who created her. But #40 was evidently
scripted by Broome. It's an unusual story, with no super-villains, just
hoodlums and kid gangs, with the Justice Society trying to help the kids go
SCHWARTZ: How it came about, I don't know-whether anyone
suggested it, or it just came to us out of the blue.
Let me ask you a question out of the blue: Fifteen, twenty years from now,
when you are interviewed about your editorship at Marvel, are you going to
RT: I don't remember everything now. Some things I remember crystal
clear, and others-well, they may as well have happened on the dark side
of the moon.
SCHWARTZ: You'll say, "Julie was right!" When you get
to be-and I hope you do-in your eighties. I don't remember what
I did fifty years ago.
RT: I think people remember what's important to them. Some things
you just do for a living, and you don't think about them that much. If
the actual comics didn't still exist, there'd be no memory of any
of this at all.
In one issue [#41], there was this whole thing about stealing the Freedom Train,
which was another John Broome story.
SCHWARTZ: I vaguely recall that.
RT: For some reason, the name was changed to the "Liberty Train." In
this same story-and this is even weirder!-the name of the Liberty
Bell is changed to the "Freedom Bell"! Why in the world would you
change the name of the Liberty Bell?
SCHWARTZ: No idea. You're really going into trivia, huh?
RT: Well, I figure that all the broad strokes have already been written
about All-Star, over the years. What I wanted to do in The All-Star Companion
was a book that really examines the comic under a _microscope. Only with affection.
Isn't that what you expect from a "companion"-affection?
SCHWARTZ: You ought to call your book A Thousand and One Things You
Never knew about All-Star Comics!
RT: Oh, there are more things in it than that, Julie! [laughs] Moving
on: With issue #42, and for the last 16 issues through #57, Shelly Mayer was
gone and Whit Ellsworth officially became editor. At this time, there's
very much a change in the feel of All-Star. I was wondering if he had any active
part in it, or did he just leave it up to you?
SCHWARTZ: Let me tell you something: Whit Ellsworth never saw my covers
before they appeared. I never had an okay from him. We just did covers and
they went out that way.
RT: I get the idea he was a little more hands-on, maybe, with some
of the DC stuff than he was with what he had inherited from AA.
SCHWARTZ: He gave us complete liberty. I'm not even sure he read
the comics before they came out.
RT: When Shelly left, Ellsworth had almost twice as many books to oversee,
but DC didn't put you guys' names in the indicia. They just had you
and Kanigher keep doing the work, while Ellsworth was the official editor.
SCHWARTZ: I don't think Whit Ellsworth even interfered with Mort
and Jack Schiff. The only thing Whit Ellsworth did, for me-
Mort and Schiff had a book called Big Town. For some reason Ellsworth didn't
like the way it was going, so he turned it over to me. When I say "me," I
mean Kanigher and me, but I did it. The same thing with the western comics.
If Whit didn't like the way the western comics were going, he turned them
over to the Schwartz and Kanigher team. Whenever I did a cover, I never had
a prior okay from Whit.
RT: There were some good ones! One of the things that happened at this
time is that, starting with #42, the stories tended to become-and I enjoyed
some of them tremendously-a bit more formula-ized again, with the JSA
together at the beginning and end, and splitting up into teams in the middle
of the book.
Also, there's a lot of science-fiction in that last couple of years. Is
that because of your and Broome's own inclinations, or was it the feeling
that science-fiction was the wave of the future?
SCHWARTZ: No, we never thought it was the wave. We just liked doing
science-fiction! Don't forget, I used to be John Broome's agent before
he went into comics.
RT: There was also one issue in which the villain was supposed to be
a surviving Billy the Kid. Was this because westerns were big at the time?
SCHWARTZ: Oh, what the hell... I'll say yes!
RT: [laughs] You realize I'm asking you a lot of these things
just as a technicality. I don't expect you to remember everything-there's
no reason why you should-but I don't want to take the chance that
you do remember something I'd like to know, and I simply neglect to ask
the question that brings it out!
For the first few years you were editing All-Star, the Justice Society worked
out of Gotham City, same as Batman. Then, in #44, they went out west for "Evil
Star over Hollywood"-you revived Evil Star years later-and when
they came back, they came back to a new place for the last couple of years,
called Civic City! Do you remember why?
SCHWARTZ: What was the name of that city again?
RT: Civic City.
SCHWARTZ: I have no recollection. What you ought to do, Roy, is to
keep records of everything you do, because fifty years later, somebody's
going to ask you about it, and you won't have the answer. _Seriously!
RT: I'm always glad when people do keep records. I wish I had
a chance to go over all Gardner Fox's pay records. He donated them to
the University of Oregon in Eugene. I've received copies of some of them
from Michael T. Gilbert and others.
SCHWARTZ: Why to Eugene, Oregon?
RT: It was an idea of Gardner's agent, August Lenniger, probably
for a tax break. For example, I saw on them that sometime in the early 1940s,
Gardner got a $600 bonus for All-Star, which would have been a huge sum then.
I guess the book was selling really well! Those records also show that Gardner
did a lot more writing for DC strips like "Green Arrow" and others
than we thought.
SCHWARTZ: I would like you to solve the following problem, Roy. I'm
giving you an assignment, okay? Here it is:
Gardner Fox and [original DC editor] Vin Sullivan were schoolmates together,
and when Vin Sullivan persuaded Gardner to start writing for comics, he wrote
several stories for Sullivan, right? Even some "Batman"?
RT: Right. I believe he said a "Zatara" was his first story.
SCHWARTZ: So how did he wind up at All-American Comics?
RT: I've often wondered the same thing, because he did start with
DC, and later the majority of his writing was for the AA group. I don't
know the answer.
SCHWARTZ: I have a similar question: How come Bill Finger, who wrote
so many stories for Vin Sullivan, and was always late-how come he would
end up at All-American Comics doing "Green Lantern" and "Wildcat"?
RT: [laughs] Maybe he had to jump from one company to another where
someone didn't know he was always late!
SCHWARTZ: When Bill Finger was writing "Wildcat" and "Green
Lantern," I don't think he was doing anything for Vin Sullivan or
RT: Well, of course, Sullivan by then was long gone, first to Columbia,
and then by the late '40s he started his own company, Magazine Enterprises.
SCHWARTZ: But it is an interesting problem-how two of the main
writers that started at DC wound up exclusively at All-American. I think once
Gardner started with Shelly, he didn't write anything for DC.
RT: I don't know how exclusive it was, but they certainly did
the majority of their work there.
SCHWARTZ: It's possible that Bill Finger went back and forth,
but since he was always so late on Batman, how come he was allowed to spend
all that time at AA? Also, how many Golden Age "Green Lantern" stories
did Bill Finger write?
RT: It's hard to say, isn't it? A lot of the early ones,
of course, but after a while there were no credits anymore.
SCHWARTZ: When Bill Finger wasn't writing the early "Green
Lantern" stories, who was writing them? When Alfred Bester took over as
writer, was Finger writing them up to that point?
RT: You're asking me? You were the editor! Craig Delich has written
an article, which will be in the same issue of Alter Ego as this interview,
about all the different versions of Green Lantern's oath back in the middle '40s.
SCHWARTZ: I guarantee, Bester did write "In brightest day, in
RT: I'm talking about the ones in between. There were several
other variations for a brief time there.
SCHWARTZ: Did I explain in my book that Bill Finger taught Alfred Bester
how to write comics? When Al Bester was persuaded to write DC Comics by Mort
Weisinger, he put him in touch with Bill Finger, and Bill Finger taught Bester
how to write for comics.
RT: Yeah, I think you've got that in there. So everybody should
buy your book and read the full story. I know you want me to say that, Julie,
but I will anyway-because they should!
Anyway, about all those science-fiction issues of All-Star: I noticed that
one of them, "Invasion of the Fire People," owes a lot to Orson Welles' War
of the Worlds radio broadcast. Did you hear that back in 1938?
SCHWARTZ: Oh, I heard the original, yeah.
RT: Of course, All-Star #49 came ten years later, but a lot of things
in it came straight out of that broadcast. About this time, too, you started
printing "JSA Laboratory" pages, where some member of the Justice
Society would tell how to do some simple science experiment. Do you know how
these came about?
SCHWARTZ: I don't recall if I wrote them or not.
RT: One story, "The Gun That Dropped through Time" [#53],
in 1950-that was Broome, too, of course, and it had this wonderful _theory
of "time ledges"-that time was like a mountain, and if something
fell through time, it would stop for a little while on each of several ledges,
each a different era. I've been trying for years to learn if that theory
came from any particular science-fiction story.
SCHWARTZ: All I know is, it's all Broome.
RT: Just three issues before the end [#55], in "The Man Who Conquered
the Solar System," you had a Professor Napier-I guess that name came
from Edgar Rice Burroughs' Carson Napier [Carson of Venus]. There were
elements in that issue, too, from H.P. Lovecraft's story "Whisperer
in Darkness." Did you read Lovecraft, besides acting as his literary agent
back in the '30s?
SCHWARTZ: Oh, sure! I never could read his long stories. I would only
read the short stories.
RT: But hey, it was his longest story that you sold, Julie-his
short novel At the Mountains of Madness! And the other HPL story you sold, "The
Shadow Out of Time," was one of his longer short stories, too!
SCHWARTZ: Prior to that, he'd been writing since 1923, so-all
I can say is, I liked things like "The Rats in the Walls" and "Pickman's
Model." I was not a devout Lovecraft fan. I couldn't read them fast
enough. I was a fast reader, and you couldn't read Lovecraft fast!
RT: It is sometimes a little like wading through molasses.
The Justice Society meets Crime Syndicate in JLA #30- repro'd from
original art, from the collection of Roy Thomas. [©2001 DC Comics.]
RT: The last issue of All-Star [#57] was called "The Mystery of
the Vanishing Detectives." People have wondered for years, did any of
you know this was going to be the last issue and thus give it that title?
SCHWARTZ: My guess is, we did not know.
RT: At this point you and the writers and artists made up various features
for All-Star Western, like "The Trigger Twins" and "Strong Bow" and "Don
SCHWARTZ: Yeah. Kanigher wrote "The Trigger Twins," I'm
pretty sure of that. But otherwise I can't remember who wrote what. When
did All-Star Western begin?
RT: You'd have prepared the stories in mid- to late 1950.
SCHWARTZ: I may have records of those. My recollection is that I started
keeping records roughly about that time.
RT: Gil Kane drew "Don Caballero," and Frank Giacoia-whether
by himself or not-did "Strong Bow" for a few issues.
The last few questions I wanted to ask you are about the revival of the JSA
in the early '60s. Why do you think the Justice Society was basically
revived, renamed the Justice League, after only two old DC heroes-Flash
and Green Lantern-had been brought back in new form? Was this something
that came up in an editorial meeting? Do you recall how it happened that this
was the time DC decided to come out with a group again?
SCHWARTZ: After The Flash proved successful, they said, "What
do you want to do next?"
I said, "I want to do 'Green Lantern' because that was really
a favorite of mine."
When "Green Lantern" proved successful, they said, "What do
you want to do next?"
I said, "I'd like to do 'The Justice Society of America,' but
I don't like the word 'Society,' because it's like a social
group, and I want to use the word 'League,' because it's a more
familiar word to young readers, like the National League, American League."
And that's how that happened.
RT: I guess by then, with Flash and Green Lantern and the handful of
pre-existing DC characters, you felt you had enough heroes to make up a whole
SCHWARTZ: How many members did I have?
RT: You had seven, but of course you didn't show much of Superman
SCHWARTZ: I explained that in my book.
RT: Okay, everybody-buy the book! Of course, before long, you
brought in Green Arrow, too, and later the new Atom and Hawkman.
Even after Justice League started, Jerry Bails and I, and I'm sure other
people, suggested bringing back the JSA itself. And yet, when you actually
did it, you did it in a unique way, with this parallel world business. Do you
remember how it came about-why that particular way of bringing the JSA
back? Did it grow out of that issue of Flash Comics we'd seen Barry Allen
reading back in Showcase #4?
SCHWARTZ: Well, as you remember, when Barry Allen realized he had super-powers,
and was thinking what he wanted to do with them, he remembered the old Flash,
and at that point, I said, "There's a second Earth." And when
I used the term "second Earth" to think about what I would call this
Earth, I said, "Earth-Two," because it was the second Earth. It should
have been the other way around, of course.
RT: Yeah, but that's okay. Nobody cared. The main thing is, it
was a great idea.
SCHWARTZ: Well, I care! Of course, I had to go to Earth-Three, and
eventually to Earth-Prime. But Earth-Two should've been Earth-One, let's
get that straight!
What better portrait exists of J.S. himself than Joe Kubert's immortal illo
for the cover of Amazing World of DC Comics #3? You can't beat perfection!
[©2001 DC Comics.]
RT: Here's something I've been wondering for years: Except
for a few very early stories by Kanigher, including the origin, John Broome
had written all the Flash stories. Yet, suddenly, when you _decided to revive
the original Flash-which both Broome and Kanigher had also written at
times in the '40s-do you know why Gardner Fox wound up writing "Flash
of Two Worlds" instead of Broome? #123 was the first new Flash story that
SCHWARTZ: Let me ask you: Was John Broome on a limited schedule then?
Was he still around?
RT: Yes, because he came back and wrote most of the Flash issues for
some time after that single story. He was just off the book for an issue now
SCHWARTZ: Sorry, I can't recall.
RT: Originally, did you have any thought that the Earth-Two stories
might become a regular thing, as they did especially in Justice League after
the initial "Crisis" story?
SCHWARTZ: Correct me if I'm wrong-when I did the "Crisis
on Earth-One"/"Crisis on Earth-Two" story, which is a two-parter,
I believe that was the first time a Justice League story hadn't been completed
in one issue.
RT: Except for the Felix Faust story.
SCHWARTZ: When the second "Crisis" issue appeared, I took
up the whole front [splash] page with a summary of what happened before.
RT: With all those heads!
SCHWARTZ: Wasn't that a great idea? I wish they'd do that
RT: It was like a scorecard. With that many characters, you needed
SCHWARTZ: When I see a Batman or some other comic nowadays, and it
says, "Part 4 of a 6-part Story," you've got to brief the reader.
You've got to put somewhere at the beginning about what went on before,
and who the characters are.
In the old days the pulp magazines like Argosy would run two or three serials
in the same issue, and they'd always lead off with a page or more of what
happened before! I was brought up on pulp magazines, and that's where
I got it from.
RT: It was a good idea, because it allowed people to get into the story.
Two-parters were pretty rare in those days. Was there any resistance from the
higher-ups to the idea of a two-issue story?
SCHWARTZ: No! No one raised any objection. I was allowed to do what
I wanted to do.
RT: And what you wanted to do made for some very good comics. Thank
you very much, Julie.
SCHWARTZ: Thanks. Say hello to Dann for me.
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