"Thank You & Good Afternoon!" Talkin'
Conducted by & © Jon B. Cooke
Book Artist #1
This interview was conducted in Dick Giordano's Connecticut home
and in a nearby restaurant on December 27, 1997. It was copy-edited
COMIC BOOK ARTIST: When did you start reading comics?
DICK GIORDANO: I was ill as a child, so my mother and father
made sure I had reading material to keep me occupied. My father came
home with the first copy of Famous Funnies and that got me hooked.
I was mesmerized by the art form and started drawing when I was six
CBA: Did you go to art school?
Dick: New York City had a progressive school system and I went
to art school at the High School of Industrial Art-but they talked
me out of taking the "comic books" course, saying that it
wasn't a viable field. I majored in illustration and advertising art,
and I put together a portfolio (which I have to this day) that's just
loaded with drawings of handbags, couches and shirts. Fresh out of
school in 1951, I coincidentally walked into an art studio that had
just been rented by a comic book writer who recommended that I talk
to Jerry Iger (whose shop was still operating at that time). I went
over and got a job within minutes, stayed there for nine months, and
went freelance thereafter. At Iger's, I did grunt work: Erasing pages
and, by the time I left, I was only inking backgrounds. I wasn't very
good at it, either. I learned on the job.
CBA: How did you get a job at Charlton?
Dick: My father was a cab driver in New York City, and a friend
of his had a brother-in-law, Al Fago, who was an editor at Charlton
Comics. I went up there at his invitation on New Year's Day 1952 when
Fago was visiting his brother-in-law and showed him my samples. I
left Jerry Iger shortly thereafter and went freelance, working for
Fago. In those days, though Charlton was in Connecticut, Fago was
working out of his home in Great Neck, Long Island. We used to drive
back and forth and everything was done out of a car. I got a script
every week to pencil and ink, and received no interference. I was
left alone to my own devices and I learned my craft.
There was a great variety of subject matter to work on: Space Adventures,
Westerns, Hot Rods, Romances, but mostly Crime. I did those for a
couple of years and then in 1955 Charlton decided they wanted to save
money by having their artists on staff. They invited a bunch of people
up there, myself include, and offered us a position to work on their
premises on a piecework basis. This was offered when work was really
hard to come by and essentially the choice was for me to either take
this and make less money, traveling back and forth every day, or find
something else to do. If Charlton was out of the picture, there was
no one else who could be in the picture for me because I wasn't ready
yet for the other companies. Did I want to do comic books or something
else entirely? My choice was to stay in comic books and I commuted
to Derby for two years before I decided to move up.
When I moved up in 1957, that was basically to take a staff job as
Pat Masulli's assistant (Pat was Managing Editor of Charlton at the
time) and I did for a year or so. It was not work that thrilled me.
(One of the problems I've always had with taking staff jobs is that
I invariably start working with someone whose style of dealing with
people is so different from mine that I become uncomfortable.) So
I went back to freelancing and stopped working exclusively for Charlton,
moving off premises and working at home. I did some work for Timely,
for Stan Lee, which was mostly Mystery books while they were being
distributed by American News, doing eight-page Mystery stories with
Steve Ditko, who was also working at Charlton on staff during this
period. Most of the stuff we sold to Stan never saw print, but they
paid for them.
At that point I started freelancing, doing a lot of work for Dell
as well as Charlton. I did pretty well working as a ghost for Dell
as well as working on my own for them.
CBA: Did you seek a job in editorial?
Dick: At some point of time, I realized that just sitting at
a drawing board, knocking myself out for the rates that existed wasn't
going to get me anywhere so I decided I wanted to take an editorial
position at Charlton. I just kept throwing myself in front of the
owner until he finally noticed that I was lying on the floor in front
of him and offered me the job.
CBA: So you edited 17 books a month?
Dick: My job was not only to edit the books-first of all, one
person can't edit 17 books in a month, even if you spent full-time
at it. Most of the books were just traffic-managed. I assigned the
scripts, took the scripts, gave it to an artist, took the art and
sent it down to the engraver. I never read it, never looked at it.
I had no idea. The only books I edited at all were the Action Hero
line with Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, the Question, etc. A major part
of my job was scheduling material through the plant, so not only did
I schedule the creative and editorial work to come in on time but
also schedule the production aspects. The work had to be engraved,
color-separated, and printed. The job had to move from department
to department. I spent half of my time in the plant, and half my time
in the editorial offices. The upside is that I learned everything
that I could possibly learn about the reproduction process so that
when I went to DC I knew exactly what I was talking about. I knew
how color separations happened, how plates were made, how material
reacted on press and what you could and couldn't do.
CBA: At Charlton, you had quite a creative stable of _personnel.
There was Steve Skeates, Jim Aparo, Steve Ditko, Dennis O'Neil, Pat
Boyette, Joe Gill, and even Grass Green. How did you attract such
Dick: A lot of those people just came out of a file. Pat Masulli
didn't have time to pursue establishing a crew. Some of them came
through recommendations. I think Steve Skeates came out of the recommendation
of Roy Thomas, as did Dennis O'Neil. I don't know how Pat Boyette
came in. I never met Pat but we talked on the phone. He mailed his
art in from Texas and he was wonderful to talk to. He was a radio
announcer with this great speaking voice that was fun to listen to.
He was also a creative guy. There was a very delicate balancing act
for me because the people that we had on staff were given commitments
that I had to honor. I had to keep them as busy as they wanted to
be. Because the staff by that time had shrunk considerably, I had
to look for people to fill out the rest of the schedule. In order
to get the money to pay for the freelance work, I farmed out a whole
mess of stuff-after the guys on staff got theirs-to a studio in South
America which I discovered the name and address of in Pat's files.
These guys were great illustrators in South America (the Union Studio
in Argentina) and all I had to do was send them plain English scripts-they
would do the translations into their language-and they would send
back finished work but at a tremendously lower rate. So I worked out
a deal with my boss so that the money I saved there went to Steve
Ditko and all the other freelancers I dealt with in New York so they
were getting decent, not great, but decent rates compared to what
everybody else was getting.
CBA: What made the Charlton heroes different?
Dick: With the exception of Captain Atom, not one of the Action
Hero line had a power. They weren't super-powered characters but were
people who had something: Blue Beetle had the bug, Judo Master knew
martial arts, Sarge Steel had a steel fist and a gun, Fightin' Five
were just highly-trained military personnel, even the Question just
had the ability to cover his face up with a mask that couldn't be
ripped off. The concept of super-heroes, then and now, wasn't terribly
exciting to me. If you will, I've been faking orgasms for years when
it comes to super-heroes because the idea doesn't really appeal to
me, but that's what the market wants. I hadn't the choice so I had
to learn something about the genre to feel comfortable with it. One
of the reasons why Batman is my favorite super-hero is because he's
not really a super-hero. For me, it was always hard to get by radioactive
spiders or someone who came from another planet.
CBA: Were you taking on Marvel with your heroes?
Dick: When I went to DC, they wanted me to respond to Marvel.
I didn't have a choice because DC was trying to get back the business
that Marvel had taken away from them. At Charlton, I don't think that
anybody really cared. I don't think that they put any effort into
the Action Hero line and that's why it sold so badly. They didn't
do any real promotion or go out and beat the brush to try and get
people to recognize that Charlton was doing something that was in
line with what the Big Two were doing. We were always badly distributed
and there was no store where you could be sure of getting all 34 titles.
When I got started at Charlton, no comics readers knew about Charlton
comics-unless they were already buying them-because they wouldn't
know that they were going to be there or not in the stores.
I was predisposed to accept DC's offer to go talk to them, when it
came, because I was unhappy about the Charlton Action Hero line but
I can't remember if they had already been cancelled, just about to
be, or whether the sales were just so bad that I felt I was whipping
a dead horse. Which-ever way it was, it was right on the cusp.
CBA: Who made the first overture from DC?
Dick: It was Steve Ditko, believe it or not, who made the pitch
from DC. Steve and I remained friends throughout those times and I
used to go down to a New York office that Charlton rented out and
give work to the people who did work for us. (We still had staff artists
and a staff writer in Derby-Joe Gill remained as staff writer until
he retired.) One time, I went to the city and Steve came over. He
had been doing the Question, Captain Atom, and Blue Beetle for me
at Charlton, and he had just left Marvel to do work over at DC. He
was there discussing Beware the Creeper and The Hawk and the Dove.
(The Hawk and the Dove and Secret Six were both developed before I
got there.) The first Creeper story was by Sergius O'Shaugnessey who
was definitely my writer because he came with me-it was Dennis O'Neil's
pen name (he was working at Marvel and they didn't want him working
Anyway, Steve Ditko came up and told me that the people at DC were
interested in talking to me about taking an editorial position. He
was really the catalyst for that move. I then went to talk to Carmine
Infantino. (Carmine had earlier left the company and had gone to California
to try and get into animation. Irwin Donenfeld chased him down out
there and brought him back to become Art Director.) But I was hired
by Donenfeld, not by Carmine. Carmine wasn't in charge of the operation
but just the Art Director at that point. It seems that they found
me through Sheldon Mayer. Shelley was on staff at DC from the time
that he retired until the time he died-he was getting paid every week.
They were looking for new editors because they had been comfortably
sitting on their oars and Marvel sailed right past DC as the industry
leader. So DC was looking for ways to get back into the business.
They asked Shelley to check around and see if he could find anyone
and evidently he bird-dogged me for one of their editors. That also
included Joe Orlando who got there about two weeks before I did.
CBA: So Ditko called you about the DC job?
Dick: Ditko called and said, "If you're interested, the
people at DC would like to talk to you about a position." I called
and went up and saw Carmine after hours in the office (I didn't realize
until later but they were trying for me not to be seen by the people
I was going to replace). Then we met again at Irwin Donenfeld's place
in Westport. I replaced George Kashdan essentially. Carmine and Irwin
had come to certain conclusions about certain people that they had
on staff and who could make the transition into this brave new world
they were envisioning and who couldn't. They felt that Kashdan was
being run by his writers and had very little to offer. Whether this
was true or not, I never knew because I never met the man while he
was working at DC. Carmine and Irwin had made a decision about how
they were going to create a platform from which to launch the new
DC so that it would be in the same game that Marvel was. I think it
was difficult because DC had so much baggage.
At that point, Marvel was being distributed by DC and was restricted
to eight books a month. So we got called in with the idea being to
get back our leadership in the industry. Carmine was thought to be
one of the few old-line artists who could make the transition. He
was always an experimenter and always did interesting stuff-he was
a Jack Kirby in a lot of ways, but unsung as most people didn't recognize
how good Carmine was at what he did. Our mandate was to create new
super-heroes and a line of books that would challenge Marvel's new-found
supremacy. We may not have yet!
CBA: The concept of artist as editor came from Carmine?
Dick: Carmine was comfortable with artists and so that's why
the switch was made from the very dry editors they had there to the
artists who became editors. It started with Joe Orlando and myself.
Joe Kubert came on shortly thereafter, then Mike Sekowsky and Jack
Kirby. The list grew. Somewhere in there, Irwin Donenfeld and Jack
Liebowitz were gone. The two sold the company to Kinney National and
two people came in who had no idea what the comic book publishing
business was all about. Carmine was the ranking executive and all
of a sudden he was in charge-although he had no business acumen whatsoever!
(He never did develop any and, as a matter of fact, that was probably
the biggest reason why I eventually left as editor.) As Art Director
and creative person, he was and is one of my heroes, but as a businessman
he affected what I was doing and it was totally separated from what
I found reasonable to do. It seemed to me at times that he would try
to pick my brains a little bit because I had that experience from
Charlton but we just rubbed each other the wrong way after a while.
Our management style was so different. My style was basically to focus
on the things that I wanted to accomplish creatively and then find
the people to accomplish those things for me.
CBA: Did you hear that George Kashdan was one of the editors
fired in the purge that was prompted by the writers' demand for benefits?
Dick: I took over George Kashdan's desk and his books. I only
read about [the writer's movement] much later. The guys who were involved
never said anything to me about it. There were a few of them that
were still there, like Arnold Drake who was reportedly one of the
ringleaders. He wasn't doing anything for me specifically and he never
mentioned anything to me about a writers' strike.
CBA: Carmine has mentioned that you were a part of a "package
deal" in getting the better talent away from Charlton and into
Dick: There was no official "package deal," no matter
what Carmine says. During the early course of our discussions nothing
was mentioned except my coming to work. Later on, into the fourth
or fifth meeting, I said that I'd like to bring some of my people
with me and Irwin said, "Oh, we would rather expect that."
It was very common then that when an editor moves he takes some of
his creators with him. It wasn't that "Either these people are
coming with me or I'm not taking the job," or they said, "Either
these people are coming with you or you don't get the job." It
was nothing like that. I had already been given the job and accepted
the terms. They told me what books they were giving me.
CBA: Did you get in contact with the Charlton freelancers
and say, "Come on over"?
Dick: I called them when I had a project in and was sure that
I had work for them. Aquaman was being done very nicely by Nick Cardy
and I didn't think that he needed to be replaced. What I think needed
to be replaced was the look of the book because it was thought of
as being a silly, childish, TV rip-off (though it was the other way
around as TV had gotten the character from us); Aquatot, Aquababy,
funny walruses, and everything else wandering around. I wanted something
a little bit more serious in order to chase Marvel. In many cases
the changes I made were changes for their own sake. I think Cardy
was a fine artist but if I didn't change the art it would not look
as if anything had changed. I did keep Nick on Teen Titans for a long
time after that-I was in love with his stuff. Still am.
CBA: Your arrival at DC was ballyhooed.
Dick: Joe Orlando penciled that drawing of me saying, "Hi,
I'm Dick!" and I inked it. I wrote the copy and touted my own
CBA: How many titles did you edit?
Dick: They gave me eight titles when I arrived: Young Love,
Secret Hearts, Secret Six, Beware the Creeper, The Hawk and the Dove,
Blackhawk, Bomba, and Aquaman. I was told that Bomba and Blackhawk
were dead books when I was given them. I was there just to mop up
and be given a couple of issues apiece. I got Jack Sparling to draw
Bomba and I think he drew some of the best work of his life.
Blackhawk, I went to the source: Reed Crandall. I never met the man
but I called him on the phone and asked him if he'd like to finish
off two issues of Blackhawk. Either we'll go out in style or maybe
revive it if we can get something interesting happening. He said,
"Yeah, I'd love to do that." So I sent him a script and
never heard from him again. I guess the script wasn't to his liking
and he was semi-retired anyway. So when we got close to the deadline,
I called Crandall (who lived in Kansas) and asked his mother to please
have him mail the script to Pat Boyette who lived in Texas, the closest
artist I could find-this was all before Federal Express. I called
Pat and told him that he could do whatever he wanted with the two
issues because we were dead before we started. He did a nice job.
The Romance covers were the books I was allowed to design and they
were the love of my life! That series (Young Love #68, "The Life
and Loves of Lisa St. Clair") was adapted from a newspaper strip
that I developed. Lisa is my daughter's name. The strip pitch never
got presented to anybody but I had the first story written and some
of it storyboarded. When I got Young Love to edit, I went to Jack
Miller (whom I happened to like though I was told to ignore him) and
gave him my notes and we went with it. And I got my favorite Romance
artist to draw it, Jay Scott Pike.
CBA: You were with The Hawk and the Dove and Beware the Creeper
right at their inception.
Dick: Actually, I came in as editor right in the middle of
The Hawk and the Dove story in Showcase. Steve Ditko already had the
rough plot worked out. Steve Skeates worked from that plot and came
up with a script. The Showcase was okay because Steve followed basically
what Ditko wanted him to do. But from that point on it was terrible
for them both.
The basic idea for The Hawk and the Dove was Steve Ditko's and that
concept was a triangle; father as the moderate and the extremes represented
by the two kids, and all the other things were put together to make
that triangle work. The powers were discussed secondly. The "hawk
and the dove" was, at that time, a term that was being used very
often, was very popular and referred to where people stood regarding
the Vietnam War; there were hawks and there were doves. These two
boys represented such extreme opposites we thought that in order for
it to work we had to offset both of their extremes, so we used their
father, the judge, to be the third part of that triangle. That was
the original idea that we started off with. Their names, Hank for
Hawk, Don for Dove, were chosen to make everything clear. It was simple
and clear; almost a parable. I'm not sure where Skeates fit in there
but I think he leaned towards Hank.
Ditko would pretty much eliminate whatever was in Steve Skeates'
scripts that he didn't feel belonged there. At that point, I think
that Ditko's agenda was more the furthering of his philosophical views
than writing and drawing entertaining stories. Mr. A, which immediately
followed, illustrates that point to some degree. I have no problem
with his beliefs-whether I believe in them or not is irrelevant-I
just don't think that comic books per se are the proper vehicle for
a forum. I don't think we should promote the existence or non-existence
Steve stayed a little longer on Beware the Creeper because it had
fewer places where one could further a political agenda. My big involvement
with this book-the first that I fully edited- was if you read the
opening caption you'll see the word 'FLICKER.' The reason that word
is there is because they told me I couldn't use it, because if the
"L" and the "I" get blurry and run together it
becomes... you figure it out! I told them, "I'm using it and
you guys are going to have to live with it! I don't edit books with
rules!" So they came in and screamed, "FLICKER! FLICKER!"
I said, "I don't care. I'll make enough space between the letters
but that word is staying." I had to establish where I was coming
from immediately. We were going to forget rules.
CBA: At the time of your arrival, the DC books really started
to open up graphically.
Dick: Somewhere along the line, you'll find two-page spreads
on the second and third pages. Joe Kubert started it, Joe Orlando
followed, and I used the device occasionally. We did it because the
production department said it couldn't be done. Remember that I worked
in production at Charlton so I went into the DC production department
and said, "Yeah, it can be done and I'll show you how."
That's when we started with the two-page spreads. Production was in
control of the artwork. The editors at DC were held captive by the
production department because the editors that were there before us-Schwartz,
Miller, Boltinoff, Weisinger, Kanigher-didn't know anything about
artwork. Production would hand out the inking assignments. Joe Orlando
came in with the two-page spread of a Romance story I inked and they
told him, "You can't do that because it won't match up."
I said, "Why won't it match up?" They said they couldn't
guarantee it and I said, "Bullshit. Just send it through. It'll
match up." The only thing you can't do, to this day, is have
lettering in the center because the words might go into the spine.
CBA: As at Charlton, the DC characters you edited weren't
Dick: That's one of the reasons why when we got to The Hawk
and the Dove, there was this "Voice." We were talking about,
"How are we going to give the characters their powers?"-what's
the difference?! They're all stupid ideas anyway! Just have a voice
saying, "You have the power and you have to do good!" In
my mind it made as much sense as anything else. We could sit down
and make it very complicated and people wouldn't be able to suspend
disbelief any easier than by listening to a disembodied voice telling
the characters what their roles were going to be. Even there I kept
the powers moderate. I kept the Creeper's powers moderate also with
no super-strength or ability to fly.
CBA: How was Ditko to work with?
Dick: Ditko was very unhappy with his situation on Amazing
Spider-Man. Back then he was easy to work with. As he became more
enamored with the Ayn Rand political/social formula, he became a little
more difficult to work with. When you're in a hard "Good Guy
vs. Bad Guys" world as you are in the comic book industry, you
can't let your personal philosophies take precedence over what makes
a good comic book story. He became a little bit more difficult to
work with. I have no lasting problem with Steve and whenever we do
see each other these days (which is very rarely), we're still amiable;
it's just that I didn't agree with his feelings and he didn't agree
I remember an incident (and this really wasn't indicative of anything
other than where he was as opposed to where I was): Denny had written
a script of Beware the Creeper and he wrote something about this character
who was described as an "ex-criminal." Steve jotted down
a very bold note on the script that "there was no such thing
as an 'ex-criminal.' Once you've committed a crime, you're a criminal
for life." First of all, that wasn't in the copy. There was no
need for him to take that attitude, to take that harsh a view over
what Denny had written. Basically what it got down to at that point
was that Denny and Steve couldn't work together any more. It had nothing
to do with me and I could no longer be the referee. Steve quit the
book shortly thereafter.
CBA: Another talented writer was Steve Skeates-his Aquaman
was a great book.
Dick: Steve Skeates worked for me for a long time. Aquaman
was the closest thing to the way that I liked to work. Jim Aparo and
Steve Skeates would come into New York every six months and we would
plot out six months worth of work. I would tell them what I was going
to be looking for. I told Steve, who had a tendency to overwrite copy,
"Write the hell out of it and don't try to hold yourself back.
I'll edit it." I'd then send the stuff to Jim Aparo who would
pencil, ink and letter, and then turn it in.
CBA: Why did the covers on Aquaman rarely depict the action
that went on inside the book?
Dick: The covers to Aquaman were one of the sticky points between
Carmine and myself. I had no objections to Nick doing the covers but
I had a feeling about covers that they shouldn't lie, a feeling that
Carmine didn't have. In order to get by my objection, he set up a
system where Nick would come in after I left because I was living
in Connecticut-I had to leave at about 4:30 or 5:00. Both Nick and
Carmine lived in the city and he would have Nick come in and they
would lay out a cover going over the artwork for the book and I'd
come in in the morning and find a finished cover. They were great
covers-creatively, they were great but they just lied!
CBA: The Aquamans also had their share of corpses on the covers.
Dick: Carmine just loved dead bodies on covers. He decided
that heroes had to be suffering all of the time. Carmine _actually
did the breakdowns on most of the covers and Neal was the only one
allowed to ignore Carmine's drawings to some degree. Carmine used
to do layouts on 81/2" x 11" bond paper and fill 'em out
to all four corners, and the art paper that we worked on just about
would allow to use it as the print area. I used to trace his layouts
when I was drawing the covers. I don't know how many other people
did. He used to do very rough roughs for Nick-Nick wasn't going to
listen to anyone about drawing-but Carmine designed just about every
cover of every DC comic book. It was very rare when he would let someone
else design a cover. I did get a chance to do a couple of the Romance
books because he didn't like to do those.
CBA: Skeates mentioned that you guys got away with stuff in
Aquaman because no one in management read the book.
Dick: We were having fun and doing what we wanted to do because
Carmine never read the books. As a matter of fact, when he used to
do a cover he would just skim through the interior artwork and look
for something that would appeal to him. If that couldn't be turned
into a cover that worked he would then extrapolate and add something
that wasn't in the story at all in order to come up with a cover idea.
I always got positive reaction to the stuff that I did at DC. I never
felt unloved or that I was heading in the wrong direction-I always
got good, positive response from the fans in the mail and at conventions.
CBA: You took over Secret Six with the second issue.
Dick: Murray started Secret Six, I think. It was an interesting
concept but because it had already been set up by the time I had got
there I just didn't get as enthusiastic about that book as the others
and as a result, in the issues that I did edit, I inadvertently eliminated
two people from being Mockingbird by giving them thought balloons
that proved that they couldn't be Mockingbird. I enjoyed the artwork
that was being done-Jack Sparling and I became fast friends as a result
of the work he did for me but I just wasn't into Secret Six even though
I was into non-costumed heroes. I just didn't have a natural feel
for it. The idea that these people were performing heroic acts because
they had to-each had their own gimmick-and the fact that one of the
six was actually Mockingbird without us knowing who, it was really
a cool idea, but I just didn't get into it.
CBA: Why did Pat Boyette leave DC?
Dick: I don't think that Pat left DC. I just don't think there
were any more assignments for him. I couldn't find anything for him
to speak of, only a few little things here and there. If he left in
a huff, it wasn't with me.
CBA: You seemed to enjoy the Mystery books.
Dick: I worked with Joe on coming up with the Abel thing. Joe
started up House of Mystery first and had Cain, so it seemed obvious
that House of Secrets should have Abel, the brother. As aggressive
as Cain was, we made Abel that much weaker, a coward, being intimidated
by the house, noises and darkness, etc. Physically, we based Abel
on Mark Hanerfeld, a DC staffer, and Cain was based on Len Wein.
The Mystery books were my farm system. Mostly I used them to try
out new people. When I left DC as an editor, both House of Secrets
and The Witching Hour had a ton of inventory. It was stuff from people
that I tried out to see if this guy or that could be useful to us.
Sometimes I would put a story on the shelf that wasn't very good.
Sometimes it was an experiment that failed. Almost all of that stuff
was experimental to one degree or another.
CBA: You and Joe Orlando got along?
Dick: Initially Joe Orlando and I bonded because we were the
two new kids on the block and at that point we were the only artists
that were editors. So we were basically standing back-to-back, protecting
each other. It was made clear that we were the new important kids
on the block. The other editors either treated us with respect or
at arm's length. It was kind of a strange situation. DC was always
a very businesslike place. Arnold Drake always came in with his hat,
a tie and a jacket. Joe and I were there essentially to loosen things
up. Not that I didn't wear a tie and a jacket-I did until I retired
in 1993 (and I haven't worn a tie since).
He had the same amount of books as me to edit: Eight. Because he
started House of Mystery, it was natural for Joe to help me start
a companion book. House of Secrets was an alternative to House of
Mystery, rather than an echo.
I wasn't or will not be the kind of editor who makes all of the creative
decisions. I want to hire the people who make the right creative decisions
and get a variety of ideas instead of just mine. When an idea doesn't
come to one of the creative people I put in that position, I invariably
have to sit down and help work out a new idea. Good, bad or indifferent,
none of my books looked like each other. Even House of Secrets and
The Witching Hour weren't that close. Secret Hearts and Young Love
were different points of view.
CBA: What was behind the House of Secrets revival?
Dick: Joe Orlando and I were involved in developing House of
Secrets. We both came up with the character Abel. Goldie was my son's
invisible friend. We were able to do whatever we wanted to do. It
was flying upside-down and having fun. The haunted House of Secrets
came from a lunch Joe, Carmine and I had together. The idea was that
the house itself is alive and thinks that Abel is just stupid and
silly. So it would slam windows on his fingers and he knows the house
is after him all of the time. That was the whole idea behind the book.
The stories were just incidental, but the fun I had was with the bridges.
I enjoyed the bridges very much in The Witching Hour. I enjoyed having
Alex Toth do most of those bridges for me-he did a great job. Most
of them were written by Marv Wolfman, Len Wein and Gerry Conway. They
used to hang around the office all of the time. Even those issues
look like they had themes; they weren't written as a book. I used
to order a bunch of stuff and then I would go through the inventory
and compile this month's The Witching Hour. I would find three stories
that had some kind of thematic connection and add up the page count.
Then I'd say, "I need a one-page intro, a two-page bridge between
these stories, a one-page bridge between these, and a half-page close-off,"
and give the three stories to one of the writers.
CBA: Neal did some great covers for you on the Mystery books-did
you seek him out?
Dick: When it came to covers, if Neal was around I'd just give
him the work. I'd give him the book that we were putting together
and he'd come up with a cover that would
make the book work. Neal would come up with a quick sketch in a minute.
One of the advantages of Neal was that for most, if not all of the
time that I was at DC, Neal was in the office across the hall from
me. He was on the premises even though he wasn't required to be there.
He had a small room with an Artograph. He'd do one of his small sketches,
bring it in for my okay, put it in the Artograph, blow it up and draw
CBA: Did you hit it off with Neal Adams?
Dick: Neal Adams and I were the "young Turks" there.
We bonded immediately and we decided to make things happen. Neal got
to DC before me so he was already hounding the production department.
He used to go in there and give them a hard time every day to get
better color work and good cover separations. It got to the point
that Jack Adler liked so much what Neal was doing that he wouldn't
make a move without discussing it first with Neal. Jack was in charge
of color and Neal was doing every thing he could to keep him challenged.
CBA: Alex Toth did some outstanding work for you.
Dick: Toth and I were real friends. We were buddies on the
Hot Wheels book. We couldn't have been closer. At that time I was
inking some of his Romance stuff and was his editor on Hot Wheels.
On the fifth issue of Hot Wheels, we completely threw out the script
that we had bought and I let him write something that he really wanted
to write, "The Case of the Curious Classic." He was in love
with that car in the story, the 1937 Cord, and so was I; I was a real
car buff. He went to a car show and took pictures of a Cord on a lawn,
and even sent me a bunch of photos. (Remember, years later, the Human
Target in Action Comics? He drove a Cord and to draw it we used for
reference the photos Alex had sent me.) So we both got our jollies
out on that story.
Alex has always said that he was always searching for the simple
statement. He was trying as an artist to make the drawing as simple
as possible so that it will be clear. So I have a letter from him
thanking me for editing his stuff. I took out things that he put in
that he didn't want to be there. I was able to anticipate his need
to make a simple statement and I helped simplify the work. I was really
proud that he had noticed what I had done, especially because he was
always one of my heroes.
Alex did the character designs for the Hot Wheels cartoon for Hanna-Barbera
and I know he was having problems. He had been doing The Witching
Hour bridges for me for a while but that was a modest amount of work.
So I just called and asked him to do the comic. So he did some character
sketches and said he'd like to take a shot at it. I gave him Joe Gill's
scripts only because Joe was such a vague writer that you could make
changes without even Joe realizing that you made them. I know that
Alex was going to make changes because he has his own way of looking
at things which doesn't necessarily jibe with the writer's ideas.
So we got some pretty decent stuff in Hot Wheels. On the fifth issue
he called and said, "This is my last issue so do you mind if
I tell my own story?" I said, "Joe's been paid for it, so
go ahead. If I can get somebody over here to listen to me, I'll pay
you too." The amount of money we pay for an extra script isn't
a big deal-and it turned out to be the best story of the bunch: Eight
panels on every page and he didn't skimp on anything.
CBA: Alex seemed to have a successful gig in animation. Why
did he work for you?
Dick: For the most part, I don't think that Alex ever needed
the work. I think that he enjoyed doing comics. He was _tentative
about this brave new world we were concocting which was completely
different than the one that he had grown up in. He was used to a business
where the artist basically took orders from an editor, got a full
script and did whatever was in that script. You didn't dare make a
change. He didn't really believe that we were becoming more flexible.
He now had in mind the same kind of stories, approaches and details
that he had earlier but he didn't want to believe that we were coming
closer to the way that he thought. Every once in a while he would
feel good about it but then would say that, no, it's not what he wanted
at all. It was all in his head, whatever it was.
Alex is the closest thing we have to a genius in this business.
CBA: You also inked a lot of material when you were editing.
How did you accomplish all of that work?
Dick: I felt that the freelance work-my inking-and the editing
were both part of the same job. I was able to turn administrator off
and creator on when I needed to, and when I would go into the office,
turn 'em the other way. I'd get up at 4:00 a.m. and draw until it
was time to take the train to New York. By the time I got back home,
I was gone; just wiped out. I would do one page of inks in the morning.
How I did freelance art while maintaining an editorial job at DC
is that I'm pretty fast at what I do and I'm disciplined so that whatever
time that there was available, I'd find a way to make use of that
time. I learned my discipline and my speed while working at Charlton.
CBA: What was Mike Sekowsky like?
Dick: Mike Sekowsky was very often called "The Wild Russian"
by a bunch of people. That comes close to an art description. He was
a big bear of a man-wild hair. Though I never saw it I was told he
had a fitful temper, really angry. Evidently everybody else did! We
were having a ball on that Wonder Woman book! I really enjoyed that
work! Everyone says that, "Well, Adams has to be the best stuff
you inked." I enjoyed the work I did on Sekowsky more. I enjoyed
it more and thought it was more creative in a lot of ways. Adams'
stuff was for me, mostly tracing-he solved most of the problems so
I was just there to put ink on his pencil lines. But Sekowsky was
different. Even though I knew it was a rip-off of the Avengers TV
show and I knew so at the time, it was fun! That was also part of
this relevance thing that involved DC at the time-for some reason
Carmine was so enamored of it-he got rid of powers, got rid of costumes
(which I did with Teen Titans-that wasn't my idea, but Carmine's).
Same thing with Wonder Woman. It was decided that she wasn't to have
a costume any more. We changed it so she always wore white sweaters
and slacks. They took away her powers so we had to contrive stories
like crazy. I don't know what we did to make her a non-Amazon!
CBA:: After you resigned as editor, one of your Wonder Woman
jobs had a bad guy who looked suspiciously like a certain publisher.
Dick: I went to our files in the office and dug up whatever
photos we had on Carmine and used him as a heavy. I don't know if
he ever even read it but he never said a word about me using him as
CBA: What happened to Jack Miller?
Dick: He was accused of stealing stuff from the library and
was fired, which I thought was pretty silly. The artwork routinely
was stolen by everybody, including me! I got some Aquaman pages because
I wanted them-they were going to shred them up! Len, Marv and Mark
Hanerfeld built tremendous art collections by going into DC after
school, working for free in production, and they'd pick up some artwork
before they left. Artwork wasn't returned to artists in those days-it
CBA: You had an impact at DC but you didn't stay long.
Dick: I was only at DC for two years the first time around
though it may seem a lot longer to people. My books died with me when
I left. Part of it was a difference in management style between Carmine
and myself which led to my dissatisfaction and I had to leave. Carmine
wanted someone who did things his way and I wanted someone to do things
my way. He was the boss. I didn't disagree necessarily with what he
was trying to do but I just disagreed with his methods. He believed
in punishment as incentive for people to do good work and I didn't.
That's really basically what it comes down to. Punishment meant saying,
"You want to work here? You want to get paid? You got to do it
the way we want you to do it." I would try to present the same
idea but by saying, "This is a great way to do this. Everybody
will love it. You'll have fun, we'll all have fun." It was a
different approach to getting the same ends. It's not that I wanted
an end result different from Carmine's. We're talking about creative
people who aren't hamburger flippers or the average guy on the street.
Some people in the creative community are pretty strange-probably
I'm pretty strange but I just don't notice it-but they don't notice
that they're strange either. So you have to deal with them in a totally
different way to get them to function, produce and feel as if they're
making a contribution to something, because therefore they will do
the job better. Carmine believed in laying out rules and regulations,
and holding out your paycheck as a reason to do things his way. The
fact that you can do it that way doesn't mean that you should. The
end result is not as good as it could have been if he had played a
little softball. That was my opinion. I don't know if we'll ever find
out who was right. When it became a seller's market, the creators
weren't any better at it than the publishers were in terms of being
arrogant and hardheaded. I'm not sure that Carmine wasn't right. I'm
just saying that I had to leave because I didn't feel comfortable.
At that time, Superman and Batman were DC Comics and everything else
was sort of cannon fodder; stuff to bring up the rear. Joe Orlando
had a pair of Romance comics, I had a pair of Romance comics, and
both sets sold pretty much the same. None of them were exceptional
or making a good deal of money for the company. Superman and Batman
were where the money was.
CBA: How did you know if your books were selling?
Dick: In those days we didn't have sales figures given to us
as we did in later years. Every editor had a cork board with their
books' cover proofs pinned up. Sometime during the night, Carmine
or somebody would turn over the cover and write a figure down for
that particular title. It wasn't numbers but a percentage, but we
weren't given the print run numbers so we never knew how many we sold.
I didn't pay too much attention to the numbers because I had no way
of comparing them to anything that made sense to me. They dropped
Strange Adventures with Deadman when it was selling 125,000 copies
and that wasn't enough to keep it going.
I wouldn't take the Publisher's Statement numbers to church. I'm
not sure where they came from but I'll tell you one thing I know for
sure-because I can't get in trouble. At Charlton, they just made them
CBA: Do you think your books received the support they deserved?
Dick: I think that they supported the books to the degree that
they could. I think that I had as much information as anybody else.
I think that Carmine was trying often to get me to change my mind
about what I was doing creatively by showing me other things that
I could be doing. My take on Romance books was basically do them as
modern day fairy tales-the beautiful princess meets the prince and
they live happily ever after, with some trouble in between A &
B. Joe Orlando's approach was relevance. He had women who worked in
some sort of a social agency in the ghetto and with basically the
same kind of end result where the man and woman get beyond their problems
and get together. His were grim and gritty and mine were fairy tales.
Well, Carmine evidently felt that Joe's approach was superior to mine.
In retrospect, looking at sales figures years later, I realize that
the sales figures were basically the same in both books. But what
happened was that Carmine gave me inappropriate figures-or figures
that I could only interpret that I was going in the wrong direction
so that I would go to Joe's way of doing things. I think that Carmine
was trying to be kind and gentle in a way, because that wasn't his
normal style to try to influence things by trying to manipulate numbers-generally
he would say to either do it his way or get out-and he didn't do that.
He tried to change my mind in other ways. I was told that the sales
numbers on Aquaman were very low and I'm scrambling around, making
changes and trying to get sales figures back up when actually they
weren't bad according to what Paul Levitz told me when he found the
sales figures years later. He as a fan of Aquaman enjoyed the magazine
and told me that it was selling quite well, as well as some of the
CBA:: Was Carmine in the right job?
Dick: Carmine really had no business being where he was. It's
really hard to blame somebody for finding himself in the position
of one day being Editorial Director, the next day Publisher, and the
next day President. I mean, nothing changed in-between. Nothing prepared
him to be President and Publisher. It's just that the people who took
over the company said, "Who's in charge here?" and they
found out it was Carmine who was the only person left. Leibowitz left.
Donenfeld went and the Art Director remained. "Make him Publisher
and President!" He's not going to say that he's not qualified
for that. He wasn't prepared for it and he really didn't know where
to find the information. He got somebody out of Kinney National's
group of executives that showed up-you should have seen these guys,
all out of Hathaway shirt ads. One of them literally had an eye-patch!
The other one in charge was a marine that was just out of the service
and never stood any less straight than a wall.
CBA: Did Carmine see you as a threat to his position?
Dick: I've been told that Carmine did perceive that I was interested
in becoming Publisher of DC but I had no interest at all. If he had
just asked me, I would have saved him all of his concerns. I didn't
want his job or anything near it. I was satisfied with what I was
Since I've been in this business, my concern was always, very honestly,
the understanding that I'm lazy and the only way that I can work as
much as I can is by not thinking it's work. So that means that I only
do things that I like to do. That's very selfish but I don't like
to do certain things. When I got to the point where I didn't feel
that the creative end of my job was as fun as the administrative end
at DC, that _was the beginning of my withdrawing to get out of the
CBA: Did you quit DC?
Dick: Emotion has played a large role in any business _decision
I made. I quit DC. The last piece of business that Carmine was doing
to irritate me in trying to make me quit-I could tell that all along-was
he came in and told me to fire Gray Morrow because of a story Gray
drew. I said, "No," went back to my office, sat down for
a few minutes and thought about it. I went back into Carmine's office
and said, "I quit." The fact of the matter is that when
I left, Gray Morrow was still there! So I knew that it was just a
set-up, nothing more. It wasn't real. At that point, it felt like
I wasn't doing what I wanted to do here and I was running into too
many pressures that didn't appeal to me. It was a little childish
and self-serving but, hey, I didn't want that.
When I came back into my office, I said to Neal, "Let's go to
lunch. I just quit." Continuity Associates was born that same
afternoon. We had already been doing some commercial work together
on the side (I don't know where I found the time to do it-don't ask!)
and I said, "Well, I want to get out of here, and a studio sounds
like fun, but I don't want to do it right away. I don't want to replace
one pressure with another pressure." Two days later I attended
an editorial meeting and I was contributing just like usual. I had
another month to go before my "retirement." Carmine came
up to me later and said, "Gee, Richie, I can't get over that.
You're still in there working." I said, "I'm getting paid
until November 4, and I'm going to work until November 4. After that,
I'm gone and you don't have to worry about me." He was kind of
surprised. I wasn't helping Carmine or myself. I was just doing the
So pretty much I stayed home in my studio downstairs one year to
lick my wounds-I felt the need to catch my breath. Julie Schwartz
was my editor for that one year and he was wonderful. Called up every
day and said, "Got enough work? Need a check?" Whatever.
Julie was right on top of it. He still is. We were roommates, sharing
an office at 909 Third Avenue. I did all the Batman work-Bob Brown,
Irv Novick, and Neal's stuff-Justice League, Green Lantern. So I calmed
down over the year and Neal finally called and said, "Let's go."
That's how we started Continuity.
CBA: Right after you left DC, Jack Kirby came in.
Dick: Jack knew from square one that somebody else was going
to draw the Superman heads because of requirements to make the licensing
have a consistent Superman image. Jack didn't object to it. After
the fact, everybody is objecting to us having changed it but that
was part of the deal. He was being paid more money for a page rate
than anybody else at the time. Carmine was trying to beat Marvel by
getting Jack Kirby, their co-creator. He thought we could get there
faster by having Kirby on our side. Sales on the Fourth World books
weren't bad by today's standards but they were bad then, based on
what we were paying Jack. Carmine didn't want to admit defeat. It
cost him a lot in pride and honor to have gone out and gotten Kirby
and then have to say, "I'm sorry, we can't go ahead with them."
I think that Carmine was looking for a magic bullet, but Kirby wasn't
It wasn't so much sales were plummeting as Marvel was widening the
gap. Our sales held even but they were on the rise. There's nothing
wrong with that unless you're the industry leader and the upstart
now has a 2-to-1 market share.
CBA: What was your editorial style?
Dick: I knew what I wanted to do and picked the people who
knew how to do that. So I didn't have to get too involved in the creative
process. You can't. An editor cannot control the creative process
without affecting the work in a negative way. You can't get into the
faces of the people while they're doing the creative work. You can
advise them before they start; you can give them helpful "tips"
along the way, but you can't control the creative process without
What I did instead was maybe impose one way per person. I tried to
create an environment for each creator so that they could do their
best work. If that's hands-off, than I was a hands-off editor. I always
said that one of the major jobs of an editor is to create an environment
for the creators. Not surprisingly, one of the most important aspects
of the creative process is the pat on the head as a show of love.
Without it, creators have a tendency to feel unloved. Of course that's
obvious, but imagine sitting there by yourself, perhaps it's 1:00
in the morning and you're working and there's no one around you. You
start imagining things about what "they" are doing to me.
The reason that happens is because "they" didn't set things
up properly so he wouldn't think about that. My job was to relieve
the freelancer as much as I could from any thoughts except the work
so that if it was a pat on the head that he needed, I gave him the
pat on the head. If it was having a check as soon as he finished,
then he had the check. It required on my part that I learn something
about each of these people as individuals and not treat them as a
collective bunch. That is where Carmine and I differed. Carmine believed
that everyone ought to be taught to toe a line, a line that he drew.
Everyone had to do it his way. Whether the line is arbitrary or not
is irrelevant. The fact is that everyone is not going to toe the same
line. There are some things that work for artist "A" that
won't work for artist "B" in terms of getting them to do
the work well.
So for example, I remember one of the places where Carmine and I
went head-to-head was concerns about clarity in storytelling. I agreed
with him that there was a problem at DC at that time. Some early Neal
Adams work was a real prime example-you really didn't know where to
look next on some of those pages. It was confusing. Carmine's solution
was to mandate how paneled pages were to be laid out. It was an absolute
law; it had to be done this way. And he made photocopies of all of
these rules, put them on my desk and said to send them to the freelancers.
Months later he came into my office to talk to me about something
and he sees the pile of photocopies still where he put them. So when
he sat down I said, "I think that there are many more ways than
one to solve a problem." There was nothing wrong with the storytelling
in my books because I _straightened everybody up, one way or the other,
but I did it without always resorting to his new rule. There are things
to be said about keeping everything contained within a panel in terms
of clarity but sometimes clarity can be awfully boring. It depends
on who's doing it.
CBA: Why did you work in comics?
Dick: I wanted to be in comics. So did Neal Adams. So did Joe
Kubert. So did Gil Kane. It's not that we didn't want to do anything
else-all of us experimented here and there-it's just that comics offered
more of what we wanted to do.
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