From Art Director to Publisher: The Infantino Interview
Conducted by & © Jon B. Cooke
Book Artist #1
This interview was conducted by phone on February 28 and March
1, 1998. It was copy-edited by Carmine Infantino.
COMIC BOOK ARTIST: What was your first official position at
DC? You started as a freelance artist?
CARMINE INFANTINO: I was a freelance artist there, and Marvel
was really kicking the hell out of DC. There's no big secret about
that. Irwin Donenfeld (whose father founded the company with Jack
Leibowitz) asked me if I'd like to become Art Director. I was spoiled
dealing with Donenfeld and Leibowitz; their word was their bond-no
contracts were needed.
CBA: Did Marvel try to hire you in the '60s?
Carmine: Before I became Art Director, Stan made me the offer
and Martin Goodman backed it. They offered a couple of thousand more
than DC was giving me. DC found out about it and offered the Art Director
position, so I accepted.
CBA: You achieved the position on the strength of the covers
that you designed?
Carmine: Julie Schwartz would tell me to go home and design
covers which they would write stories around. I would come in with
a series of covers starting with The Flash and later on Batman, Adam
Strange, and others. Apparently, every time my covers came out, they
connected and sold very well, so Donenfeld suggested that I should
become Art Director. I said I wasn't sure at the time but I would
give it a try. I took the job, Irwin left, and I was designing most
of the covers. That was about the time that Kinney National, later
Time Warner, came in and took over.
CBA: As Art Director you designed all of the covers?
Carmine: Yes. The editors would come to me and I would create
their covers. They would then go off and edit the rest of the books.
That's how it began.
CBA: The stock of National rose during the "Batmania."
Did that success attract Kinney to buy it?
Carmine: That part I don't know. I assume that's what happened.
Bob Kane apparently really owned Batman and Kinney didn't have a part
of it. Kane came in with his lawyer and Kinney settled a deal with
him for a million dollars, payable at $50,000 a year for twenty years,
plus a percentage of licensing. I'm sure it was a minute percentage
but that threatened to kill the whole arrangement, so Liebowitz took
it out and the deal went ahead with Kinney National.
CBA: Leibowitz took a position upstairs with Kinney and left
Carmine: No, Donenfeld left first and all of a sudden I became
the Editorial Director!
CBA: Did they just drop it in your lap?
Carmine: That's it! Jack said, "You have to run it now."
That was it! So from then on, I was plotting. I plotted the Wonder
Woman series bringing together Dennis O'Neil and Mike Sekowsky-they'd
sit in the room with me and I'd plot it, Mike would go back and draw
it and Denny would dialogue. We did three or four that way-the I-Ching
series. Then there was the Deadman thing. I didn't create the character;
Arnold Drake had a tah-do with the company and he left and suddenly
I'm plotting "Deadman" for about four or five issues with
Neal Adams drawing. The guy who did the dialogue was Romance editor
Then there was Bat Lash. I didn't plot the first one but it was so
badly written that I rewrote the whole script over the finished drawings
of Nick Cardy. That series I plotted until the very end. It was my
So there I was plotting, I was Editorial Director, running meetings,
and running everything. I worked sometimes from eight in the morning
until 11 or 12 at night. It was a rough schedule. Then I would go
out on the road to work out the distribution problems-plus going to
California to sell animated shows to Hanna-Barbera. I continued as
Art Director, Editorial Director, and then, boom!-I ended up with
the Publisher job, too! Again, I kept taking on job after job after
job. Also, in all that time as an executive, I didn't take one day
CBA: Do you remember when a bunch of writers requested health
benefits from the company?
Carmine: I think that was before Kinney came in and the lead
guy was that guy who created Deadman, Arnold Drake. I can't verify
this because I wasn't there but I understand that Drake went in to
Liebowitz and said he wanted to start a union. So Jack apparently
said to him, "You get the other companies to join and I'll join."
That was the end of it.
CBA: You came up with a radical idea of hiring artists as
Carmine: I felt that the company needed artists in editorial
positions because all the editors at DC had traditionally been from
the pulps; Schwartz, Boltinoff, Weisinger... all came from the pulps
and they were not visual people. I felt you needed visual people.
That's why I brought in Orlando and Giordano.
CBA: How did you decide on Orlando? He was untried, yet proved
to be your most successful editor.
Carmine: While I was an artist, he would come up to DC working
on a few things and we would just sit and talk. I just listened (because
you can learn more by listening than anything else) and Joe was full
CBA: You guys hit it off.
Carmine: Yeah. I liked Joe right from the beginning. As soon
as I was in charge, I called him up and said, "Joseph, do you
want the job?" And he said, "Absolutely." And he came
down and took it. He was perfect for me; not only was he a raw malleable
editor, but I also used him to train talent. He was so good at training
CBA: Whose idea was it to do the EC-style Mystery books?
Carmine: I have to be honest-that was Irwin Donenfeld. He said
that he wanted some Mystery books. So we looked through the files
and pulled out these old books, House of Mystery and House of Secrets.
I gave them to Joey and he ran with them. He took 'em on. We did that
but we were also doing other things because we didn't want to tip
our hand to Marvel that we were going to jump into the Mystery line.
We had Showcase and we were throwing out everything in creation in
that book. Meanwhile I had Joe developing these books. Then I put
Murray Boltinoff and Dick Giordano on those Mystery books, too, and
once they connected with readers, nobody could beat us. Once we came
into the field, Marvel tried but they just couldn't catch us.
CBA: The Mystery books seemed to be doing so well that the
Mystery influence permeated the other books as well, even the Super-hero
Carmine: It was all over the place! All-Star Western became
Weird Western Tales!
CBA: Even Plop! had a Mystery influence.
Carmine: Plop! was a favorite of mine and it just didn't make
it, but I loved that book. It was developed between Joe Orlando, Sergio
Aragonés and myself. We knew what we wanted which was lots
of humor but we just couldn't come up with a title. Then one evening
we were sitting across the street in a bar, having a drink-Sergio
had just drawn a funny story for House of Mystery called "The
Poster Plague" written by Steve Skeates-and I think it was Joe
who said, "This thing is, like, plopping all over us!" and
Sergio said, "That's it! That's the title! Plop!" Then we
got Basil Wolverton to draw those wild covers! We thought we had a
hit on our hands. We really loved that book, and it lasted a while
but not long enough. (Now I understand that Levitz has claimed that
Plop! eventually did sell well but that's kind of hard to believe
because I got the final sales figures. Usually you'd receive your
final sales figures in six months and it just kind of crept over the
line. In those days, you had to have a print run of not less than
300,000 copies and you had to have 50% sales to do decently. Plop!
never made it.) It broke my heart, but I had to cancel it. I had to
give up Bat Lash, too, because of poor sales. (I'll tell you something
about Bat Lash, though: It was a tremendous hit overseas. In Europe,
it was the biggest hit around and when I was over there, they asked
to keep doing it but I couldn't afford to because it didn't work here.
They used to reprint it over and over.)
CBA: Bat Lash had a great sense of humor. A subsequent issue
featured Mike Sekowsky doing the breakdowns under Cardy's finish-was
that an effort to get away from the humor and get more into the drama?
Carmine: Mike did Bat Lash?!
CBA: Yeah, he actually did the breakdowns for the origin issue,
#6. Joe Orlando seems to remember you being involved with the plotting
of Bat Lash's sister as a nun.
Carmine: But we never got to that. I had plotted a whole thing
out. I was going to have his brother be a bounty hunter coming after
him. All of that was plotted for later on. Nick was so goddamn good,
though. I gave him anything he wanted to do. He was getting ready
to quit DC when I took over there. Nick was having problems with Sol
Harrison who used to complain that Nick never put enough fishes in
his Aquaman. He drove the poor guy batty. When I took over, Nick came
in and said, "Congratulations, but I'm leaving." I said,
"Whoa, where are you going?" And he said they tortured the
hell out of him. So I said, "Nicky, give me a chance. I just
got here." And he did give me a chance and thankfully he stayed
on. The guy is brilliant and so talented. We had a lot of good people
coming on board then. I went to that outfit in Connecticut [Charlton]
and raided them. I got Giordano but what I really wanted was Dennis
O'Neil, Steve Skeates, and Jim Aparo. I wanted all of those people.
I needed change!
CBA: Did Shelly Mayer tell you about Charlton?
Carmine: No, that was my thinking. I was watching those books.
He was my godfather, I guess, and every once in a while I would call
him up and talk to him about some of the people I hired. Shelly told
me Dick was not going to make it as Editor. I said that I was going
to take the chance and he said, "Go ahead, because you can always
drop him later." Shelly was right in his thinking. Everything
else worked out fairly well. Then Shelly just wanted to go back to
write and draw and not do anything else, but he got me on my feet,
thankfully. Then I became President and Publisher.
CBA: Do you recall a story that Marv Wolfman and Len Wein
wrote for Teen Titans that was bounced?
Carmine: I rejected it totally. I remember looking at it. They
did that for Giordano, I believe, and after it was done I thought
it was terrible. I wouldn't print it. As simple as that. I don't remember
any specifics about it now, but I know that I just didn't like it.
I used my own judgment.
CBA: We've uncovered some of the pages.
Carmine: Nick's art was gorgeous! What's bothered me about
Nick is that he's not recognized. It's scary. In my estimation, Nick
Cardy and Alex Toth were two of the greatest cartoonists that ever
existed. Alex, of course, got some recognition when he went out to
the coast to do animation but poor Nick never got recognized and I
never could quite understand it. I missed him when he left comics.
At one point, I had him just doing covers that were incredible and
then he told me that he didn't want to be in comics anymore.
CBA: Did you push relevance as a trend?
Carmine: You're talking about Green Lantern/Green Arrow, aren't
you? That book was dying, so I told Julie to do what he wanted with
the damn thing-and I believe it was Denny and Neal's idea to come
up with the idea of Green Arrow and the Black Power sort of thing;
that's what kicked it off. We did some other things in there but we
had to be careful because we had to remember that comics were entertainment.
You could put out some intelligent stories but you had to be quite
CBA: Why was Green Lantern cancelled?
Carmine: Probably for the same reason other books were cancelled-they
didn't sell-in this case, the artist being very late. We had to cobble
up the next-to-last issue out of reprints almost overnight. It was
a marginal book and the printer's late fees killed the book.
CBA: Do you remember the book taking heat? Do you recall a
letter from the governor of Florida that complained about the Agnew
and Nixon satire?
Carmine: I don't remember any such letter. I would imagine
that I would have seen such a letter.
CBA: It seems that you dealt with just about every single
issue except Vietnam.
Carmine: We did in a way with The Hawk and the Dove-only we
made it as a Super-hero strip.
CBA: Did you deal at all with Steve Ditko?
Carmine: Yeah, Steve came up to see me and I liked him. He's
very opinionated, but that's Steve. He did a couple of books for me
but they didn't sell. He could draw, this man!
CBA: Do you remember the genesis of that idea?
Carmine: That was mine. It didn't work. I had Steve Ditko come
in and I threw the idea at him. I called one the Hawk and the other
the Dove. It was a clever idea and Steve wrote it and drew it but
it didn't work. In those days, we were not afraid to try anything.
That was my promise over there, to just try. I didn't care what the
hell they were about, just try 'em all. Keep trying. It's the only
way you're going to find winners-and we did and I think we had a good
CBA: Was the problem with Dick Giordano that you just didn't
get along, or was it what he said-a difference in management style?
Carmine: Yup, pretty much. It was that and a couple of other
things; but I did keep Dick on as an inker. I think he still inks
for the company.
CBA: Right when Dick left, Jack Kirby came in. Did you fly
out to California to talk to Jack?
Carmine: We knew each other very well from the old days. I
knew him and Simon very well. I don't remember who called who one
day-I honestly don't remember-but I said to him, "Jack, I'm going
to be out there on some business and how would you like to have a
drink?" He said, "Absolutely." We met in my hotel room.
He brought with him some things and he told me how unhappy he was
over at Marvel. He then trotted out these three pieces, The New Gods,
Mr. Miracle and Forever People. He said, "These I want to do
but I won't do them for Marvel," and I said, "Do you want
to come to DC? Would you like to?" and he said, "I'd love
to." I said, "Okay." And he wrote a contract by hand
right there and we signed it. We were in business. It was that simple.
CBA: He really did some extraordinary work for you.
Carmine: You bet! He was a great talent.
CBA: Do you remember Deadman guest-starring in Forever People?
Did you ask Jack to put him in the book?
Carmine: I don't think I did. Maybe he tried to juice up the
book on his own. I didn't ask him to.
CBA: You were also seeking other formats. You tried the $1
Carmine: I tried everything that I possibly could. Those things,
strangely enough, sold well by mail and eventually we sold them out,
but when they were out on the newsstands, they never did that well.
CBA: You tried some black-&-white magazines.
Carmine: Right. In the Days of the Mob and Spirit World by
Kirby. They didn't work. They just didn't sell.
CBA: Do you remember a book called True Divorce Cases which
turned into Soul Romances?
Carmine: Not good! I wouldn't publish it.
CBA: Did you want to go up against the Warren books?
Carmine: The reason we did those books was because we thought
that there was more profit margin in those, frankly. With those, the
break-even was at about 35 percent -which wasn't bad-but sales came
in at 22 percent so that was the end of that. I know that Jack got
CBA: There were reports that he was so upset with the cancellation
of the Fourth World that he wanted to quit in the middle of his contact
Carmine: That's not true. If he did, he didn't tell me that.
First of all, I caught a lot of flak for hiring Jack. He was not liked
at DC because of some kind of thing that happened between him and
Jack Schiff. There was a bad taste left because apparently he screwed
over a number of people, so I put my neck on the line taking Jack
on. We tried. But when he left, we left as friends. He felt that he
could do better at Marvel again and apparently he didn't do too well
the second time. Unfortunately, Jack's writing was not up to par.
He could plot well-that's why he did so well with Simon and Lee, because
he would plot and they would tie it together beautifully; so I guess
his dialogue wasn't strong enough, but I really don't know what the
answer was. It just didn't sell. God, I wanted him to sell more than
anyone else in the world because I put my neck out, but it didn't
work-but neither did Simon on his own.
CBA: Did you like your job? Wasn't it getting wearing after
Carmine: It started getting rough after a point because of
the hours. Jack decided to leave. He came in and he said that he was
going back to Marvel. I wished him well! We were still friends when
CBA: Why were his books cancelled?
Carmine: Bad sales. What most people don't realize is that
we had to be concerned for distributors. They were part of our company-Independent
News. The distributor is advancing money to you all of the time. When
you put out a book they advance you the money. They came to us and
told us that these books after a certain point started to lose money
and we should consider dropping them! That didn't only go for Jack's
books but some other titles as well. It's a business!
CBA: Much as I want to focus on how good the books were and
how they deserved to be publish, it is still a business.
Carmine: That's how they viewed it. They weren't concerned
with who created what or what this or that man did. They couldn't
care less. Once a book didn't do well, stop! 'Course, it was costing
them money and costing us money. We would usually give a book a chance
with four or five issues, and if it didn't make it by the fifth of
sixth, than we had to get rid of it. That was the problem. It wasn't
only Jack's books but other books as well.
CBA: There were three divisions in National Periodicals: Licensing
Corporation of America, Independent News, and DC Comics.
Carmine: We were all a part of one company but they weren't
a part of us. Leibowitz was the President of the whole thing. Paul
Chamberlin ran Independent News. Jay Emmett ran the Licensing Corporation
of America. We each ran our divisions independently. Leibowitz would
make the final decisions.
CBA: So when the company was bought by Kinney National, all
the divisions got absorbed by the corporation and you never had anything
to do with LCA any more?
Carmine: We never had anything to do with LCA.
CBA: But you became President of National Periodicals.
Carmine: Only the comics. Leibowitz left National Periodicals
which consisted of Independent News, DC Comics and LCA. Leibowitz
went upstairs to become a board member and I believe that Emmett and
Sarnoff took over as head of that division. Then Emmett moved upstairs.
All of a sudden, Sarnoff was the only guy sitting there. That's all
I remember. Then Wendell left and suddenly I was appointed President
of DC Comics.
CBA: Who was Paul Wendell?
Carmine: He was National Periodicals' accountant. When Kinney
took over they sent over this guy called Mark Inglesias, and he, Wendell
and Chamberlain ran the company when Jack Leibowitz went up to corporate.
Wendell became President of DC Comics. I reported to him and he was
very fair to me.
CBA: Steve Ross seemed to have a hands-off style of management
with the companies that he acquired as long as they pulled a profit.
Did you receive much interference from upstairs at Warner?
Carmine: The "hands-off" policy is pure fantasy.
Chartoff Linkletter wanted to license Plastic Man for a movie but
Warner was doing Doc Savage and they didn't want any competition.
They had the kind of weight that could do it. Then when I sold animation
and the movie stuff, I could not make any deal unless Warner got all
the distribution rights. So much for everybody working independently.
CBA: You went out to Hollywood and sold the Super Friends
Carmine: I dealt the deal with Joe Barbera. That was a great
success but Warner had to get the distribution or else there would
be no deal. They also got the distribution of the Superman movies.
CBA: Steve Ross had a personal friendship with Gloria Steinem
and he supported Ms. Magazine. Did her complaints about the changes
to Wonder Woman affect the return to Wonder Woman's costumed persona?
Carmine: No. I met her when she came down to the offices. She
told me that she grew up with and loved the character; but that was
it and I never saw her again. Then she went upstairs and I understand
they backed her magazine. I heard nothing further.
CBA: She wrote an introduction to the Wonder Woman collection
that complained about how the recent changes deflated the character's
importance to girls-y'know, when you put her in that white jumpsuit
and turned her into Emma Peel.
Carmine: I did that. I got news for you: The sales of Wonder
Woman jumped like crazy. We sold 60-65% with those issues.
CBA: That's right. It turned into a monthly again. Mike Sekowsky
took over, and then, all of the sudden, it turned back into the old
costumed character and Bob Kanigher returned as the editor.
Carmine: What happened was that I plotted the first three issues
and then I couldn't do it anymore. I had too much to do. I turned
the editorship over to Mike. I should have turned it over to both
he and Denny and that was my mistake. I guess Mike didn't want Denny
on the thing anymore and Sekowsky was writing it himself. Then it
bombed and it bombed badly. After a few more issues I asked Mike what
was happening and he said, "I'm trying everything I can but it's
just not working." So I took him off the book and he left. That
CBA: How did Bill Gaines become a consultant?
Carmine: I can't recall whose idea it was but when they made
me the Publisher they made Bill come in to work with me. I didn't
mind. Bill was a nice man. We got along. After I left, they just ignored
him so he left. One thing he did teach me was to save every scrap
of paper, every memo, every document-make copies and save everything,
because you never know. And he was right. So anything I'm telling
you is fact because I still have the original paperwork and I can
back it up.
CBA: When did you start returning artwork, and do you remember
any creative suggestions from Bill?
Carmine: In 1974, we gave back artwork, increased reprint money,
and we raised our rates. Bill really just came in, kidded around and
we had lunch. He would look at the books and check the costs from
paper to page rates-we went over all the bills. We'd sit and discuss
them-the whys, what-fors, and all that.
CBA: What was Shelly Mayer's role at DC?
Carmine: I called him once in a while and we just talked. I
remember asking him about doing the Bible tabloids and he wrote those
for Joe Kubert. He also wrote the one about the New Testament but
that was never printed. It was in script form-he wrote his scripts
with little pictures. He did them all that way.
CBA: You had to cancel Sugar & Spike because his eyesight
got too bad?
Carmine: That and bad sales. If a book doesn't sell, it doesn't
sell. Eventually, Sugar & Spike didn't sell.
CBA: Did Bob Kanigher just up and quit as editor in '68?
Carmine: Bob wasn't feeling well at the time and he came to
me and said, "I've got personal problems and I just can't do
the editing now. I just can't." I said to Bob, "What do
you want me to do?" And he said he wanted a break for a while.
I said, "Okay, you got it." And then I called Kubert in
and gave him the books. It was that simple.
CBA: What made you think of Kubert?
Carmine: Joe and I grew up together. We were very, very close
friends and I also knew what Joe could do. I knew what guys like Kubert
and Orlando could do. They had been around scripts long enough to
know what to do and how to do it. I was not afraid of putting them
on books. At the time the idea of having guys like this on as editors
was shocking, but it worked.
CBA: Did you have a special arrangement with Kubert for Tor?
Carmine: Yes. I went upstairs and got permission. I gave him
a letter saying that he owned that character and we were just publishing
CBA: Were you friends with Alex Toth?
Carmine: I knew Alex. One time, Joe Kubert brought a story
in to me that Alex had written and Joe said to me, "Alex wrote
a story I didn't request! What should I do?" I said, "You're
the editor. You make the decision." Alex was angered over that.
I haven't heard from him since. (By the way, I'd like to take this
opportunity to straighten out some unfounded gossip: In the time since
I left the company, I've heard the rumor that Gardner Fox had left
because I had turned him down for a raise. Nothing could be further
from the truth! If Gardner wanted a raise after all his service, I
would have given him one without any question. No, he left for a reason
that I don't know about to this day.)
CBA: Whatever happened to Dorothy Woolfolk?
Carmine: She came in and did some Romance work for us but it
didn't work out. The Romance books were dying off slowly and surely.
I got Joe Simon in to try and attract the younger crowd but that didn't
work. We finally dropped 'em.
CBA: How did you get Joe Simon into DC?
Carmine: I knew Joe for a long time, like Jack. We were friends.
Joe came in with some new ideas: Prez, the Green Team and Champion
Sports. They all died. It's funny: He was great with Jack and without
Jack, his books... Jack was the same without Joe! Maybe because it
was a different time. I did put him and Jack together on one issue
of Sandman-Jack fought with me like hell, he didn't want to work with
Joe, but that book sold like a bandit. Oh, how I wanted them to continue
together but Jack wouldn't do it. He refused. Joe was willing but
Jack wasn't. I could see the team work and I would make any kind of
deal they wanted, but Jack wouldn't do it.
CBA: Did you have a special arrangement with Joe and Jack
about the Black Magic books?
Carmine: We bought the rights.
CBA: In '68, Joe Simon did a book called Brother Power The
Carmine: Mort Weisinger was offended by the book and he went
to Leibowitz. At that time he had an awful lot of weight and the book
was killed! The first issue did so-so, but the second issue was starting
to come up in sales. It was starting to do better but unfortunately
we had to kill it off.
CBA: Did Mort want to be in comics?
Carmine: I don't know. Leibowitz left, Mort said that he'd
like to go. I said, "Fine." He went off to write books and
had lots of irons in the fire. He was very well off, I think, and
he was very inventive.
CBA: Do you remember the format changes, when the comics went
to 25¢ and 48 pages?
Carmine: The one that really fooled everybody was the 100-Page
Super Spectaculars for 50¢! That one was done because we wanted
to try something different. In those days, we were printing 750,000
copies of Superman with about 58% sales and that wasn't good enough.
They were making money with these books but not enough. So I had to
keep trying different things and I wanted to try this one package.
I designed this wraparound cover and made Neal do the art. "The
World's Greatest Super-Heroes." We followed up with other themes.
The strange part was when the numbers first came in on these books,
the sales were not good. We were shocked. Then when the finals came
in much later, we found out that they did very well. You just never
knew with a book until actual final sales came in.
CBA: Was that an erratic process? Were the figures consistently
Carmine: The first numbers would come in after three months.
Then at six months you'd get final sales figures, and one year later,
you'd get final, final sales. All of this has to be taken into account
when you're putting these comics out.
I can tell you how you knew when a book wouldn't do well: If a book
came in with preliminaries under 50%, invariably it would drop lower,
and if it was over 50%, it would go higher. I always found that to
When the numbers for Jack's books started coming in, the first issues
came in at 50% right on the button. Then the next issues would start
to go down; 47, 42. I'll never forget those numbers. Then one was
39, and I said, "Uh-oh, this is not good." I put Jack on
other books. I created the Kamandi book for him after seeing Planet
of the Apes, and thought that would be a great theme to kick-off a
character with. The character's name, "Kamandi," was Jack's
idea, but I created the idea of the kid alone in a post-apocalyptic
world. That worked out fairly well for a number of issues. That was
a good one.
CBA: Do you remember the books going from 32 to 48 pages? That
was a radical move, jumping the price nearly 50 percent.
Carmine: That was Independent News' idea. They made that decision!
CBA: What was their thinking-more for the reader's buck?
Carmine: More for their buck! I didn't find this out until
I left the company and it killed me, but they were charging us 12
1/2%for their brokerage fee. Everybody else in the industry was paying
ten percent, but we were paying 12 1/2%. That was quite a bite into
my profit margin.
CBA: So it was a sweetheart deal-gouging their own company?
Carmine: It went into one pocket. Do you remember those Superman
cartoons from the '40s from the Fleischer Studios? Do you remember
the '50s Superman TV show? They were bringing in a small fortune and
Warner was handling it and my end of that share was becoming minimal.
CBA: So the distributor made a decision to go 48 pages at
25¢, Marvel follows suit for only one month...
Carmine: Then Marvel switches around and goes to 20¢,
giving the distributor 50% off. When we went to 25¢, we gave
the distributor a 40% discount. Marvel goes in and cuts the price
20% and gives the distributor 50% off. Whoa! They were throwing our
books back in our face! They were pushing Marvel's books so it really
became a slaughter.
CBA: Were there any controls that held you at 25¢?
Carmine: The price stricture was set up by Wendell, Inglesias,
and Chamberlin. Marvel had the 20¢ books and they took the lead
in sales. Why they took the lead is the 50% discount so the distributors
and wholesalers made more money with Marvel. So the distributors put
out Marvel and couldn't have cared less about us. Eventually we had
to give 50% off because we were getting slaughtered. We had to drop
CBA: Did you personally fly out to the Philippines to attract
the new artists?
Carmine: I went with Joe Orlando and Tony DeZuniga, who knew
the Philippines pretty well.
CBA: Why did you want the Filipino artists?
Carmine: The story was that somebody said that they were going
to start a union and they were going to pull all the cartoonists out
of DC Comics-not Marvel, just DC. So I thought that I'd better protect
myself-I don't know what's going on here. So I went with Joe and Tony
and rounded up these artists. Tony and his wife ran it for a while:
Nestor Redondo, Alex Niño, Alfredo Alcala, and a bunch of wonderful
artists were working for peanuts over there. There was no work for
them, actually; so we established with Tony for the artists to get
a fair rate and he would get a percentage for taking care of it all.
Everyone seemed happy with the idea and so was I. What we found out
later was that the game wasn't being played the way we agreed. People
didn't keep their word and the artists were being ripped off. So we
CBA: Joe Orlando mentioned that it was your idea to have a
coffee room where the freelancers could come and shoot the breeze.
Where did you get the idea for that?
Carmine: I remember when I used to go in there as a freelancer:
You would go in, give your work, and could only meet the other freelancers
downstairs or go somewhere else to have coffee. I thought it would
be good to have a place where they would just hang out-set a room
aside just for them. It worked beautifully. They came in, exchanged
ideas, and looked at each other's work. It was stimulating and it
worked like hell. I'd often join them. I also took my jacket off every
morning, rolled up my sleeves, loosened my tie and left my door open
so anybody could come in. So I kept the connection open all of the
time. Anybody could walk in my office if they had a problem. Artists
work with their sleeves rolled up all of the time so I made a point
of doing that and it seemed to work. It made everyone comfortable.
CBA: Didn't you miss drawing?
Carmine: I couldn't as I was laying out all the covers! I still
designed every cover we had, and still did editorial.
CBA: Did you work closely with Neal Adams on the cover designs?
Carmine: Yes. So I found that it was always best to give him
a layout and let him embellish it. He would do a helluva job once
you gave him a layout.
CBA: Did you two get along?
Carmine: No. We argued. He had his ideas and I had mine. He
was very contrarian. He wanted to handle Deadman's writing and art.
That arrangement killed the book.
CBA: With the revamp of Superman, did you guys have big editorial
meetings planning this stuff out?
Carmine: Yes. Julie took over the book, putting Denny on it.
That was his decision, not mine.
CBA: Whose idea was it to restart Captain Marvel?
Carmine: Me. I always loved the character so I ran over to
Fawcett and made a deal with them because they liked the idea and
had no objection. I think I goofed when I gave Julie the book because
I don't think he ever really understood the character. C.C. Beck wanted
to be Editor but he never told me. If he had I probably would have
given it to him. Julie certainly was busy enough and he didn't need
the book. I didn't even know at the time that they didn't get along.
Somebody should have said something to me. You can't be all things
to all people. Things can go on around you that you don't know is
CBA: How'd you get Archie Goodwin as an editor?
Carmine: He just came up. I always liked Archie's work. Then
he left me to go back to Warren. He wanted to go and I couldn't stop
him, but I told him that my door was always open if he wanted to come
back. He's a terrific writer.
CBA: Do you remember when you first saw Walt Simonson's work?
Carmine: They brought his work in and when I saw his stuff-whoa!-I
said give this guy work right away! That other kid that I was very
fond of-Mike Kaluta-oh, I loved his work! He was another one that
was going to get work from DC one way or another. And Bernie Wrightson-when
he came in and the work was terrific-though I think that Joe Orlando
found Bernie. He did Swamp Thing and that was wonderful.
CBA: Whose idea was it to get The Shadow?
Carmine: That was Kaluta's idea, I think, though it could have
been Denny's. Incidentally, Denny was a terrific dialogue man. When
I used to plot stuff, I'd get Denny in to dialogue; that was his forte!
CBA: Did you get Frank Robbins into DC?
Carmine: Yes. Frank was a friend of mine. I talked him into
drawing for us as well as writing. He did Batman for Julie. That was
good stuff. He left DC pretty much after I left for personal reasons-he
moved to Mexico and wanted to paint. He had problems with-well, suffice
to say that he didn't want to draw anymore and left. We enjoyed having
him. He was a terrific writer and artist.
CBA: Was there a plan to have Jim Steranko do a comic book
about drugs for DC?
Carmine: Not for me. The only thing I remember is Jim talking
to me at a convention and complaining that DC was coming out with
a character whose name Jim said he owned. It was called Talon. I said
that I didn't know what he was talking about but I certainly didn't
want something that belonged to someone else. I checked with the copyrights
and we found that he never copyrighted it; but I still wouldn't use
it-it was his. So we changed our name to Claw.
CBA: Do you ever look through the old comics?
Carmine: No. I have no desire to.
CBA: Were you looking to emulate Marvel?
Carmine: No. I didn't want to imitate Marvel. I tried to avoid
CBA: Joe Kubert told me that he bought your art table from
you after you accepted the job of Editorial Director. Did you want
to stop drawing comics?
Carmine: I was too busy to draw! When I started, I had my drawing
board and my reference files at home and wasn't using them anymore.
I was at the office for 12-13 hours a day and then I had to entertain
the wholesalers when they came in... I was never home anymore. In
fact, at my apartment I had a convertible bed that I never closed.
CBA: Len Wein says that he talked you into drawing the Human
Target story in Action Comics.
Carmine: Yeah, I remember that one. It was tough for me to
do. I had to do it in off-hours and I wouldn't take the money for
the thing. I refused to take the money because I felt that it was
on company time. DC was paying for reprints since the day I started
there. In fact, when I took over as Editorial Director, I wouldn't
take any of the reprint money for myself. I'd just kick it back into
the pot for the artists. I didn't think it would have been fair for
me to have taken it being management.
Among the many other things I did for the company, was stay on top
of the Superman movie. The first script from Puzo was just not Superman!
I went to California and sat in a bungalow at The Beverly Hills Hotel
with Mario and the producers. Out of that came Superman I and II.
The producers were so thrilled that they insisted that I get screen
CBA: How come you always had so many corpses on your covers?
Carmine: They sold! Some of those Mystery covers were our biggest
sellers. Y'know who didn't get enough credit? Murray Boltinoff was
such a fine editor. Whatever I put him on, he did well. He sold very
well. He was one of these guys who is not heralded at all. I really
loved him. He and Bob Kanigher... Bob created more characters than
anyone in the business, with little credit!
CBA: You started doing comics that had a blurb on the debut
issue that said "First DC Issue." Newsstands would shy away
from first issues as they were untried, but you appealed directly
to the collector.
Carmine: They seemed to sell well with that blurb. We were
absolutely trying to appeal to the collectors market, but we couldn't
forget our mass-market sales.
CBA: Did you have an deal with Phil Seuling to sell books
to him at a discount, starting the direct market?
Carmine: Sol Harrison used to deal will Phil-I had very little
dealings with him. Sol did all the dealing. But Phil started the comics
shops, didn't he? The whole reason I allowed the deal was because
there would be no returns. Sol came to me and told me they wanted
to buy books at a greater discount, sell them around the country,
with no returns. I said okay, but as long as they paid for them outright.
Slowly but surely their numbers built and kept building until there
were all those comics shops.
CBA: You joined the board of the Comics Code Authority. Were
you pushing for liberalization?
Carmine: I think so. I felt that the old Code was pretty outdated
and it needed to be brought up to date. I joined when I became Publisher
and went down to the meetings.
CBA: Marvel jumped in and did three issues of Amazing Spider-Man
without the seal stamp.
Carmine: I wouldn't do that. I had to get the proper specialists
in to make sure we were saying the right thing about drugs. I didn't
want to just throw the thing out there. We had a psychiatrist work
on the thing when we did those Green Lanterns.
CBA: Were you looking to liberalize the Code so you could
also do more "weird" books?
Carmine: Well, that word in the title sold books and we tested
the Code with it and they didn't balk. We used it often.
CBA: Were the CCA meetings boring?
Carmine: Yeah, they were dull. I just sat and listened. There
was one meeting when the printer was there and he complained that
there were too many books on the stands-it was 1975-and I suggested
that we all cut back to 20 books each and we'd have it out to see
who could do better. The printer agreed and so did everybody else
except Stan. He said, "My books sell, so I'm not pulling back."
That was the only meeting I remember having any kind of confrontation.
I don't know if I covered with you the last year that I was with
DC. The printer came to me in 1974 saying that there could be a paper
shortage for next year and Marvel was going to put out 60-70 books.
They could knock us off the stands, so I matched them book for book.
I had to cover my rump. Of course, we lost money, and they lost money,
but I wouldn't relinquish my space on the stands. That's what got
the guys upstairs upset, because I covered myself that way. But I
feel that I did the right thing then and I do so now. Once you lose
your rack space, you're dead. I stand by my decision.
In 1974, DC was making a lot of money, especially from publishing.
That year, we won every award comics had to offer, plus we were neck
and neck with Marvel. We did so well that my staff and I were given
stock options, and we did it with one-fourth of the staff of today's
CBA: So then in January of 1976, you were called upstairs
and were out in the same day.
Carmine: I had just returned from an intense promotion during
Christmas of the Superman/Spider-Man book, all through California.
I was ordered upstairs and was informed they no longer were happy
with my efforts. I wasn't too happy with their less than thrilling
attitude towards comics. I was happy to move on.
And another point: They removed my name from the Superman film credit-and
they denied me my options! So I left for California. While there,
my mom suddenly got ill and I had to return to New York. That's the
way the ball bounces!
I'm more than comfortable to let history judge my publishing past.
As for my present, I am very fortunate. I only deal with people and
things I like and respect.
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