Comic Book Artist Edited by Jon B. Cooke Comic Book Artist, Eisner Award winner for "Best Comics-Related Magazine", celebrates the lives and works of great cartoonists, writers and editors from all eras through in-depth interviews, feature articles, and unpublished art.
Licensing work on Batman playing cards showing the Great Designer, Carmine Infantino, at his best. Batman, Joker ©1998 DC Comics.

Director Comments

From Art Director to Publisher: The Infantino Interview

Conducted by & © Jon B. Cooke

From Comic 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 National?
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 Jack Miller.

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 favorite.

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 of vacation.

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 editors.
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 of ideas.

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 young talent.

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 books.
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 careful.

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 time.

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 tabloid books.
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 very unhappy.

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 in 1972.
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 a while?
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 he left.

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 idea?
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 was it.

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 the book.

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 Geek.
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 accurate?
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 be true.

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 to 20¢.

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 changed management.

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 happening.

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 that.

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 credit.

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 DC.

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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