Posted by Bob Greenberger on October 30, 2013
I have no recollection of who my father met while a salesman for IBM, but one day he announced that he arranged a tour of the DC Comics offices. I flashed back to that sense of wonder as the news spread across the Internet that after 75-plus years, the comic book publisher was going to be following the Dodgers to Los Angeles.
Carol Fein was immortalized in this sub ad.
At the time I visited in 1971, the company was still at 909 Third Avenue and I was shown around by Carol Fein, who was then a secretary for Carmine Infantino. She did this so often through the years that by the time I joined staff in 1984 and she worked for Jenette Kahn, there was no way she could recall this one incident. But I remember it. I must have been 14 and the corporate offices looked unlike any place I had seen before (and I never did visit Dad at IBM so had no basis of comparison at the time). It resembled offices I saw on television shows, with comic books replacing flow charts and spreadsheets covering the desks. As we stood in Robert Kanigher’s office, Infantino himself brushed by, cigar leading the way. I got a quick nod and he kept going. In a spare office, Neal Adams was hunched over a drawing board, pencilling the cover to World’s Greatest Super-Heroes. The highlight though was being taken into the austere library where Mark Hannerfeld made my eyes pop by casually grabbing a volume from the drawer and let me thumb through the first few issues of All-Star Comics – from the 1940’s!
The company moved to 75 Rockefeller Plaza soon after and I would visit there a few times during the years. The coffee room that was the hub of freelancer life at 909 was gone and the place always felt on the tight side. But when I was hired in 1980, the company had grown and it was definitely tight. I was summer help that year, stuffed in a small, glassed-in office with Andy Helfer. The best part of working in such tight space was that we were across the hall from Murray Boltinoff and heard him and Kanigher plot, yell, debate, and argue with one another. We were visited regularly by Bob Haney, in his final years as a writer, and he’d regale us with stories. Newcomer J.M. DeMatteis would also hang with us while waiting for editors to be free and I think we both envied his early success. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by Bob Greenberger on January 9, 2013
In the early days of comic book fandom, it took its cues from science fiction fandom since there was quite a bit of overlap. The early SF zines included names and addresses so as others began publishing, they knew where to find eager subscribers. The first pure comics zine, Richard Lupoff’s Xero, didn’t arrive until 1960 but it merely ignited a new wave of comics-only zines. By the time I discovered fanzines or 1960 or 1970, you sent some money and/or some stamps and they sent you a zine.
My best friend Jeff and I wisely took our meager allowances and one of us subscribed to Don & Maggie Thompson’s Newfangles and the other ordered Paul Levitz’s The Comics Reader. This way, we could share the only two authoritative sources of comics news. By then, we were aware that a growing back issue market was fueled by RBCC, formerly known as the Rocket’s Blast Comics Collector, but as its editor, GB Love’s health meant that venerable title had to end, the market for a publication for buyers and sellers remained strong.
Enter Alan Light, now a respected music writer. Back in 1971, he gave us The Buyer’s Guide for Comic Fandom , a weekly tabloid that was chock full of ads. Over time, though, Light added columnists, giving us something read between ads. Columnists begat news and news begat reviews and suddenly, The Buyer’s Guide became the source for information about comics post and present along with a handy way to order things of interest. Within a year it went from monthly to biweekly and the Thompsons brought Newfangles back, renamed Beautiful Balloons making the free paper a must read. Of course, with success came a demand for more content and in 1972 the paper went to a subscription model but no one complained. It had become too vital a source for information and collectors. As a result, it went weekly in 1975. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by Bob Greenberger on November 19, 2012
Marvel’s corporate history is at least as compelling as the Earth-616 universe it has published since 1961. We’ve had some glimpses via the Les Daniels’ Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World’s Greatest Comics and bits scattered in other works, notably Gerry Jones’ wonderful Men of Tomorrow. For the mass consumer, Sean Howe has offered up Marvel Comics The Untold Story but for those who grew up reading the comics, it is woefully short on analysis and perspective.
Martin Goodman built a publishing empire based on having a good gut, sensing when something was hot and flooding the market with titles that fed that interest. Once tastes changed, so did the magazines, building a successful company based entirely on short-term goals. That philosophy long outlasted Goodman, who cashed out in 1971 and the company really didn’t begin looking at a long-term game plan until it emerged from bankruptcy in 1997, firmly in the grip of miserly Ike Perlmutter.
Howe’s book breezily takes us from inception through the last year or so, but unevenly weights his sections so seems fascinated by the 1970s second generation of Marvel creators, which matches the first decade of his life. The first two decades is quickly dispatched in under 50 pages which means we learn little of how the company really worked and the personalities surrounding young Stan Lee. As a result, the great Al Jaffe’s tenure as an editor in the 1950s is missing and Vince Fago, who ran the shop while Lee served in World War II, is given barely more than a line. The brief superhero revival in the early 1950s barely gets a notice including that Sub-Mariner outlasted the others while Goodman held out to see if a television option would get picked up. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by Bob Greenberger on October 23, 2012
After Earth: Innocence was a one-shot comic given out at the movie panel at San Diego Comic-Con with a nifty Jae Lee cover. The commercial version, with a cover by my pal Dennis Calero, was released by Dynamite Entertainment last Wednesday.
In the wake of its release, the reviews have been coming in and I am delighted with the response so far. First up was VG Revolution and they said, “I did not really know what to expect going into a comic that is a prequel to a movie that I know just a little about…However, the comic does a really nice job of both explaining the back story of the After Earth universe but also working in some action.
“It has a lot of action and yet the action is not the point of the story. It is really well written and kept me reading what is essentially the ancestral history of a character in a movie that I’ve not even seen a trailer for. Yes, I was fully engrossed as I read it.”
The Lottery Party weighed in, saying, “This thoughtful one-shot is a self-contained does of heavy science fiction, with a father sharing defining moments of their culture’s near thousand years of history with his young son by way of a bedtime story. And the story is wide scale, detailing how humans leave the homeworld following environmental devastation, and the slow turn to find a new home while conquering their own innate malfeasance.
“Friedman and Greenberger are aces of sci-fi of course, in comics and prose, and their conjoined efforts craft a thorough story vividly set far in the future.”
Then there’s Comic Hype, which notes, “The history is the critical part to the tie-in, and like any sci-fi universe, it’s important to learn, in order to fully understand the plot and why things are the way they are. The book will tell you about the Savant and Primus people, their leaders, how war broke out, and explains Carter Raige’s involvement. I particularly noticed some well scripted panels that detail lighting and shadowing as they show Beni Lobel‘s pages as comfortable and intrinsic to earth in a way. Nova Prime comes alive on these pages as the ships, the people, the action, and the writing all flow into what ends up being a very good read. The writing and closeness or similarity communicated between one Raige generation to the next, was very well crafted and like any great fiction bit, the weight of the relationships or the drama in my mind, trumps the action and special effects.”
One Geek Nation gave it a 3, disliking the framing sequence but happy with the rest of the book. They said, “Despite the poor structure of the narrative, again something that was beyond the writers’ control, Michael and Robert do an excellent job of conveying how father is attempting to pass on wisdom to son by telling the story of how a son actually passed on wisdom to his father. In just three pages they establish the political and social situation for the people of Nova Prime and then quickly transition into the action sequence that sets up the rest of the comic without missing a beat. The dialogue was solid, enough information was given about each important character to differentiate them from one another and the story was given enough pace to keep things interesting.
The comic remains available and clearly, it’s worth your while.
Next up will be the digital short stories from Random House by Peter David, Mike Friedman, and yours truly, starting in December. I’m really looking forward to hearing what you think.
Posted by Bob Greenberger on September 28, 2012
Hard to believe that it’s been 25 years since Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted. I still recall hearing about it around the time the Original Series was celebrating their 20th anniversary in 1986. Then, DC Comics was offered the license to the new series and we were invited out for a visit.
They were still building the bridge when we were taken to the sound stages in May 1987. My first impression was that the overall design sensibility owed a lot to Matt Jeffries and they were honoring what came before. It was larger, of course, with the sloping ramps fore and aft, but it was clearly an Enterprise bridge.
To have a miniseries in support of the new series out that fall, we would have to work quickly so it was easy to turn to Mike Carlin, who had been writing the main book for a short while. Being on staff meant we could keep the few scripts we were sent in house and not worry about leaks, which was becoming an issue even back in those early AOL/Usenet days.
For the art, I turned to speed demon Pablo Marcos, who could bang out the model sheets working from a handful of Polaroids that were taken just as the pilot was finally shooting. We were informed that Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes had approval rights so we did model sheets for those characters first, and followed with the other regulars which Paramount Licensing approved on their own. Stewart made it clear that Pablo had to give him less hair and make his head more pointed. We made it so.
Without much to go on beyond an ever-changing bible and maybe four scripts, Mike and I brainstormed ideas which proved prophetic since several of our concepts also found their way into the series. To this day I say it was all coincidence and not stealing but when I saw the episode with a powerless Q, I laughed and said, “We did it first!”
As a fan, I found the show maddeningly inconsistent in quality and fairly dull at first. It was clear cast and crew were feeling their way through this new concept and the quality improved incrementally throughout that first season. Truth be told, though, it wasn’t until mid-way through the second season with episodes like “Measure of a Man” that the show began to live up to its potential. It was only later we began to learn the truth of how ugly the birthing process was and how many people were burned in the process. A lot of those stories are recounted in the forthcoming Star Trek: The Complete Unauthorized History (hint, hint).
The universe Gene Roddenberry created was rich enough to sustain a look ahead, cementing his belief that mankind would not only make it to the stars, but be made better from the experience. Yes, it was challenging to tell stories where human conflicts were considered a thing of the past, but the writers and producers found ways to tell interesting stories over seven seasons, just as we explored further in the monthly series, which Mike Friedman and Pablo so ably launched. And who could forget those amazing Jerome Moore covers?
TNG’s success sparked a new financial model, allowing first-run syndication series to explode across television (and now cable). It also launched the television careers of countless writers and producers whose work we have continued to enjoy. The series proved so successful, Paramount, for good or ill, continued to ask for additional series set in that universe. There is so much this series gave us fans that we will always owe it a debt of gratitude.
Today, I salute Roddenberry’s creation and hope we continue to enjoy it for years to come in whatever form we find it.
Posted by Bob Greenberger on September 15, 2012
The new school schedule is throwing a serious monkey wrench into my ability to get other things done. That coupled with a contractor making various portions of the house unusable and a head cold means I am significantly behind on things, starting with my con report from last week.
This was my second consecutive trip to Baltimore Comic-Con, which is a great excuse for a father-daughter weekend. Kate shares me with my peers and I share Kate with his significant other and their posse. Courtesy of Westfield Comics’ Roger Ash, who runs the con’s programming, I was invited to moderate three panels and they went exceptionally well.
The show’s reputation, thanks to organizer Mark Nathan’s continued focus on purely comics, has grown which has turned into a swelling attendance. I was surprised by how much more crowded the show floor felt, even though they apparently took over more space in the convention center. Nice problem to have, I suppose. Still, the staff was friendly and organized so people moved in and out efficiently. They were also dressed in zombie makeup on Sunday which was sort of neat and not something I’ve seen elsewhere.
As usual, there was more programming I wanted to see than time, especially things I was scheduled opposite but that means Roger’s taking full advantage of his illustrious lineup of guests. Just about every writers and artist on hand could be easily found throughout the show as writers busily scrawled their names on comics and artists had lengthy sketch lists. The positive energy I enjoyed last year remained in full force this time around.
On Saturday, things started off with a catch-up breakfast with Barry Kitson. We barely had a chance to talk last year so this year we made a point of sitting down away from the crowds and that was lovely. He was accompanied by Tara, a con friend who enjoys dressing in costume and has partnered with Barry for a serious of posters. Buy a poster, you get to pose with Tara. This year she wore a Red Sonja outfit she made entirely on her own and as you can see here, she wields a fine sword.
At noon, I hosted the British Invasion panel with Barry, Brian Bolland, and Mark Buckingham. I had never done a panel with any of these gents and I was looking forward to getting their thoughts on the migration of talent across the Atlantic. The discussion went well although twice I was tripped up because the information I gathered from the Comic Book Database was erroneous and that irked me. Still, we had a lovely chat and the questions from the audience were interesting, even though we got the inevitable, “What was it like working with Alan Moore on The Killing Joke”, which Brian gets at every panel he does. Members of the British Tourism board were on hand and they provided us with this fun backdrop and gave the panelists promo t-shirts.
Minutes later, I was in the next room and conducted a one-on-one conversation with Paul Levitz. I’ve known Paul since I was I 13 years old so I wanted to explore with him those early days of comic collecting and fanzines, looking back at how much smaller and simpler fandom was and how it evolved. He jokingly told me I had three hours’ worth of questions for a sixty minute slot but we managed to get through most of the important questions. It was one of the most conversational panels I’ve ever been a part of and I gather the audience, which included several fellow pros, got something out of it. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by Bob Greenberger on August 13, 2012
Joe Kubert’s distinct art style was one of the earliest I recall being able to identify. It seemed such a perfect fit the DC war titles and I was always pleasantly surprised to see the occasional superhero cover during the 1960s. I didn’t really get a sense of his lengthy tenure in comics until he was spotlighted in an issue of DC Special.
Then came Tarzan. I knew of the character but had not then read Burroughs or the Gold Key comics so this was an eye-popping revelation. It was my first sustained exposure to the jungle lord and Kubert’s artwork seemed an ideal fit. Thanks to DC’s expanded reprint program through the 1970s, I was exposed to more and more of his work and recognized a true artist.
In the summer of 1980, I was briefly on staff at DC prior to beginning my career at Starlog Press and I wound up spending a lot of time in Ross Andru’s office. It was small and cramped, but he sat at his drawing board working up covers or layout covers for others. At the same, all cover art was passed under his nose and it was through his tutelage that I grasped how carefully Kubert constructed his covers and he drew for color, something I had never considered before. At first I would see the artwork and wonder where the blacks were to give the cover weight but then I would see the color guide and it suddenly made sense and worked wonderfully.
Joe and I became nodding acquaintances when I finally joined DC in 1984 and he contributed pages to Who’s Who but we never did more work together and remained friendly enough. At some point, Dick Giordano asked me and Mike Gold to reread the five issues that Joe had completed of The Redeemer, a project DC ballyhooed in 1983 before yanking the project for various reasons. It was a rare treat to see stuff that no one else had. Unfortunately, the conclusion was that the time for such a work had passed and it was quietly canceled and the rights returned to Joe. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by Bob Greenberger on July 1, 2012
As early as April, people begin asking, “Will I see you in San Diego?” This year, the answer was a routine, “Not unless a fairy godmother arrived unexpectedly.”
Most years, she passes over my home but this year she made a stop. Over the last few days, the arrangements have been put into place and yesterday, the convention website released their Saturday schedule to include the following panel:
10:00-11:00 After Earth— Enter the world of After Earth with an in-depth panel that gives you a behind-the-scenes look at the universe of the upcoming film and comic book. With the film now in post-production and set to hit theaters next June, screenwriter Gary Whitta (Book of Eli) and director of photography Peter Suschitzky (The Empire Strikes Back) will discuss the making of the film. They will be joined by comic book artist Beni Lobel (Spanish horror comic anthology Cthulu; G.I. Joe comic books; Torchwood: Web of Lies motion comic), and writers Robert Greenberger (Iron Man, Batman, and Hellboy novels) and Michael Friedman (Star Trek and X-Men novels) — the creators of the comic book After Earth: Innocence, which will introduce Kitai and Cypher Raige (played by Jaden and Will Smith in the After Earth film). Also joining the panel is Eisner Award winner Peter David (Star Trek novels and comic books; The Incredible Hulk), who is writing the After Earth prequel novel and also created the After Earth bible with Greenberger and Friedman.
In After Earth, one thousand years after cataclysmic events forced humanity’s escape from Earth, Nova Prime has become mankind’s new home. Legendary General Cypher Raige (played by Will Smith) returns from an extended tour of duty to his estranged family, ready to be a father to his 13-year-old son, Kitai (played by Jaden Smith). When an asteroid storm damages Cypher and Kitai’s craft, they crash-land on a now unfamiliar and dangerous Earth. As his father lies dying in the cockpit, Kitai must trek across the hostile terrain to recover their rescue beacon. His whole life, Kitai has wanted nothing more than to be a soldier like his father. Today, he gets his chance. Room 6A
So yeah, I’ll be there and look, we’ll be talking about some of the post-film writing that Mike and I have done. This is all terribly exciting since it means I get to happily talk about something I’ve been working on the last year and get to be at the mecca of geekdom. It also affords me a chance to reconnect with old colleagues and friends so that’s a tremendous plus.
If you’re attending the con, please put this in your schedule and I hope to (somehow) see you at the show.
Posted by Bob Greenberger on March 30, 2012
Sometime last year, my pal Amy Sisson passed along a note from Salem Press, seeking writers about comics. I thought I might be able to do that and contacted them for details and wound up writing six essays for their Critical Survey of Graphic Novels, a sprawling, multi-volume scholarly look at the field.
I see now that the first set, Heroes & Superheroes, will be coming out this Spring with the other sets following over the next year.
In the first two volume set, they boast “130 essays covering graphic novels and core comics series that form today’s canon for academic coursework and library collections, with a focus on the hero/superhero genre”. Their goal, according to the press release:
A “first” in the field, this brand new Critical Survey series focuses on all aspects of the graphic novels format, aiming to establish it as an important academic discipline and research topic in libraries. Designed for academic institutions, high schools, and public libraries, the series provides unique insight into the stories and themes expressed in historic and current landscape of the graphic novel medium.
For this first set, I wrote about Walt Simonson’s Thor and Gil Kane’s groundbreaking Blackmark. In May, they’re offering up Independent and Underground Classics where I wrote about Jon Sable and Cadillacs & Dinosaurs. In August will be Manga where I contributed an essay on Mai the Psychic Girl and finally next March History, Theme, and Technique will have my piece on comic book ages.
A fairly eclectic collection I must say but they offered extensive lists and asked the contributors to volunteer for the ones we’re interested in using a priority list. I was then assigned whatever they decided and given very strict guidelines. In one essay, I came up 100 words short in one area and had it sent back by the editor for more words.
Nothing like this has been tried for the field and while expensive – the first set is $295 – it is certainly worth asking your libraries to see about acquiring them. I personally look forward to having this resource and the companion online database.
Posted by Bob Greenberger on February 14, 2012
One of my goals during the semester break was to complete reading the growing stack of comics on my night table. While it took me longer than I expected, I actually caught up on every periodical on hand. I had been working hard to stay close to Flashpoint then the New 52, but it meant the Vertigo titles were stacking up, forlorn and whimpering.
I like many of the titles and appreciate that all of them have different tones and voices, set largely in their own worlds, allowing for greater personal perspective. The line has waxed and waned and is poised for refreshing in the coming months as a number of their longer running books wrapped up.
The Vertigo books, more than the DCU titles, cry for collection. Some of that has to do with the sometimes erratic publishing schedules but also the fact that none of them are meant to be read in single-issue installments. Just about every book I read was a chapter in a longer arc that was clearly intended to be collected.
Editorially, I object because it makes the books inaccessible. If any DCE titles needed recap pages, it was these books, especially if there were more than four weeks between issues, which happened a lot. As a result, it meant my sitting and reading four to six issues of each title made for a far more satisfying reading experience. Apparently writing done-in-one stories just isn’t the Vertigo model.
Creatively, the most consistent of the books remains Fables which continues to find new and interesting ways to use the fairy tale characters of our childhood. Bill Willingham deserves all his praise for the sustained effort, along with kudos for letting others play along. Chris Roberson did some marvelous work with his Cinderella miniseries. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »