This one first appeared in DC Comics dated Nov. 1983. In this particular instance, I found it in issue #3 of the 4 part mini-series Sword of the Atom.
“I have a vision.
A vision of comics being all that they can be…”
These are the opening lines of a speech I delivered at eight or ten major conventions during 1982. The lines were intended to segue into the major thrust of the address; that the comic industry’s need for new talent would prevent my visions from ever becoming a reality unless a program was initiated by the major publishers to encourage the entry of new talent into the field.
But my speech never clearly delineated my vision, its origin, or its development and I’d like to do that now
So I will.
* * *
I can’t remember exactly how old I was. I was in bed. I was sickly as a child and spent lots of time in bed. Since I am an only child and my father worked and my mother had her chores, I spent a good many hours finding ways to occupy myself. My parents, bless ’em, knew how difficult it was for me and did everything they could to keep me comfortable. My father brought something home for me each night, something to help me while away the lonesome hours. This particular night he brought me home a comic book… Famous Funnies to be exact… my first comic book ever. “Here you are, Dickie. Now you can read the funnies every day, not just on Sunday.” I picked up the magazine he’d tossed on the bed, flipped throught the pages, mesmerized… and I haven’t been the same since!
I can’t tell you why those early comics affected me the way they did, but I was hooked and immediately became an avid reader. Soon I was writing and drawing my own comics, (sometimes on brown paper begs that my mother brought groceries home in) to pass the time between issues of my favourites. I remember, in particular, drawing “The Little King”, a popular Sunday comic strip of the time, and my parents beaming proudly at my “talent”. I really didn’t need much encouragement. I’d made up my mind that reading or drawing comics was fun and I would do both for as long as I could. Perhaps for the rest of my life. I was then seven years old.
* * *
Jump ahead five/six years. I’m in elementary school now, not so sickly anymore, lots of friends, getting into sports… baseball mostly. Still an avid reader (Batman wipes me out. Can’t wait for the next issue… especially if the Joker is the villain), still drawing my own comics, which now tend to be adaptations of stories from the pulp magazines of the time, mostly sport stories. Each day when school ends, I buy a package of Drakes’ cupcakes (3 to a package), trudge home and with a glass of milk, the radio turned on to Captain Midnight or Jack Armstrong, I spend the time waiting for my parents to come home from work reading my latest stack of comics. A major event in my life at that time was discovering that a classmate of mine, Pat Bove, shared my unbridled enthusiasm for reading comics (thought he didn’t draw them), bought his comics at a mysterious “other” store, seemed to ve able to produce huge stacks of them, seemingly at will and they were almost all titles that I couldn’t get at my store and we started trading. Now I could read two or three comics for every one I bought. Bliss! Thank you, Pat Bove, wherever you are!
* * *
Graduated elementary school having already made a career choice. A vocational high school in the New York City system, The School of Industrial Art, offered coursed in cartooning as well as all the other commercial arts. It also required the students to take all the necessary academic subjects needed to enter college, so my school day was quite long and there was a 45 minute subway ride in either direction to make the day longer. I think this is where my 4 A.M. rising time started. I worked hard. I loved it. I learned my craft. (Talent is a good start, but you do need training!)
My high school years and my first year of working were uneventful, in the main. But the early fifties saw the emergence of EC Comics, and a new standard was set. I was knocked out of my socks by those comics. Here were stories that were literate, exciting, revolved around themes or messages that readers could relate to. They were well illustrated, beautifully coloured, and, in my mind, all other comics paled by comparison. More than all this, you could feel that the creative people cared about their material, the editors (comics giants, Al Feldstein and Harvey Kurtzman) put their individual stamps on the books that the editors and publisher Bill Gaines supplied his supports, direction and whatever else was needed to make it happen. The end results was a stunning line of comics that were fun to read and demanded that you care about them and their creators, who were given great visibility by the publisher and the editors
* * *
This early vision of what comics can be still fires me today. I don’t mean that I intend to copy EC Comics. Today’s tastes have changes… but I do want to publish a line of DC Comics that will have the same overwhelming level of creative energy, that will have people working together who care about their material, each other, their reader and comics in general. Creators who work towards a common goal for love of the work and a desire to entertain and please an audience… as well as themselves… creators who feel that they can make such a total commitment not feel “it’s just a job” to produce a line of comics that make a special statement… their statement. In short, a line of comics I can read and recapture the excitement of a time, not too long ago, when comics were all they could be.
* * *
Maybe it won’t happen this year… maybe it won’t happen in the next five years… maybe it won’t happen ever! But it won’t be because I haven’t tried. You see, I have a vision.
Thank you and Good Afternoon.