Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Julius Schwartz Builds an Empire

In early 1959, Whitney Ellsworth's name finally disappeared as editor from the indicia of every DC comic. It is well-established that he had actually ceased working in New York by the early 1950s, instead pitching DC's properties to Hollywood and the TV studios.

When the real editors were revealed, Julius Schwartz had a rather modest portfolio.  He was responsible for DC's two science-fiction series, Strange Adventures and Mystery in Space, giving him responsibility for 20 comic books a year, as SA was a monthly and MiS appeared eight times a year.

But when the Flash was added to his titles early that year, he boosted his production to 26 books (Flash started out as a bi-monthly).  Green Lantern started appearing every other month in mid-1960, and the Flash was promoted to eight times a year, so now Schwartz was editing 34 books per annum.  Briefly, because in late 1960 the Justice League of America began appearing, giving him the reins over 40 issues annually.

By the beginning of 1962, Green Lantern and JLA had been bumped up to eight issues a year, giving Schwartz responsibility for 44 comics per year.  But that didn't last long, as the Atom got his own title midway through that year, putting Schwartz at 50 issues per solar orbit.  The Flash got an annual in 1963 putting the number of Schwartz comics at 51. 

Hawkman took awhile to win his wings as I have discussed in the past, but that gave Schwartz briefly 57 comics per annum. In May of 1964, Schwartz was handed responsibility for Detective and Batman, although in return he was relieved of Strange Adventures and Mystery in Space, the two titles he had at the beginning of his empire-building.  Although the swap seemed even up with Detective having as many issues as SA, and Batman an equal amount as MiS, Batman did have the Summer and Winter Annuals, ticking Schwartz up to 59 books annually.  Correction: As noted in the comments by Christoph Melchert, Jack Schiff continued editing the Batman Annuals for awhile; he is credited in those issues up until Batman #198 when Nelson Bridwell took over.  Schwartz did get credit for editing Batman #176; I am not sure if that is just a mistake or what.

That's a pretty hefty workload, especially when you consider that in addition to editing, Schwartz also wrote the filler for his books (unlike many of the other editors, who used Henry Boltinoff's gag strips).  Flash had Flash Facts and Amazing Speeds, while for Green Lantern Schwartz gave vocabulary lessons with "What's the Difference" and imitated Ripley with "It's Hard to Believe, But..."

After that Schwartz's workload stayed relatively stable.

Update: Martin O'Hearn points out in the comments that Schwartz did have a few other titles in his stable as of 1959.  Western Comics and All-Star Western were both published until 1961, and the last few issues of Rex the Wonder Dog and Hopalong Cassidy (both cancelled in mid-1959) bear his name on the indicia.  Good catch, Martin!

This also brings up another interesting point.  Who worked on those last couple of issues of Rex?  John Broome did the writing chores; guess who became the main writer on the Flash?  And Carmine Infantino did the Detective Chimp backup series in those comics; he became the penciller on the Flash.  Gil Kane did the pencils on Rex and Hopalong; he did the same for Green Lantern and (eventually) the Atom.  I haven't taken a hard look at it, but I suspect that when Rex and Hoppy were cancelled, Kane suddenly started doing a lot more stories in Strange Adventures and Mystery In Space until GL and the Atom filled up his schedule.

In other words, what in isolation may appear like x comic was cancelled and (completely unrelated) y comic was started may simply have been a reallocation of existing resources.  Remember, all these creative talents were making a living working for the individual editors at DC, and there was no particular reason to furlough them just because a genre (like westerns) happened to go out of vogue.  As well, recall that DC was remarkably consistent in terms of the number of comics it put out during the Silver Age.  They basically put out 360 comics a year, every year.  That number might vary widely by genre, as I have discussed in the past, but it stayed right around 360.  Therefore, they still needed the same amount of script and artwork done every year.


Anonymous said...

I had no idea Schwartz did the Flash facts and other features. Cool.-Fraser

Pat said...

Yep, Fraser, he mentions it in Man of Two Worlds; he also notes that he paid himself for writing those features. ;)

Kirk House said...

There actually was another DC science fiction title -- Tales of the Unexpected, where Space Ranger eventually became the feature character. Who handled that book?

cmn365 said...

And what about Showcase? Did it have one editor or did the editors take turns?

Anonymous said...

AFAIK, Jack Schiff edited Tales of the Unexpected. And, apparently, the editors did take turns on Showcase, e.g., Robert Kanigher on Metal Men and Sea Devils, Schiff on Aquaman and Challengers of the Unknown, George Kashdan on Teen Titans, Jack Miller on Inferior Five.

Pat said...

Yes, my point about the number of issues Schwartz edited was how he built up his empire of regular, ongoing titles. And after 1964, he pretty much stopped doing the tryouts; IIRC the only Showcase issues he edited after the Atom were the Doctor Fate and Hourman issues and the Spectre issues. He also did the two B&B issues with Starman and Black Canary.

Kid said...

Wouldn't he have had assistant editors to whom he could delegate some tasks 'though? Or did he do it all himself?

Martin OHearn said...

Julie Schwartz edited All-Star Western and Western Comics until they were cancelled in 1961, and he may have had his name in the indicia of the last few issues of Adventures of Rex the Wonder Dog and Hopalong Cassidy in 1959. His workload prior to Flash wasn't just the two SF magazines.

Anonymous said...

I think the Batman annuals continued to be credited to Jack Schiff even after Schwartz took over the regular _Batman_ & _Detective Comics_ series.

Christoph Melchert

Pat said...

Christoph, good catch; I will make the corrections.