Julie Schwartz and SUPERMAN 411

Superman411-Schwartz

Images © DC Comics, Inc.

On Friday, June 19th, writers Paul Kupperberg and Peter Sanderson both commemorated what would have been the 99th birthday of long-time DC editor Julius Schwartz on Facebook. Peter included the cover above, (this copy signed by Julie himself) the first time I’d seen it in decades. It came out in 1985. I had a hand in the production of the comic, which celebrated Julie’s life on the cover and inside. The entire issue was produced secretly. Julie was the Superman editor and was working on an entirely different story that he thought was going in issue 411.

Meanwhile, writer Elliot S! Maggin and penciller Curt Swan were crafting this tale of an alternate universe where Superman was real, and so was Julie, though his life had taken a very different course. When the story was lettered by John Costanza and inked by Murphy Anderson, it came to me. I was the Assistant Production Manager at DC then, still doing lots of hands-on stuff. I took the pages home to do all the needed production work on the issue: corrections, art touch-ups, pasting in logos and so on. I didn’t dare work on it in the office. Julie was a very involved editor, and he might have popped by the production room to check on his books at any time. I’m not sure who penciled the cover, it was certainly inked by Dick Giordano, who might have also penciled it. When it was ready, I took that home too, doing the cover lettering (top line above the logo, word balloon and UPC box lettering for the direct sale edition), pasted on the trade dress (logo, price box, DC bullet) and everything was photostatted or xeroxed for the colorists, probably Tatjana Wood on the cover and Gene D’Angelo on the interior pages. Finally everyone approved the finished work, and it went off to the printer with Julie none the wiser, though there were some close calls I think.

As Julie remembers in his book “Man of Two Worlds,”:

“So comes the day [of his 70th birthday], and all of a sudden publisher Jenette Kahn’s administrative assistant Carol Fein comes in and says we’re having a special meeting in the conference room. I probably fretted as I walked down the hall wondering what the latest crisis was—and walked into the conference room to discover champagne on ice and Jenette handing me the first copy of SUPERMAN #411, and I see that I am depicted on the cover.”

Superman411coverBlog

A thorough and well-managed surprise, and a pretty fine tribute to one of the best editors I’ve worked with, as well as a friend. I think one reason Julie and I got on well was that he understood about being a fan. The thing was, Julie was not so much a comics fan — that was his job — but a science fiction fan, something we had in common. Julie always said he didn’t know much about art, and it’s true his main focus was always the writing of his comics. I don’t think he ever collected any comics art, but when the original art for that Superman cover was given to him, he was delighted with it…and he proceeded to get it completely covered in autographs. I don’t recall how that all worked, but I think many of the staff and artist signatures had been put on the art before it was given to him at the party. More may have been added there. I believe Julie continued to gather more signatures on the piece whenever someone he knew stopped in to see him at his DC office. The art may also have made rounds elsewhere, or Julie might have brought it to conventions and gotten more signatures there. The result is a rather sadly defaced piece of art, but one with lots of historic autographs, as well as many obscure and hard to read ones.

In one of the Facebook postings, someone added a very low resolution version of the signed cover, which I found fascinating. Seeing a Heritage Auctions tag on it at the bottom, I looked up the auction and pulled out a high resolution version, which allowed me to see all the signatures much better. I’ve put that HERE. I thought I’d go through the image and list some of the signatures, at least the ones I can read (can’t get them all). We’ll look at the art in four sections, and you can refer to the higher resolution scan in the link above.

Superman411coverUL

Starting from upper left, the ones I can read only, we have Mike Carlin, not yet on staff at DC, but soon an editor there. Top right is Joanne Siegel, wife of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel and (as she notes) original model for Lois Lane. Right of the DC bullet are inker and former production staffer Steve Mitchell, and artist Steve Rude. Below the DC bullet is writer/artist/editor Joe Kubert. Below that is editor Robert Greenberger. In the S of the logo are artist Bernie Wrightson, writer Steve Englehart and writer/artist John Byrne. In the U are artist Curt Swan, colorist Tatjana Wood, artist George Tuska and DC art director Neal Pozner. In the P are colorist and production staffer Bob LeRose, artist/editor Al Milgrom, and writer (and co-author of Julie’s book) Brian M. Thomsen. In the E is editor Joey Cavalieri. Back to the left edge we have writer/editor Mike Friedrich, then inside the border writer/editor Laurie Sutton, writer/artist Bill Willingham and artist John Totleben. Under the S of the logo we have writers David Michelinie and Paul Kupperberg. Under the U are DC executive/writer Paul Levitz and “Gaff,” colorist and former production staffer Carl Gafford. Under the P is writer Cary Bates and writer/artist Karl Kesel. He and writer/artist Jerry Ordway’s autographs are split across this and the next section. Back on the left to the right of Willingham are artist/editor Joe Orlando and artist Don Heck, with writer/editor and long-time science fiction friend Forrest “Forry” Ackerman. Right of Orlando is the hard-to-read signature of writer/artist Howard Chaykin, with writer Peter David under him. Below Superman’s arm is Kim Foley, “Wonder Woman,” I believe a model who played the character at conventions. Just above Julie’s head is artist Dave Hunt, with artist Gil Kane signing right on Julie’s forehead. Just right of that is artist Murphy Anderson, and right of that colorist and DC staffer Anthony Tollin. Back on the left, in red are designer/DC staffer Richard Bruning and writer/editor Roy Thomas. Right of that is artist Manny Stallman. On Julie’s shirt is artist Chuck Patton, and on his collar artist Mike Grell. Whew! That’s just the first quarter of the cover, and there are a number of names I can’t read.

Superman411coverUR

Okay the upper right quadrant. At the top is writer/artist Colleen Doran, and below her Graffiti Designs head Bob Chapman. Inside the border we have Superman’s “dad” Jerry Siegel. Inside the R of the logo are artists John Buscema and Paul Chadwick (I think). Inside the M is artist Steve Lightle. In the A is artist Joe Staton, and in the N is artist Michael Kaluta. Further right are writer/editor Marv Wolfman and artist Frank McLaughlin. Back to the left we have Len Wein in red, and under him editor Murray Boltinoff, one of only two people here that predate Julie on the DC staff. Right of that are writer/artist Harvey Pekar and writer/editor Barbara Randall (Kesel). A red heart and large signature for Robyn McBride, whose name seems familiar but I can’t place who she is. Under that are artist Steve Leialoha, writer/letterer Shel Dorf and writer/artist Keith Giffen (who has commented on Superman’s face with “too traditional”). Down and left, on the Superman figure we have writers/publishers Jean-Marc and Randy L’officier, science fiction writer David Brin, writer/artist Trina Robbins, and writer Steve Gerber has signed twice, once on Superman’s belt. Right of that is writer/artist Bob Burden. The birthday cake is signed by DC publisher Jenette Kahn. Just right of that is artist Bob Oksner. Right of the vertical line is artist Shawn McManus, artist/editor Ernie Colón and writer/artist Dave Gibbons. Right of the cover border is writer/historian Peter Sanderson and Murray Boltinoff has signed again. Back to the left, writer and long-time friend Ray Bradbury has signed the chair in white. Left of that is “Locus” publisher Charles N. Brown, writer Robert Loren Fleming, writer/editor Andy Helfer, and artist/editor Sal Amendola. Below that is artist Bob Smith, artist Rick Bryant, artist Alex Saviuk, and another Michael Kaluta signature. On to the next quadrant!

Superman411coverLL

Okay, on the left edge is science fiction writer/editor Ben Bova. On the typewriter is Elliot S! Maggin. Just below is artist Kurt Schaffenberger. Below them in red is writer/artist Lee Mars, then on the books are artist/inker Joe Rubinstein, writer Max Alan Collins and artist Art Adams. Below Julie’s pencil is writer Ann Nocenti and artist John Romita Jr. On the paper Julie’s holding are artist Rich Buckler, science fiction writer Samuel R. Delany, DC editor Karen Berger and writer/editor Jim Shooter. Moving right on the shirt are DC editor Alan Gold and Jack Kirby. On the cuff is artist Winslow Mortimer. Below Julie in red is DC staffer Tom Condon and writer Doug Moench. Back on the left border are artists Jan Duursema, Tom Mandrake and Howard Bender. Below the books are artist Rick Hoberg, writer/DC Production Manager Bob Rozakis (that’s meant to be him on the left of the cover), artist Ron Wilson, artist Gray Morrow, writer/artist Kyle Baker, writer Mark Evanier, writer Alan Moore, and perhaps the most surprising signature, Steve Ditko. (I’ve never seen anything signed by Steve other than his own art occasionally.) On the head below is artist Bill Sienkiewicz, and just right of that is former DC editor Jack Schiff, the other person here I think predates Julie on the DC staff. Then artist Greg Theakston, and artist Paris Cullins. In the UPC box are artists Ed Barreto, Marshall Rogers and Klaus Janson. Then I think writer Louise Simonson just left of her husband artist Walter Simonson. My signature is at the bottom. Below the box is artist Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. Right of the box in red is DC editor/writer E. Nelson Bridwell. That’s all I can read in this section.

Superman411coverLR

Last quadrant. On Julie’s sleeve are writer Jan Strnad and artist Ross Andru. Below are writer Mike W. Barr, inker Al Gordon and DC production staffer Shelley Eiber. Right of his chair are “Comics Buyers Guide” co-editor Don Thompson and artist/editor Dick Giordano. Below are artist Gene Colan, another Jan Duursema signature, writer Tony Isabella and artist Terry Beatty. In Dick Giordano’s face is the other co-editor of CBG, Maggie Thompson. On the right border is editor Deni Loubert. Moving left, under the word balloon is actor Mark Hamill. Below is DC staffer Pat Bastienne and another signature from Bob Smith. I don’t know the large red signature, but at the bottom is SF editor and long time friend of Julie, Charles D. Hornig.

There are quite a few more I can’t read or don’t recognize. If you do, please email me HERE, and I’ll add them to the list! I have to say whoever bought the cover at that 2004 Heritage auction, along with the entire interior story, got quite a bargain. This collection of autographs alone is unique, historic and remarkable, as was Julie Schwartz.

For more articles on comics history, visit the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

Thanks to Matthew Thompson and Patrick Wynne for additions and corrections.

 

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