Pulled From My Files #99: A DC check stub from 1977

This and all images © DC Comics.

Something different this time, one of many DC Comics check stubs I saved from my years of freelance work for the company beginning in July, 1977. This one is not the earliest, but it’s the earliest one I could find today. There were two kinds of freelance checks at the time, regular freelance work like lettering and coloring had wider stubs, the width of a check, and those have no date on the stub, so it’s harder to find an “early” example. This short stub that tore off the side of a check was for other kinds of work, generally classified as special projects. It’s for work that didn’t fit into the general income flow of producing monthly comic books.

This check stub, dated Aug. 10, 1977, is for three freelance jobs. The first is labeled DRAWINGS FOR SUPERMAN SEARCH A WORD SHAPES, and the payment was $192. The book they appeared in is above, a paperback from Tempo Books published in 1977. Sol Harrison was in charge of projects like this, and assigned freelance work for them among DC’s production department staffers. DC’s staff pay rate was low, so almost everyone there did some kind of freelance. I started working there in early July, 1977 as best I can recall, and I was not yet practiced enough to be doing freelance lettering, I was still learning that on staff doing lettering corrections and practicing at home, but Sol provided other kinds of freelance work that helped me pay my bills. These puzzle books used clip art from the comics for the figures, it was most likely just simple backgrounds and puzzle shapes that I was doing. I don’t have this actual book, I found the image online, but if I looked through it, that’s where I’d find my work. I have no idea what my page rate would have been. My guess would be something like $8 a page. If that’s right, and I did 24 pages, that would be $192. I don’t think the rate could have been less than that. Whatever the deal, this is work I did at home in the evenings and on weekends, and the money was appreciated. Sol was famous for handing out work like this on a Friday afternoon and saying he wanted it back Monday. “You’ve got 48 hours,” he’d joke. I was happy to get it. This was not the earliest of these I worked on, I have a record of doing similar work on a Superman Mazes book with payment dated July 13, 1977. That is probably right after I started working there.

The second item on the check stub is payment of $35 for COMING ATTRACTIONS #12, image above found online. (You can find anything online these days!) This was DC’s promotional flyer at the time given out to comics retailers to supply news for buyers of the current and near future offerings of the company. It was very low tech and low budget, probably 4 to 8 pages like this, 8.5 by 11 inches, center stapled if it was more than 4 pages. It was an actual company publication, though, as evidenced by the indicia at the bottom of this image. My job as a freelancer would have been to take all the elements: the logo, indicia, cover images if any, headlines (made on the DC in-house Varityper Headliner machine), and copy typed up by Mike Gold, or whoever was doing that at the time, and to paste it together at home to make printer-ready mechanicals as they were called. It probably took me an hour or three, and again, the $35 was well appreciated.

The last item was one or more pages of art extensions for the well-known tabloid-size comic SUPERMAN VS. MUHAMMAD ALI. I was doing production work on this on staff, and working with Neal Adams artwork was amazing, but Neal had drawn most of the pages at the wrong dimensions. He and production manager Jack Adler argued about it, somewhat good-naturedly, but it was my job to make everything fit the correct proportions for the tabloid size, a little different from regular comic art proportions. In those days before digital scans, the art itself had to fit an exact template to be photographed by the separators, so physically changing the art was the only way to go. In the example above, you can see the lettering in the top two panels had to be photostatted and moved down, some of the original lettering is behind the tape at the top edge. In some cases I had to trim off about a quarter inch of Neal’s art on one edge. I remember Adler gleefully handing Adams a handful of these trimmed strips one day, telling Neal he was returning his original art. Other pages needed to have the art extended slightly, and that’s the freelance work I did at home. I couldn’t tell you now which pages those were, or how many, but I was paid $109 total for the extensions. Was it $15 for one, two or three pages? I can’t recall. Maybe the rate varied depending on how much work it was, I don’t know. One thing that early production task did for me was to force me to get over making changes on wonderful art. Even when I hated to do it, it was part of the job. Today this kind of thing can be handled digitally, leaving the original art alone.

That’s all the information I can gather from this small piece of paper.

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