Here’s a floor plan of the DC Comics Production Department in the 1980s, designed by Steven Bové with some tweaking by me. Most of this layout remained the same through the 666 5th Avenue years, though there may have been fewer drawing boards in the beginning, and a small separate office for the Assistant Production Manager was added at upper left around 1988-89. Again, I have no actual plans, this is assembled from the collective memories of myself and other staffers, and may well have errors in proportion and details, but it’s reasonably close, and in this case supported by photos. You entered the area through a doorway from the main hall at the top. Nearly everyone in the company came to use our copier just inside the door from time to time, though there were others. The tall cabinets opposite were standard five-drawer filing cabinets on the bottom with sliding door cabinets above. The file cabinets held all the logos, trade dress, and reference photostats from previous comics — anything that might need to be used again — going back in some cases to the 1950s. The sliding door cabinets held drawing paper for artists, among other things. Next to that was a coat closet, then a small sink needed for washing brushes and pens, then another tall cabinet full of supplies.
The most memorable thing in the room’s design was the rotating door into the Stat Room (#15), sometimes called The Transporter, where Shelley Eiber and others, made photostats for the production staff of logos, trade dress, artwork, and anything needed to put together comics covers and interior pages. The previous darkroom at 75 Rockefeller Plaza had a regular door with a red light over it that Shelley could put on when she was developing film or photostats, but it wasn’t always heeded. The revolving door ensured that nothing being developed could be ruined by outside light, and of course the stat room was lit with non-photo red light when developing happened. Shelley remembers having to caution people not to write notes to her in red because she couldn’t see that color when the red lights were on. Other parts of the production room, as shown, were flat files for storage topped by counters, and other storage areas and shelves. In the bottom left corner was the old Varityper Headliner machine, the only method we had for setting headline type (one letter at a time) photographically. Desktop computer graphics would soon make it obsolete.
Production Manager Bob Rozakis had an office at the top of the floor plan, with a desk (marked #1) and a guest chair for visitors. There were glass windows on the side facing the production room. He’s seen here in a 1983 photo by Albert DeGuzman marking up printer or separation proofs for a comic while talking on the phone, multitasking, as we all did. Bob joined the DC staff in the summer of 1973 and began selling stories to them soon after. He’s often remembered as the author and personality of DC’s “Answer Man” column, and for his comics series ‘MAZING MAN with Stephen DeStefano. On the wall behind him are production/printing schedules.
Out of sight to the left of this photo was a rack for comics art that had been turned in by Editorial, ready to be worked on. Most of the production artists worked on these interior pages, adding things like the indicia and logos, doing any art and lettering corrections requested in blue pencil by the editor, and prepping the book for printing. When you were done with one you took it to the editor for checking and then picked up the next book in the rack from Bob’s office. A similar process happened for covers.
Helen Ramirez by George Kerrigan.
As you entered the Production Room, you came first to the desk of Helen Ramirez, Bob Rozakis’s secretary, known to all as “Helenita,” to distinguish her from the other Helen on staff then. As Shelley Eiber put it to me recently, Helenita was a “Latin spitfire,” with a ready laugh and a ready temper. You crossed her at your peril! She was also technically an assistant for Design Director Neal Pozner, across the hall from Production, but the two did not get along and largely ignored each other.
Boxes marked 2 through 14 were drawing boards for Production Artists. Again, I think a few were added over the years, but I could be wrong. When we moved in to 666 5th Avenue, I was Bob’s Assistant Production Manager, having risen to that position some time earlier in 1982 I think. I always sat at board #2, where I could keep an eye on most of the room easily. I have no memory of the hairstyle seen in this 1983 photo of me by DeGuzman, but there it is. I worked here until I left staff for full-time freelance work in the fall of 1987. Most of that time I did production work on interior pages, occasionally on covers or special projects of various kinds. That was my choice, I liked the work more than being a boss, though I had to keep up with both. Generally Bob Rozakis did most of the bossing, though. In my time at home I did lots of lettering and some writing for comics. The drawing board was connected to a flat table, visible on both sides, and the board could be tilted up at the back. Mine is just tilted a little. On the far side are my rubber cement can, a bottle of Pro-White correction paint and my pens and brushes. Part of my T-square is visible at lower left, and on the near side is a paper towel for wiping ink and white paint. I had a taboret or small filing cabinet to my right between me and the next board, and on it is a file organizer holding things I was working on and material I needed to do corrections.
Julia Sabbagh in a 1985 photo probably by Albert DeGuzman
Boards 3 and 4 were often taken by designers or production artists working directly for Joe Orlando’s special projects department. Julia Sabbagh was one of those who lasted a long time at board #4, eventually moving to an office elsewhere.
Kathy Edwards, photo by DeGuzman, sat at board #3 in front of me for a while, then moved to board #14. She was on staff for about three years.
At board 8 was Nansi Hoolihan and at board 7 was Tom Ziuko, seen above in a 1982 staff photo. Both did freelance work as colorists when at home. Tom stayed with it the longest, still doing occasional color work when his health allows it.
At board 9 was Helen Vesik, the other Helen, seen here in the 1982 staff photo. Helen did both lettering and coloring as a freelancer, as well as all kinds of paste-ups. In most cases, staff jobs at DC did not pay well enough to support one comfortably, so many the staff supplemented their income with freelance work of one kind or another, in a time-honored DC tradition.
At board #10 was Bob LeRose, I think the oldest person there for most of the 1980s, seen here in a photo by his friend Albert DeGuzman. Bob was a veteran of two ad agencies where he worked on custom comics for BOYS’ LIFE magazine. He joined the DC staff in 1976 and spent most of his time there assembling covers: adding the trade dress and logos, making needed art corrections and occasionally coloring them as freelance work, though most of Bob’s freelance coloring was on interior pages. Bob was the room’s curmudgeon with a heart of gold, and a father figure who we all loved, even when he was telling us to turn down the music.
Sitting at board #11 was Albert DeGuzman, seen here in a 1983 photo he gave me. Known to all as “Albie,” he was from the Philippines and spoke English well but with a charming accent. He joined the DC staff not long after me in 1977 and spent time helping LeRose with covers and doing interior page corrections. Albie also did lots of freelance lettering at home. I’m very grateful to him for all the photos he’s provided for this article, many unseen previously. He was clearly the unofficial company photographer! Albie later moved to board #5, with it facing the front of the room, like the others. Seated later at board #11 were George Roberts (seen with receptionist Ruthie Thomas in part 1 of this article) and John Wren (photo to come).
At board 12 when we moved was veteran production artist and letterer Joe Letterese, shown here in the previous offices. Joe announced his retirement soon after the move, so was not there long.
Howard Bender by George Kerrigan
Replacing Joe was Howard Bender, who came from the Marvel Comics production department, and who did comics art for DC in his spare time. Howard mainly worked on covers.
At least that’s how I remember it. Howard told me he was there for the move from 75 Rockefeller Plaza, and sent me a scan of his company photo ID card. Wish I could find mine. Howard writes: “I think I was in charge, sort of, of the record player, and every lunch we’d play classical music for Bob LeRose.” I was usually out then. The rest of the time it was often Rock records, or a rock station on the radio.
Bob Lappan and Al Aiola by George Kerrigan.
Bob Lappan sat at board 14 when we moved in. I’m not sure who sat at board 13, or if it existed then, but it was soon filled by Al Aiola. Bob was there a few years building up his freelance lettering work, then left to do that full time. Al, a very quiet man as I recall, stayed with the company for decades. I believe he retired when the company moved to Burbank, CA in 2014-15. Both worked mostly on interior pages. Behind them you can see some of the usual clutter on the counter space: the stereo and turntable, and various machines brought over from the previous offices, most of which were used rarely if at all.
Here’s Shelley Eiber in her Stat Room, photo by George Kerrigan, her assistant at the time. The Stat Room or darkroom was Shelley’s domain, and the rest of us were allowed to work in there only occasionally when she was busy elsewhere or out for the day. Shelly also remained with the company for decades, moving gratefully out of the darkroom when digital became the norm instead of photographic film. She retired when DC moved to Burbank in 2014-15, being at that time the longest serving staffer.
Joining the Production staff in 1983 was John Holiwski. I think he was at board #8, replacing Nansi Hoolihan when she went freelance. He may have also spent time helping Shelley Eiber in the darkroom.
I’ve skipped boards 5 and 6 because in the early years they were used by temps and freelancers mostly. Above is one summer intern at board 6 photographed by George Kerrigan, I don’t recall her name. She’s pasting together a letters column.
Board 5 was, I think, a smaller drawing board that moved around, sometimes it was where #16 is in the diagram and just a visitor chair was there, often filled by regular visiting freelancers like colorist Tatjana Wood, above, photo by Jack C. Harris from the 1970s. Other regulars were letterer Ben Oda, a true workaholic, who would often stay in the room working overnight, and would be found asleep at a board in the morning. Artist and part-time editor Ross Andru was another frequent guest, as was Murphy Anderson, who made regular trips to DC carrying color separations and proofs done by his company, Visual Concepts, in New Jersey. There were many others. Letterers like Gaspar Saladino and John Costanza would stop in to make corrections, and colorists such as Jerry Serpe and Carl Gafford would do the same.
Lisa (Saladino) Weinreb joined the production staff from 1984 to 1986, sitting at one of the drawing boards along the bottom wall, probably #13, and doing interior page corrections. She’s the daughter of veteran letterer Gaspar Saladino, and we enjoyed her company.
Anthony “Tony” Tollin, 1983 photo by DeGuzman, who had been Assistant Production Manager before me, left staff for full-time freelance coloring before we moved to 666, but visited often to drop off work and meet with editors, as did his wife Adrienne Roy, another fine colorist. In the days before digital delivery, and when Fedex was just getting started, most freelancers lived close enough to the DC offices to visit regularly and drop off their work in person, and many spent time in the Production department, either just visiting, or doing last minute work and corrections. Artists also had legitimate reasons to stop by Production: to pick up the company-supplied art paper, or ask technical questions about what was needed from them to get their work to reproduce well. Not all visitors were there for such reasons, some were just curious or wanted to see friends in the room. Office security was much laxer then than today, and if you knew someone on staff, it wasn’t too hard to get in to see them, and then wander around visiting and exploring. There were also visitors brought around on tours by staffers, some famous, some just fans. As long as you didn’t interfere with work being done, Bob Rozakis and I were okay with visitors chatting with production staffers. I did much the same after I went freelance. Anyone causing too much noise or ruckus would be told to leave, of course.
The production staff changed over time as people came and went. Meredith “Muffy” Greenough, the daughter of opera star Beverly Sills, occupied board 6 for several years. Photo by DeGuzman, 1986. Note the Superman necktie at upper left, that will be showing up in a later part of this article.
When Tom Ziuko left staff for freelance work, Scott McCloud took his place at board 7 for a while. Scott was then working on the first issue of his comic series ZOT! and showing it to potential publishers. I lettered that first issue for him, with Bob Lappan doing the rest once he sold it to Eclipse Comics and left staff to work on ZOT! full time. Photo by DeGuzman, 1986. Note that you can see part of the Varityper Headline machine in the back right. (I would link to a photo of it, but can’t find the one we had online.) On the pillar behind Bob is a framed color proof or color guide for the SUPERMAN VS. MUHAMMAD ALI tabloid-size comic.
This photo by George Kerrigan shows Scott at board 7, with Helen Vesik in front of him. I’m behind at board 2, and Albert DeGuzman is standing in the back. We don’t know who is at board 3 on the right. Behind me on the wall are printing schedules for the entire DC line, probably about two months worth, so I could keep track of things. Unlike many of the desks, I had a phone at mine. It was red, but did not link directly to Commissioner Gordon’s office. I fielded calls for Bob Rozakis when he was out or away from his desk, mostly from editors, sometimes from printers, separators or other vendors. When I was given the job of returning old artwork to artists for a year or two, I spent a lot of time on that phone trying to locate artists that hadn’t been in touch with DC for many years. (Under Dick Giordano, old art was cleaned out of storage areas and returned to artists we could identify and find. Art that couldn’t be returned was eventually donated to a comics museum, I think the one run by Mort Walker.)
Another photo from George Kerrigan of LeRose and DeGuzman clowning around at Bob’s desk. In back, behind Albie are drawers full of Letraset press-down lettering and Zip-a-Tone dot screen film, tools that again would soon be made obsolete by desktop printing. Note the posters for RONIN. Just above Bob’s head is an envelope tacked to the wall marked “Indicias,” which held the indicias for upcoming books, set in type by an outside photo-typesetting service. The same service set type for things like the letters pages. Albie is decorated with the revamped Wonder Woman logo created by Milton Glaser’s studio, one of two versions.
And here’s George Kerrigan from the same batch of photos, probably taken by DeGuzman. George was Shelley Eiber’s darkroom assistant at the time.
I don’t know who this person is working at board 5 in another 1986 photo by DeGuzman, but artist Bob Smith thinks it’s artist and colorist William “Bill” Wray. Behind him left is the door to Rozakis’s office and editor Nick Cuti and myself are in the background, near the entrance to the room.
Looking up the middle row of boards from the back of the room, Mark Caraballo is in the dark shirt and artist Richard Howell is in the cap in this 1986 photo by DeGuzman, don’t know who is seated. You can get a sense of the clutter that tended to develop over time. (And the fact that I keep noticing that is an indication of why my nickname from Shelley Eiber was “Felix” as in the character from “The Odd Couple.”) Just right of the pillar is the sink area, with storage cabinets right of that.
We also had frequent visits from business staffers, like Peggy May, above, in another 1986 DeGuzman photo. Peggy is now married to artist Jerry Ordway. She was in the Marketing department. Behind her you can see some of the right or south wall of Production and the boards next to it. The calendar in this photo allowed me to identify the year of this batch of photos.
Here’s artist Richard Howell again in the northwest corner of the room. Behind him is the area that became the Assistant Production Manager’s office later. I don’t know where that plastic Viking helmet at upper right came from, but John Holiwski liked to wear it.
Letterer John Workman, photo found online, who took that job and office in 1988-89, board #16 in the floor plan, said of his tiny office, “My studio at home was at least eight times the size of this with two windows and a view of squirrels and trees. What was I doing here?” Makes me glad I sat out in the room with everyone when I was there! We had a lot of laughs while getting a ton of work done.
Next time I’ll continue with more editorial staff pictures and stories from later in the 1980s. Other parts of this article, and more you might enjoy, can be found on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.