Here’s a floor plan of the DC Comics offices at 666 5th Avenue in the later half of the time there, from about 1986-1991, designed by Steven Bové with tweaking by me. Again, we have no actual plans to go by, this is based on the collective memories of staffers who worked there, including myself, Bob Rozakis, Richard Bruning, Bob Greenberger, Mike Carlin and many others. There are bound to be errors of proportion and perhaps even number of rooms in some places, but it’s reasonably close. I’ve put in a few names for those whose offices remained the same throughout the 666 years, but for some reason unknown to me, personnel changed locations often, making it hard to remember or pin down who was in each office or area. In the following article we’ll be referring to offices by room number, but memory is a tricky thing, and I’ve received some conflicting reports on who sat where, so we’ll just do the best we can.
On the business side of things, it’s harder to track personnel except for those at the top level, who sometimes appeared on the indicia page of collected editions beginning around 1987. Some of the lower level workers in areas like Marketing, Circulation and Accounting did not get their names in print or identified in photos I have, and unfortunately can’t be included here.
Speaking of the business side, Ed Shukin appears as Vice President – Circulation and Patrick Caldon as Controller in the 1987 Graphitti Designs hardcover edition of BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT. Shukin came from a similar role at Marvel. I have no information on Caldon, but he replaced longtime head of DC Accounting Arthur Gutowitz. Caldon, still with the company in 2010, is shown in a photo of that vintage above, I haven’t found one of Shukin.
Linda Robak followed Mike Flynn as Advertising and Sales Manager from 1984-1986, working alongside Peggy (May) Ordway. Both worked under Bruce Bristow, who remained the Marketing Director for most or all of the 666 years.
Other business personnel names I have without pictures are Marilyn Drucker, Licensing and Tom Ballou, Advertising Director (hired in 1988).
Before going further, I have to acknowledge this article by Robert Greenberger in BACK ISSUE #80, May 2015. It covers written or transcribed remembrances by staffers of many of the office locations, including 666 5th Avenue. I’ve already quoted from it a bit, with permission from everyone involved, and will do so more heavily in this part of my article. Thanks to Bob, magazine editor Michael Eury, and those quoted.
Many who visited the offices were amazed, stunned, or otherwise assaulted by the loud yellow-dotted wallpaper, modeled here for us by Production Manager Bob Rozakis, and clearly triumphing over his Hawaiian shirt. Indeed, photos don’t really capture its bright golden yellow brilliance. Former editor Mark Waid reports that it was designed by famed graphic designer Milton Glaser, a friend of publisher Jenette Kahn, at her request. Glaser had also designed the DC Bullet symbol for her, the fifth one in the logo lineup above, as well as revamping the Superman and Wonder Woman logos (or at least, his studio did). The wallpaper was the kind of thing that probably looked like a fun idea small, but when enlarged to wall size became the stuff of headaches and nightmares. Waid reports that Jenette had extra rolls stashed in her office in case of damage or perhaps an employee berserk rage event. Fortunately it was mostly on the hallway walls, not in the rooms and offices.
Mark Waid joined the staff in early 1988, and supplied this photo of his office at #47 on the floor plan, one of the new offices constructed some time during the mid 1980s. Of this office, Mark wrote in BACK ISSUE:
“I shared my first office with (designer) Julia Sabbagh. It was small, at the end of the editorial hall, about as far removed as it could be, but I didn’t care. I was elated. I’d inherited the late E. Nelson Bridwell’s desk. That first morning, I went to hang my coat up on the door-back coat hook and was puzzled by a slightly dark coat-shaped silhouette already there. Julia explained that that shape marked where Nelson had hung his coat every single day, summer or winter, for years and years. She called it the Shroud of Nelson.”
Bridwell passed away in January of 1987. Waid later sat in #21, the “Bullpen office,” and #45. Here’s a description written by Mark of his first visit to 666 in 1984 from the BACK ISSUE article:
“In September of 1984, I was a fanzine writer and editor who’d been invited by SUPERMAN editor Julius Schwartz to pitch some story ideas. In my enthusiasm, of course, I arrived something like five hours early and Bob Greenberger and Barbara (then Randall) Kesel took me under their wing and showed me around, and no child’s visit to Disneyland was ever more special than that visit to me.
“A very charming woman named Ruthie Thomas worked reception—a small waiting area where visitors sat next to a statue of Clark Kent reading the Daily Planet. (Ruthie was great.) Through the top half of the always-open Dutch door that gated reception from the main office, you could see a little bit of office buzz, but not until she allowed you access were you in the thick of it.
“Just past reception was a short hallway maybe 30 feet long (newsstand circulation offices on the left, marketing offices on the right). At the end of the hall, a left would take you to the executive offices of Paul Levitz and Jenette Kahn and to the library.
“I will never, ever forget what it felt like to step into that library for the very first time. Remember, this was before the Internet, before Google images, before most of DC’s publishing history had been fully mined and all its covers and back issues could be easily found, or even readily seen. When I walked into that library, full of floor-to-ceiling metal cabinets filled with bound volumes of everything DC had ever published, I nearly passed out. I’m not kidding. It’s the closest I’ve ever come in my life to blacking out simply through excitement.”
Well said, Mark! I felt exactly the same way when I first entered the library myself in 1977 (at the previous offices). And as the library was not staffed then, I was allowed in there by myself during lunch breaks to browse, and even allowed to take bound volumes home to read. I read the entire runs of MYSTERY IN SPACE and STRANGE ADVENTURES that way. Things changed at 666, library security was tighter. I’m not sure if Allan Asherman had become the staff librarian when Mark visited in 1984, but that happened some time in the mid 1980s. Here’s the only photo I can find of Allan by Bob Rozakis from 2011. Asherman held forth as company historian and library protector for decades, after an early career as a comics fan and writer. I believe he was in office #23, which became a closed-in portal to the library.
Here’s Barbara (Randall) Kesel and her mother on the couch in front of the Cover Wall in the middle of the Editorial section of the offices, marked “covers” in the floor plan, photo supplied by Barbara. Mark Waid writes of it:
“Dead-center in the editorial end of the hall, just outside a small coffee room, there was a large communal area with a couch where the freelancers tended to congregate, the restrooms nearby. Above the couch, push-pinned to the wall, was (arranged neatly week-by-week) a copy of every comics cover being printed that month—a good space to have so editors could see the line at a glance, and be careful not to accidentally repeat any upcoming cover designs.”
I agree with all that except for the description of “large.” It may only have been considered large compared to some of the editor’s offices. I mean, that couch seats three people at best, and you can see from the wall corner on the right there’s not a lot of hall in front of it.
Looking the other way from that point, here’s the tiny coffee room, #29, in the background behind editor Archie Goodwin wearing a Donald Duck hat. No idea why, but it reminds me of how funny Archie could be. Photo by Curtis King. Archie had two stints as editor at DC, the first in the early 1970s, the second beginning in 1990, the date of this photo. He was considered by many, including myself, one of the best editors ever in comics.
The coffee room was a source of continual sniping, as I recall. Most people wanted coffee but were annoyed if they had to make it. Heaven help us if we ran out of coffee, see above. There was a small refrigerator where some employees would put their bagged lunches and snacks, and occasionally food went missing. (I wish to cast no aspersions, but possibly having the coffee room near the place where many freelancers hung out was not the wisest choice?)
Just to the left of this picture was the door to the small ladies’ room, #38 (you can see part of that door in the photo above. I’ve had a several former staffers tell me the ladies’ room didn’t exist when they were there. All were male. They had no trouble remembering the men’s room, #39. As Bob Rozakis told me:
“There had to be a ladies room—single occupancy—because there is no way, politically or legally, that there could be a men’s room without a mate. And a unisex bathroom would have been unheard of at the time. Also, I specifically recall one day when Carol Fein insisted on using the men’s room because someone had taken up residence in the ladies room and she could not wait.”
The area marked 31 and Fedex was where editorial photocopying and shipping happened, with a young staffer to handle that. Bob Greenberger remembers some of the people in that location and position as Eddie Berganza, Mike McAvennie, Frank Pittarese and Dan Thorsland, all of whom moved up to editing later. In the 666 years, shipping art by Fedex became ever more popular, especially when DC paid the shipping bills. Fedex was usually much faster and more reliable than regular mail then, and at Warner Communications corporate rates, not too costly. Fedex allowed freelancers to spread out across the country and across the world without missing deadlines, assuming they got the work done in the first place.
“I (and Janice Race) were hired, I was told, because managers (I’m guessing Dick Giordano) were frustrated by the incompetence and indifference of the fanboys and selfish hacks (who were only concerned with their own projects and ‘worked’ on staff for pocket change and a place for schmoozing and self-aggrandizing); they hired us because we were book professionals, ‘grownups’ used to and serious about schedules and standards. Dick was right about us. We got most of our books out on time.”
Alan began in the summer of 1983 and stayed at DC until fall of 1986. Janice Race is holding the art for THE FURY OF FIRESTORM #21 cover dated March 1984, probably one of the early things she worked on in the fall of 1983 when she started. Her name began appearing as editor on the next issue. Janice shared office #18 with Len Wein after Nick Cuti moved next door to #21, and Alan Gold started in office #21. He recently told me, “My first roommate was Roger Slifer. Later I shared a room with Bob Greenberger, and finally I shared a closet (no windows) with cover designer Ed Hannigan.” That would have been one of the small offices at lower right on the floor plan. Janice Race worked at DC until about Oct. 1986. Janice remembered in BACK ISSUE: “A thing that amazed me was how Len and Marv and Mike Barr could argue like crazy and then at the end of the day get together to decide which movie they were going to see that night.”
Another feature of the office design I haven’t mentioned yet were the word-balloon shaped name tags outside office doors. You can see one above for Joe Orlando in this photo of artist Denys Cowan by Curtis King from 1990.
Not a good image, but the best I have. When plans for the move were being made in 1982, I was asked by Design Director Neal Pozner to letter all the staff names for those. I really didn’t want the job, as I knew it would be an endless task, and Neal was such a perfectionist that I also knew he’d constantly be wanting to tweak every name and letter. I did a few samples, but when Neal came back with changes, I took myself off the job and recommended Gaspar Saladino, who did the initial name lettering. Gaspar was a freelancer, and not always available when new personnel were hired, so later names were often added by whoever was available, I think. Originally the names were inscribed on plastic strips that slid into upper and lower slots of the thick yellow plastic balloon, but over time they stopped spending money on those and would just stick new names up any old way, as here. Another fun design idea that didn’t work well in practice, or look very good in general, and there were other issues with it. Barbara Randall Kesel remembers, “We all had little yellow word-balloon name tags. My name didn’t fit.”
Paul Kupperberg had been on staff in the Marketing department at 75 Rockefeller Plaza, but we think he left that position before the move to 666. He writes:
“I went back on staff in Editorial briefly in the 1980s—1984 or 85?—I did some hands-on editing on BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS for Dick Giordano during that time. I shared an office with Len Wein, #18 on the floor plan. For my last 16-year run at DC, I started the week AFTER the move to 1325 Avenue of the Americas.”
Some time in 1985, Neal Pozner left staff, though he continued to do some freelance work for the company, and was replaced by Richard Bruning, seen here in a 1985 photo by Albert DeGuzman. Richard told me, “I got what I believe was Neal’s office. It almost went to someone in Marketing, but I talked them out of that.” Richard’s title was originally Art Director, and he worked on all aspects of the DC look from covers to logos to trade dress, as Neal had. Richard also did some writing and editing for the company. He was later promoted to Design Director. He left in 1990, but returned to DC in 1996 as Vice President—Creative Director until 2010. He’s perhaps best known for the cover design work on WATCHMEN with artist Dave Gibbons, and the Vertigo logo.
Neal Pozner also returned to DC from about 1990 to 1994 as Group Editor, Creative Services. At that time he was instrumental in recruiting new talent, some of whom have become industry stars.
Here’s Barbara Kesel in her first office, #21 on the floor plan. She remembers in BACK ISSUE:
“I started out in the bullpen office (shared with Marv Wolfman, Bob Greenberger and Alan Gold) next to where the freelancers turned in their vouchers, which meant I’d come back from lunch to find some freelancer or Mark Hamill had taken over my desk and run off with all the pens. Two offices later, I shared a space the size of a Diet Coke case with Mark Waid. (Then) I was moved to what had been Sal Amendola’s desk packed full of submissions for NEW TALENT SHOWCASE. They filled the drawers, were stacked on top, and piled by the sides. Which is how I became the de facto assistant editor for that title—if I wanted drawers, I had to empty them.”
Another photo of Barbara looking fiercely at photographer Mike Carlin. Barbara remembers being moved a number of times, first to room 47 with Nick Cuti, then back to room 21, then into 45, which she shared with Mark Waid.
Sal Amendola, seen here in a 1985 photo by Bob Rozakis, joined the DC staff as a part-time editor near the end of 1984. He was also teaching at the School of Visual Arts, and had a mandate to work with new talent, which he did on NEW TALENT SHOWCASE and ELVIRA’S HOUSE OF MYSTERY while they lasted. He left staff in the spring of 1986. His office was probably #45.
Cary Bates, seen here in an undated photo found online, had been writing for DC for years, and in the fall of 1983 he began editing THE FLASH, a title he was also writing. He was a part-time editor on just that title, and continued to be until the summer of 1985.
Mark Evanier was another comics writer given the editorial reins of a book he was writing, BLACKHAWK, from about November 1983 to November 1984, undated photo found online. Mark lived in California, so would not have had office space.
Writer Michael Fleisher had been working for DC for many years, and in early 1984 began editing JONAH HEX, a title he was writing. That continued with a relaunch called simply HEX until it ended in early 1987.
Mike W. Barr, seen here in a photo from Michael Eury, had worked on staff as an editor at DC in 1981-82, then left to write full-time. In the spring of 1984 he returned as a part-time editor for books he was writing, and visited the offices regularly. That lasted until the spring of 1987.
Dennis “Denny” O’Neil, seen here in an early 1970s photo by Jerry Bails, had two stints as editor at DC, the first from 1972 to 1973, the second beginning in early 1986 and continuing until his retirement around 2003. For much of that time he was the Batman editor or group editor.
Robert (Bob) Greenberger remembered in his BACK ISSUE article:
“When I was hired for good in 1984, the staff continued to grow and no matter how they rearranged the space, it was never enough. When I arrived I had a half-desk (in office #21), formerly used by part-time editor Marv Wolfman, sandwiched between Alan Gold and Karen Berger. In time, I took over Karen’s desk and when Alan moved on, I shared the room with Mark Waid and then Barbara Kesel and others. I didn’t have a place to call my own until I became Editorial Coordinator.”
That latter job involved lettering and coloring assignments, which meant I saw and heard a lot from Bob, who was always helpful and generous with work assignments.
Mike Carlin moved over to DC from Marvel in 1986, and his office was a magnet for famous guests, freelancers and foolery for many years. Mike reports that he was in office #41 first (and hated being next to the Men’s Room), then shared #18 with Denny O’Neil, and finally moved to #47. He became the Superman group editor after the retirement of Julie Schwartz in 1986, following a transitional time when Andy Helfer edited SUPERMAN. Here are a few pictures supplied by Mike and others:
By the way, have you noticed how many people remember being in office #47 in the New Construction area? Ed Hannigan also told me his office was there. Two remember being in #45, one in #41. I have removed office #43, as evidence suggests there were only two small offices there, not three. On the other side, the information on offices 44 to 47 is contradictory from several sources, but rooms 44 and 45 were combined into one at some point. Possibly a few folks are off by one room or another. Memory is, indeed, a tricky thing.
Here’s a rundown of who edited which DC comics with April 1986 cover dates, to fill out the editorial picture.
JULIUS SCHWARTZ: Action Comics, DC Comics Presents, Shadow of the Batman, Superman
ALAN GOLD: ‘Mazing Man, Blue Devil, Omega Men
ROY THOMAS: All-Star Squadron, Infinity Inc., Secret Origins
KAREN BERGER: Amethyst Princess of Gemworld, Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes, The Legion of Super-Heroes, Legionnaires 3, Swamp Thing.
NEAL POZNER & DICK GIORDANO: Aquaman
DICK GIORDANO & DENNIS O’NEIL: Batman, The Dark Knight Returns
LEN WEIN: Batman, Detective Comics
MIKE W. BARR: Batman and the Outsiders, The Outsiders
BARBARA KESEL: The Best of DC (digest)
JANICE RACE: Booster Gold, The Fury of Firestorm
BOB GREENBERGER: DC Challenge, Star Trek, V
JANICE RACE & RICHARD BRUNING: Deadman
SAL AMENDOLA: Elvira’s House of Mystery
ANDREW HELFER: Green Lantern, Justice League of America
MICHAEL FLEISHER: Hex
MARV WOLFMAN: Vigilante, The New Teen Titans, Tales of the New Teen Titans (with Barbara Kesel and George Perez)
JOE KUBERT: Sgt. Rock
WHO’S WHO IN THE DC UNIVERSE: Wein, Wolfman & Greenberger
As before, titles that did not see print that month are not included.
Next time I’ll continue with fun events in the production room, and more new faces. Other parts of the article, and more you might enjoy, can be found on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.