THE DC COMICS OFFICES 1982-1991 Part 6

KezWilson

Continuing with more new faces at DC in the later years of the offices at 666 5th Avenue. As the company grew, Design Director Richard Bruning needed help, and Keith S. “Kez” Wilson was hired in early 1988. Kez worked on cover designs, logos, and various other design jobs. In the photo above, Mike Carlin is on the left, then Kez, and two fans from Sweden on the right. One them, Christian Hammarstrom, supplied the photo to Kez.

DeGuzmanCurtisKing

In March of 1990, Curtis King Jr. joined the design department as Art Director and Cover Editor. I believe he worked alongside Kez Wilson for a short time before Kez left staff. Curtis remembers his office as being #46 on the floor plan (see below).  Curtis and I worked together on logo designs and cover lettering for many years, and Curtis remains with the company today.

King_Ordway

Here’s a photo from Curtis of artist Jerry Ordway sitting in Curtis’s office.

Dale Crain

Dale Crain, 1980s, photo provided by him.

Dale Crain started in November, 1989 as an Art Director, and served later as Production Manager (briefly) and Senior Editor. He now lives and works in Thailand. About the office arrangements, Dale writes he was in office #41 with Bhob Stewart, Art Director for Piranha Press, which was in office #44. He remembers Joey Cavalieri and Jim McCann in office #46.

RickTaylorRobbinBrosterman

Rick Taylor and Robbin Brosterman from their Facebook pages.

Other designers that joined DC toward the end of the 666 era are Rick Taylor and Robbin Brosterman, who wrote:

“I started at 666 5th Avenue in 1991 as Art Director. I shared an ex-smoker’s office the size of a closet that reeked of smoke. I had only a drawing table and had to put a large pad on top of my garbage pail so I could have a surface to put things on. I was only there a few months before we moved to the beautiful 1325 6th Avenue offices.”

Carlin_RiveraOffice

In April of 1986, Roger Rivera joined the staff as Editorial Bookkeeper, moving into the office once held by the proofreader, #20 in the floor plan below, across the hall from Dick Giordano and company. Roger was the person freelancers would turn in their work vouchers or invoices to. He remains at DC today as director of Editorial Operations – Editorial Administration. Photo by Mike Carlin.

RiveraOfficeArt

Here’s a photo Roger sent me of wall art that decorated his office at 666.

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A photo by Mike Carlin of Terry Cunningham in her office. Terry moved to editorial in the mid 80s, gaining the title Manager – Editorial Administration. Another of those “getting things out on time” jobs, as I recall.

MikeGold

Editor Mike Gold returned to DC Comics in the summer of 1986, seen here in a photo found online. Mike had been on staff at DC in the late 1970s, then a co-founder and editor at First Comics. He was assisted by Katie Main (no photo found) starting in the spring of 1989. Gold was in room #18, formerly Len Wein’s spot.

Carlin_Brian Augustin in office next to Fed Ex area (I think)

The company kept growing and putting out more comics  Brian Augustyn, seen above in a photo by Mike Carlin, started in Nov. 1987 as an assistant editor to Mike Gold before becoming a full-time editor of his own books.

DanRaspler

Dan Raspler was hired in early 1988, assisting Denny O’Neil. This and following photos are more recent ones found online.

KevinDooley

Kevin Dooley was hired to assist Andy Helfer in late 1988, and Art Young (no photo found) became the assistant editor for Karen Berger. All these new folks would work with established editors for a while, then take on editing assignments of their own.

KelleyPuckett

With Dan Raspler holding a full workload, Kelley Puckett was hired as a new assistant for Denny O’Neil in 1990.

Elliot S Maggin

In 1989, Elliott S. Maggin was hired to edit a line of TSR game-based comics, replacing Barbara Kesel. Like Cary Bates, Elliott had been a prolific writer for Julie Schwartz in the 1970s, and had been away from comics before taking this position. Elliott was in room #21 at least some of the time.

KCCarlson

KC Carlson, photo found online.

KC Carlson joined the company around 1986, at first assisting Richard Bruning, then returned to assist Mike Carlin and take on his own books as editor. KC remembers being in one of the offices at lower right shared with Keith Wilson and Julia Sabbagh, and when Julia left, Ronnie Carlin.

MarkNevelow

Mark Nevelow in a recent photo found online. Piranha Press logo by Dean Motter.

In 1987 DC announced it would form a new imprint, Piranha Press, as a response to the growing alternative comics movement. Piranha was headed by Mark Nevelow, with assistance from Karen McBurnie and design work by Bhob Stewart and others. Piranha went after edgy and off-beat work and creators, luring them with DC’s first creator-ownership contracts. Room was made for Nevelow and McBurnie somewhere in the new construction offices at lower right in the floor plan below. The imprint lasted only a few years, but paved the way for other DC imprints like Paradox Press (the direct descendant) and Vertigo.

Ordway_BergerOffice

Speaking of Vertigo, Karen Berger and her assistant Art Young were already getting into more adult and edgy material like Alan Moore’s SWAMP THING and THE SANDMAN. Putting them into a separate imprint like Vertigo made sense, but it didn’t happen at the 666 offices. Photo of Karen in her office by Jerry Ordway, probably room #41 in the floor plan below.

WaidOffice88_2

I have two more photos of editor Mark Waid’s office in room #47 from him. Cork board on the walls made decorating with current and past work easy.

WaidOffice88_3

These are from 1988. Mark left the DC staff in 1989, but continued as a very popular and successful writer of comics, at DC and elsewhere.

Eury_HughesBarr

In 1989 Michael Eury joined the DC staff, seen here in his office in a photo he provided with artist Adam Hughes and writer Mike W. Barr. Eury is at lower left.

archiegoodwin

Archie Goodwin, in a photo found online, returned to DC in 1990 for the final phase of his celebrated editing and writing career.

MooreKwitneyPeyer

More new editorial hires in the late 666 period were Stuart Moore, left, Tom Peyer, above right, and Alisa Kwitney, below right. All three would continue at the company well into the 90s. In the article about all the DC Comics offices in BACK ISSUE #80, Stuart Moore wrote:

“I started at DC in the last days of the 666 5th Avenue office. I’m sure it had been a very nice space at one time, but DC had long outgrown it. The Vertigo imprint, which I helped found, was still a few years away. My office was a former conference room which I shared with a marketing person, a contracts person, and another editorial staffer. It was a bit of a zoo.”

Print

After discussing this with Stuart and others, I think the area he means was also in that new construction area marked 44 to 47 in this floor plan. It’s hard to imagine DC ever needing a second conference room, but combining two offices to give it a little more room for four people makes some sense. We think it was offices 44 and 45 that were combined. Stuart told me:

“I shared it initially with Jeannie Fong (contracts or accounting) and Jerry Novick who worked for Bob Wayne. At some point they moved (Assistant Editor) Dan Thorsland in, too. It was a hellish crowded mess, frankly—stuffy with no windows.”

BobKahan2013

Bob Kahan from his Facebook page, 2013.

Bob Kahan wrote recently:

“There were a few folks who came on staff just prior to the move to 1325 Avenue of the Americas. I’m not entirely sure where we all were but I do recall that there wasn’t much space available. I came on board as the ‘floating’ assistant editor a month before the move and my desk was (believe it or not) a cardboard box outside Dick Giordano’s office. Eddie Berganza, who started the same day as me was based in the copy room (#31) with Frank Pittarese. I’m not sure where Patty Jeres sat because she was always on the move.”

Carlin_Conference Room during first Super Summit

Around 1990 Superman Group Editor Mike Carlin organized the first of many “Super-Summits” of all the Superman writers, artists and editors. It was the beginning of a new type of continuity crossing between titles on a regular basis that had to be carefully planned out in advance. Here’s a rare photo of the DC Conference Room during the summit, supplied by Mike. Left to right standing: Dennis Janke (inker), Glenn Whitmore (colorist), Carlin (Ringmaster), Roger Stern (writer), Brett Breeding (inker) and Dan Jurgens (writer/artist). Seated are Jonathan Peterson (Assistant Editor),  Jerry Ordway (writer/artist) and Kerry Gammill (artist). This black wood table was always in the room, and behind on the left is a lighted wall board for notes, maybe an erasable white board or cork board.

To clarify the editorial assignments, here are all the DC books with November 1990 cover dates, which would have been worked on mostly in August and September.

MIKE CARLIN: Action Comics, Adventures of Superboy, Superboy, Superman

ELLIOT S. MAGGIN: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Spelljammer

KAREN BERGER: Books of Magic, The Nazz, World Without End

KAREN BERGER assisted by TOM PEYER: Hellblazer, Shade the Changing Man, Wonder Woman

ART YOUNG: Animal Man, Doctor Fate, Doom Patrol, L.E.G.I.O.N., Lobo.

DENNIS O’NEIL: Batman Bride of the Demon, Captain Atom, Detective Comics

DENNIS O’NEIL assisted by KELLEY PUCKETT: Batman

ANDREW HELFER: Twilight

ANDREW HELFER assisted by KEVIN DOOLEY: Batman Legend of the Dark Knight, Green Lantern, Justice League America, Justice League Europe, Justice League Quarterly

JONATHAN PETERSON: Checkmate, Hawk & Dove

DAN RASPLER: The Demon, Suicide Squad

BRIAN AUGUSTYN: El Diablo, Flash, The Shadow Strikes

MIKE GOLD assisted by KATIE MAIN: Green Arrow

KATIE MAIN: Starman

MIKE GOLD assisted by BRIAN AUGUSTYN: Sgt. Rock Special

KEVIN DOOLEY: Mister Miracle

STUART MOORE: Swamp Thing

BOB GREENBERGER: Star Trek, Star Trek The Next Generation

MICHAEL EURY: Who’s Who in the DC Universe

Note: the first editorial credit for ARCHIE GOODWIN I can find is for the 1990 book BATMAN 3-D.

Did I mention everyone at 666 5th Avenue? Not possible. I think I have most of the editorial staff, but I probably missed a few. For the rest of the company, I’m sure I missed lots. Here are a few names that have come up that I don’t have either photos or much information for: Mitch Berger (legal?), Cheryl Rubin, assistant editor Dan Thorsland, production artist Mark Alexander, production artist Brian Boehrner.

And as for the rest of who was in which office when, it’s a puzzle I can’t begin to unravel. I’ve reported what I can, but between frequent office reshuffling and conflicting memories, the rest is beyond me!

I’m not sure exactly when the move was made to the next DC offices at 1325 Avenue of the Americas on 53rd Street, just about a block west of 666 5th Avenue, but the new address first appears in the indicias of comics with June, 1991 cover dates, so I’m guessing the move was made around March or April of 1991.

ToddKlein1983

Me in my apartment with an issue of NEW TALENT SHOWCASE featuring my story “Class of 2064.” Photo by Randy Tobey, 1983.

Writing these articles has brought back a lot of good memories for me, and I thought I’d share some. For all of my DC staff years (1977-1987), I lived in a garden apartment on the west side of Highland Park, NJ. My commute to work began with arising around 6 AM, having a quick breakfast, then walking about 1.5 miles from my apartment over the Raritan River to the NJ Transit train station in New Brunswick. There I’d catch an Amtrak or NJ Transit train to New York’s Penn Station at 8th Avenue and 33rd Street. If the weather was nice, I often walked to the office from there, or I could take the E subway train to the station under the Tishman Building. I usually arrived at work by 8:30 AM. It was a good commute except in bad winter weather, when it became a frozen death march, or if the trains were delayed, but mostly I enjoyed it. I took about 45 minutes to an hour for lunch, always bought in the city, I never bagged my lunch. Cheaper options included the Warner Cafeteria under 75 Rockefeller Plaza, or street vendors. I also ate at many of the local restaurants and diners, generally less expensive ones. Lunch break was a time I could explore mid-town Manhattan within a mile or so of work, and I did a lot of that, visiting book and record stores, museums, galleries, libraries, churches, architectural landmarks, parks, shops and so on, sometimes with street vendor lunch in hand. If we got out early, which often happened on Friday afternoons in the summer, I could and did explore further afield. My staff work day usually ended around 4:30 PM. During the week I almost always headed right home to do freelance lettering and other work in the evenings. On Friday, I might go to a movie, do more exploring, and/or attend regular Friday evening poker games, often held at Paul Levitz’s apartment in the East Village, but sometimes at other staff apartments. I got to know some of the Marvel staff then, who also attended, and I visited Marvel a few times, as well as the homes of artist friends like Michael Kaluta, and artist studios like Neal Adams’ Continuity Associates. Lunches with other staffers and freelancers happened once or twice a week, on average. For a number of years there were regular weekly lunches with Ernie Colón, Keith Giffen, Robert Loren Fleming, and other friends.

DC Production was a great place to work for this comics fan. At times it was stressful. Things were always running late, and deadline pressure was an almost daily fact of life. Many days “Chemical Eddie” or Murphy Anderson would be waiting impatiently while we tried to finish up books for them to take to Chemical Color in Connecticut or Visual Concepts in New Jersey for color separations. I enjoyed the work, though, getting to do corrections and production work on some of the best projects of the time like CAMELOT 3000, RONIN, BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, and WATCHMEN. I met hundreds of freelancers and comics legends, from Joe Shuster, Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson, Shelly Mayer, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and Wally Wood to younger stars like Bernie Wrightson, Neal Adams, George Perez…well, I could go on dropping names, but let’s just say I met nearly everyone involved in DC comics to that point, and worked with many of them. It was a time of change. The emergence and growth of the Direct Market meant DC was able to and encouraged to reach for higher standards of printing and production quality, and I was there for all of that in my role as Assistant Production Manager. In the 1980s we moved from printing on the cheapest newsprint by World Color Press in Illinois to (for some comics) high-quality offset printing on much better paper at Quebecor Printing in Montreal, Canada.

dccolors2

Color options went from 64, many that printed like mud, to about 128 and eventually to the thousands and millions available digitally. Color separations moved from hand-painted or hand-cut film to digital as well, but mostly in the 1990s. Then there were the side perks of working at DC, like regular visits from famous people of all kinds: Noel Neill and Jack Larson to Madeleine Kahn and Muhammad Ali. In the streets of New York you were likely to run into almost anyone. I met and shook hands with both Richard Nixon and Salvador Dali, for instance.

LetteringHowTo

Working at DC was an excellent training ground for making comics in any capacity. I learned the basics of hand lettering from John Workman, still on staff when I started in 1977, but the best training was having to mimic the styles of lettering pros like Gaspar Saladino, Ben Oda and John Costanza in order to make corrections on comics they lettered. While on staff I learned to color comics, though I didn’t do a lot of that, and I began writing stories for comics, first for the mystery/horror anthologies, then backup stories for GREEN LANTERN, a few stories for NEW TALENT SHOWCASE, and finally tryouts on THE OMEGA MEN, which led to my becoming the regular writer of that title for its last year and a half. In addition to freelance story lettering I was also creating logos, lettering house ads and covers, and doing all kinds of special projects work in my spare time. Lists of my comics work by year can be found HERE. Beyond that I learned a great deal about every aspect of creating comics on both the artistic and technical sides, knowledge that has been useful ever since. In fact, I suspect that by bridging the gap between all by-hand work and all-digital work as I did, my education was one that only people of my work generation can have experienced.

What I remember best about those years, though, is the people. There were lots of good people that I liked working with. Even better, there were kindred spirits at DC, comics fans like myself who loved the medium, the characters, and the things we were creating. Not all staffers were comics fans, but many were by the time I started, and together we formed a community with like-minded staff/fans at Marvel and other companies. We saw each other at parties and conventions, became friends, and enjoyed the hell out of working in comics. Some of those people are still friends today, and many that I knew less well are in touch online. It was validation for my interests and my aspirations that I couldn’t have found in another line of work. Many good memories remain from those staff years and since.

Shelly Eiber wrote to me recently, “Bob Rozakis always used to say that one’s time in Production should, ideally, be a two-year stepping stone before branching out and becoming successful on one’s own.” I was certainly getting plenty of freelance work after two years on staff, and I saw many others follow that route, but I enjoyed being there too much to go freelance that quickly. I also saw some folks making that two-year transition and then living from paycheck to paycheck, always scrambling for the next assignment. I knew I didn’t want to do that, and one reason I stayed on staff for ten years was so I could build up my savings into a nest egg that would see me through hard times.

ToddComics1987

Me and some of my many comics, 1987.

But by 1987, I began to feel it was time to go. The trigger was a lunch held by Publisher Jenette Kahn for all the employees who had been there for 10 years or more. I looked around that room, saw lifers like Milt Snapinn (also a freelance letterer), and knew I didn’t want to be there for the “20 years” lunch. I needed to get out as a full-time freelancer and see if I could make a career of it. Plus, I was tired of fixing everyone else’s mistakes. I wanted to just make a few of my own. It helped that, by 1987, I was dating Ellen, the woman who became my wife in 1989, so I had a growing life outside the DC offices that I wanted to develop further.

On October 1st, 1987, I began a new work life as a full-time freelancer. From then until August, 1989, I followed my commuting route to the DC offices once a week to drop off and pick up work, continuing to develop my DC contacts and making new ones, while also picking up work at Marvel Comics. In September of 1989, Ellen and I moved to southern New Jersey, about three hours from Manhattan, and thereafter I only visited the DC offices about once a year until the move to Burbank, CA in 2014. Most of my contact then was by phone and Fedex. Later that evolved into mostly email and digital file transfers.

I’ve always felt getting hired at DC was the greatest lucky break I’ve ever had. It changed my life for the better, and gave me opportunities that continue to pay off today.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this series, other parts of the article and more you might enjoy can be found on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

12 thoughts on “THE DC COMICS OFFICES 1982-1991 Part 6

  1. Jim Chadwick

    Great work, Todd. I started in August of 1990 as Director of Design Services, filling a vacancy created when Richard Bruning left staff. My office was somewhere along the top part of your chart, between Levitz and Giordano. One of my most important accomplishments was hiring Robbin Brosterman away from Marvel. 🙂 (Hi Robbin.) I left staff in 1993 to move to California and work for Malibu Comics, where I stayed until we were closed in 1996. I returned to DC after a 12 year absence in 2005 as an editor at DC owned Wildstorm in San Diego. I made the move to Burbank in 2011 and remain a DC employee to this day. But thanks for bringing back so many wonderful memories of those early days.

  2. Rachel Gluckstern

    I love these blogs, Todd. It’s great to see some familiar faces back when they were younger, and great to put some faces to familiar names from my back issues. What a great wealth of comics history you’ve provided!

  3. Ted J

    Fantastic posts, Todd!! Keep up the great work, this is a huge piece of history you have presented us, and it’s really well done!!

  4. Dale Crain

    Hi Todd,

    Great post!
    Lots of great memories.

    A suggested “correction” to your office diagram and a MIA or two who should have been mentioned, especially with your emphasis on Production.
    Your office diagram I believe to be incorrect in the 41-47 area. There were only FIVE offices down that small hallway (AS I RECALL!); two on the left and 3 on the right. So just to make things a bit easier; let’s lop off 43 and 47.
    I started at DC in Nov. 1989 as an Art Director (and like many others came and went a time or two, but I think I might be one of, if not the only staffer who served 3 separate departments; an Art Director, Sr. Production Manager and Senior Editor during my more or less 15 years at DC) and this is what I recall…
    At the end of ’89 and well into ’90;
    On the left side in 41, there was myself and Bhob Stewart (AD for Piranna) sharing an office.
    42 I am honestly not sure who was in here. (Stewart, maybe you recall?)
    44 Was the office of Piranha Press.
    45 Was the “small conference room”/torture chamber that Stewart mentioned
    46 Was Joey Cavalerie and a guy named Jim (?) who assisted Joe Orlando.

    You totally missed mentioning Fred Ruiz who joined DC just a month before myself in 1989 and spent about 25 years in management positions in Production immediately under BobRo and Alison!

    Also, KC Carlson (who began as an assistant to Richard and would later edit the Legion and other titles) was overlooked.

    Maybe you could do a number 7 posting within a week or two and include any other additions/corrections you might receive.
    It’s highly doubtful anyone will do anything like this again and anyone interested (now or in the future) in such behind the scenes history might miss some key things mentioned only in the comments-like Jim, Fred, etc.!

  5. Stuart Moore

    Dale! Great to hear from you.

    I’d forgotten about the Piranha offices. I think my office, which had been the small conference room, was the spaces indicated as 45-46 here. Yes, Joey was in 47. I think he worked with Jim McCann (not the same Jim McCann who’s now a writer and did PR at Marvel in the early 2000s).

    Office #42: I can’t remember. I think they fit Robbin Brosterman in there somewhere, when she came over.

  6. Kit

    “the best training was having to mimic the styles of lettering pros like Gaspar Saladino, Ben Oda and John Costanza in order to make corrections on comics they lettered”

    As a reader, I always love coming across a half-balloon of Klein in mid-’80s back issues and seeing how close you’ve come, depending on having the room to try, to the extant letterer’s style.

    (Similarly, I can remember from my first teenage reading how many dialogue rewrites or redundantly expository additions to the early Giffen/Bierbaums LSH stuck out for not matching your own style.)

  7. J Leeds

    Thanks for this series, Mr. Klein. These years correspond to my peak comics-reading years, so I love seeing all these people whose names were in those comics I read. The fun you all had working certainly came through on the printed pages.

  8. Nicola Cuti

    Dear Todd, What a wonderful set of memories of some great times and some incredible people. Thanks for doing this, so none of this will be lost.

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