|....“The book is incredibly visually rich,” Levitz told CSN. “No matter how much you know about comics, there will be photos or reproductions of old material that you haven’t seen. The narrative is more of a basic story (I only have 33,000 words, or about 3/4 of a word per issue DC published), but hopefully there’s be anecdotes or observations that will surprise.”
....If there’s anyone who should know a great deal about DC’s history, it’s Levitz, whose career at DC spans almost half of those seventy-five years. “I started in fanzines, doing The Comic Reader, the first TV Guide equivalent for the field,” Levitz said. “That got me to know the talent, so I moved on to being an assistant editor, writer, editor (I realized in doing this book that I was actually DC’s youngest ever), then moved to the business side as manager of business affairs, VP-operations, executive VP, executive VP & publisher, and finally as president & publisher. Heck of a four decades!”
....Since his career with DC dates back to 1972,
|Levitz is uniquely qualified to chronicle the company’s history; not only was he present for much of it, but he also has met and/or worked with almost all of the major figures in DC history. “There are observations based on the amazing folks I’ve known along the way,” Levitz said.
....How did Levitz become involved with 75 Years of DC Comics? “The project started about two years ago. I came on board as the writer last fall,” he said.
....The book is structured as a chronoligcal history, but it offers much more than a timeline narrative. “It’s deeply layered,” Levitz said. “The narrative is a series of chronological chapters (Stone, Golden, Silver Ages, etc.), accompanied by illustrations, timelines, long biographical albums, and short biographical pieces with accompanying caricatures. I think the final tally is well over 2000 illustrationsstuff as obscure as photos in a color separation plant or progressive proofs of an All-American Western cover, to beautifully rephotographed classic pieces like Superman breaking the chains by Neal Adams.”
....And not only is the book thick, but each page is impressively oversized. “It’s monstrously large--an occasional specialty of Taschen--and
|beautifully photographed and printed,” Levitz said. “The result is, even if you're looking at a partial page illo, like an old Walt Kelly piece for an early DC comic, you can see linework in joyous detail. And a full page of Dark Knight Returns shows every nuance that the color altered when laid over the reduced version.
...“The book includes repro of pages from New Fun and other early DCs; sketches, photos (Arnold Drake at the separators during Doom Patrol, for example), panels, and house ads; stills from films and TV .shows; photos from “Superman Day” at the ’39-40 World’s Fair; the
|cover of DC’s annual report when it was a public company; and on and on… Eat your Wheaties thoughit's a tough lift!”
....Publications like The Jack Kirby Collector, Alter Ego, Back Issue, Comic Book Artist, etc., have raised the bar for comics history, as have insightful biographies of such comics pioneers as Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, and Otto Binder. Readers who have come to expect hitherto-unrevealed details, rarely seen art, and unused material will be quite pleased with the contents of this massive history. “No matter how knowledgeable you are, there will be things in here that you’ve never seen,” Levitz said.
|....In his many years at DC, Levitz must have been privy to many of the company’s secrets; while Levitz acknowledges that some of those secrets must remain private, “there will be a few revealed as welllike the lowest sell-through title DC ever published.”
....Does Levitz focus on his own tenure at DCand if so, was that a challenge for Levitz the historian? “Not so much, because it’s hard for me to talk about my work as a historianbut there’s a bit of Legion of Super-Heroes, certainly,” Levitz said. “I’ll save the rest for an autobiography some day.”
....Any chance we might see that autobiography on the schedule in the near future? “No autobiography soon,” Levitz said. “I want to do a bit more before I start looking backward!”
....While Levitz has been on hand for almost four decades of DC history, is there any single period that he wishes he could have witnessed in person? “I got to see so much, I hate to be greedy,” Levitz said. “It would have been fun to hang out with Shelly Mayer at All-American, though… and I never got to meet Whit Ellsworth, of all DC’s great editors.
....How has DC changed over the years, as Levitz sees it? “Read the book!” he replied with that trademark Levitz smile.
....And does he have any theories on where DCand comics as both an art form and a commercial mediumare going in the next twenty-five years? “That’s a whole other book, Cliff,” Levitz said.
...75 Years of DC Comics, a 720 page $200 hardcover measuring a whopping 11.4” x 15.6”, is slated for October release. To find a comic shop near you, try the Comic Book Locator Service.
by Cliff Biggers
Follow CSN via Twitter at twitter.com/csnsider
The Spirit of 75
|....Seventy-five years ago, Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson made publishing historyand paved the way for the comics that we enjoy every week (and for publications like Comic Shop News, which cover those comics!). In a young field populated by comic strip reprints, Wheeler-Nicholson had the foresight to produce the first all-original comic, New Fun #1... and from there, comics history was forever changed.
....Now, three quarters of a century later and more than forty thousand comics later, Taschen Books and Paul Levitz are going to spotlight just what Wheeler-Nicholson unleashed in 75 Years of DC Comics, an illustrated history of the field’s first and foremost original comics publisher.
....75 Years of DC Comics, a massive 600+ page hardcover, is jam packed with more than 2000 images spanning DC’s seven and a half decadesimages that include covers, interior art, original illustrations, photographs, film stills, rarely seen collectibles, and much more.