Comic Book Historians

Danny Fingeroth: Editor & Writer Part 1 with Alex Grand & Jim Thompson

July 01, 2019 Comic Book Historians Season 1 Episode 44
Comic Book Historians
Danny Fingeroth: Editor & Writer Part 1 with Alex Grand & Jim Thompson
Chapters
Comic Book Historians
Danny Fingeroth: Editor & Writer Part 1 with Alex Grand & Jim Thompson
Jul 01, 2019 Season 1 Episode 44
Comic Book Historians

Alex Grand and Jim Thompson interview Danny Fingeroth, former editor and writer of Marvel Comics for close to two decades, Danny takes us into his early life, being hired in comics under Larry Lieber, then working with various editors, Archie Goodwin, Louise Simonson, Jim Shooter, Tom DeFalco, and Sol Brodsky working on Captain Britain for Marvel UK, Marvel Reprints, Dazzler, Uncanny X-Men, Micronauts and the Amazing Spider-Man in the early 80s. Images used in artwork ©Their Respective Copyright holders, CBH Podcast ©Comic Book Historians. Thumbnail Artwork ©Comic Book Historians. Support us at https://www.patreon.com/comicbookhistorians

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Show Notes Transcript

Alex Grand and Jim Thompson interview Danny Fingeroth, former editor and writer of Marvel Comics for close to two decades, Danny takes us into his early life, being hired in comics under Larry Lieber, then working with various editors, Archie Goodwin, Louise Simonson, Jim Shooter, Tom DeFalco, and Sol Brodsky working on Captain Britain for Marvel UK, Marvel Reprints, Dazzler, Uncanny X-Men, Micronauts and the Amazing Spider-Man in the early 80s. Images used in artwork ©Their Respective Copyright holders, CBH Podcast ©Comic Book Historians. Thumbnail Artwork ©Comic Book Historians. Support us at https://www.patreon.com/comicbookhistorians

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/comicbookhistorians)

Alex: Hello again from the Comic Book Historians podcast. I’m Alex Grand with my co-host Jim Thompson. Today we have a special guest, Danny Fingeroth. Danny Fingeroth spent nearly two decades as a writer and editor for Marvel comics, an expert in comics, writing, editing in history. He has spoken about comics and their creators at venues including the Smithsonian Institution, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Columbia University. Danny has taught comics writings at multiple universities and was a longtime group editor of Marvel Spider-Man line and has written many comics including the Deadly Foes of Spider-Man Limited series and the entire 50 issue run of DarkHawk and was a consultant to the Fox kids Spider-Man animated series. So that’s … So Danny, those words would probably sound pretty familiar to you. We’re really excited to have you here. Jim’s going to start off with kind of the early days before your comics career. Jim, take it away.

Jim: Okay. Hi Danny.

Danny: Hi guys.

Jim: Let’s start with when and where were you born?

Danny: I was born in New York, New York, and I was born in the 50s. Let’s leave it vague like that but I’m a prime era baby boomer.

Jim: Did you play with Howard Chaykin when you were a baby?

Danny: No. Howard lived in a faraway land called Brooklyn. I was, if you can tell by my urbane demeanor, a suave, sophisticated Manhattan native.

Jim: I joke about that, but it seems like everyone we interview is born in New York. That seems to be the common denominator in, not everyone, but almost everyone that we’ve spoken with on this. Why do you think that is?

Danny: I think … There’s a lot of historical reasons. In my case, for me to take a chance on looking for a job at Marvel Comics meant I did not have to fly cross country or Hitchhike from another country, I just had to get on the subway. I was risking a subway token in terms of my curiosity and my interest in possibly a working in comics. I think there’s a local … The two major mainstream comic companies and even much of the underground world started in and until recently was in and around New York City. So if you’re a local kid and you love comics and you’re looking for what you … Either you’re obsessed with it from an early age and, or you’re trying to figure out what you’re going to do as a grownup for a living and for a career. It’s here, there’s a mentoring network, there’s the publishers. This is where the earliest comic conventions, and I guess this probably even an aspect that especially the Marvel stories literally took place in New York.

Jim: Yeah, they’re all in New York, yeah.

Danny: It requires … New York has this … I’m not sure if you guys have ever lived in New York, but it’s a funny thing to live in a place that’s both real and mythical simultaneously so that there’s the real New York of crowded subways and dog shit and pollution and crazy drivers and the Metropolitan Opera and the Metropolitan Museum and all those.

Jim: The lows and the highs, yes.

Danny: So there’s all the lows and the highs and. You could probably spend several months just watching movies that are about some dream world of New York. So to grow up in a place that’s the object of so many people’s fantasies. If you go to any city, if you go anywhere in the world or anywhere in America, you will find expatriate New Yorkers who for whatever reason got the hell out. So as many people are dying to get into New York, that’s as many people dying to get out of New York. But it’s, yes, I will quote the Grateful Dead, New York’s got the ways and means.

Alex: So basically just comes out to the location of where the Marvel was and also that you were born and lived just close to there.

Danny: Yes.

Alex: But then there’s also the culture, as well.

Jim: That makes sense. So tell us a little bit about your family growing up, your parents.

Danny: Wow, this is real. I didn’t know we were going to get this in depth.

Alex: And most importantly, which comics did you read as a kid?

Jim: We’ll get to that for sure.

Danny: I was born and raised in pre gentrification Manhattan. The New York that everybody sees in movies and TV. The glamorous New York always existed but there was the New York of crime and pollution and decay that I … I’m not claiming that I grew up impoverished because I didn’t, but that was sort of … None of my suburban relatives were jealous that I was growing up in Manhattan. We were all like, oh, it’s too bad they never made it to the suburbs. My parents were from … I guess it’s relevant, my parents were really from a similar background to a lot of the comic book creators, which was first generation American born children of Eastern European Jewish immigrants. That’s what I have in common with a Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and Howard Chicken and so on. That was probably subconsciously something that attracted me to the comics and then when I became interested in doing them professionally and learning more about comics history …

Danny: My parents and aunts and uncles grew up in plays and made their way through the same streets with Will Eisner and that whole generation. So that’s my background. My father was, again, similar, sort of like being a famous comic book editor means that you’re famous to like one 10th of 1% of the population unless you’re Stan Lee. My father was a well known canter. He led services at one of the larger Catskills hotels called the Nevele, which was sort of a step in the same league as Grossinger and The Concord, if, you know your Jewish New York area history, and also was in the banquet catering business, and also had a law degree. So kind of like Eisner’s family … My mother was a speech therapist in the New York school system. They never, as far as my reading comics, I think they were glad I was reading something, they never forbid me to read comics.

Danny: I had a friend who even though he was among the poorer kids in this school that I went to through eighth grade, his parents owned a candy store on the Bronx, which meant he got the comics before anybody. So I was … Even though he was technically not as well to do as some of my classmates, he was the only one I was really jealous of. I was like, oh man, he gets the comics, and he gets them for free. But ironically he had a comic book thrown out. So he got the comics early but then his mother would-

Alex: Get rid of them early.

Danny: Yeah. But somewhere in there he got to read them.

Jim: Were you an early reader?

Danny: Yeah, I was one of those kids who in first grade when people were struggling with Dick and Jane, I would just be like, just read the frigging thing. It’s run, start, run, what is so difficult?

Jim: That’s a common factor in everybody we interviewed too. All the comic people all seem to be early readers.

Danny: Yeah, and comics were a big part of that. Comics, it’s almost a cliche, but I guess it’s true, comics did use large vocabulary, certainly larger than a lot of the books you will be reading in kindergarten, first, second, even third grade. It’s funny because even though they were … It’s so interesting, those comics were clearly aimed at children and yet some of them dealt with very sophisticated stories and themes that even … Even in the pre Marvel era you could see the comics had all this smart stuff lurking under the surface, the EC comic certainly. So that was my background. I read comics and early, my earliest memory is my mom reading me a Popeye Comic.

Alex: Cool.

Danny: Probably because Popeye cartoons were popular when I was a kid, so that must’ve been the transition. Then my cousin Steve was a-

Alex: Back in 1960 or something, was that 1960?

Danny: Yes, would have been more like ’58.

Alex: ’58, okay.

Danny: ’58, ’59. I had an older cousin who was a comics reader, he used to give them to me. I can’t remember literally my first comic, I have this vague memory of being Popeye fan and then I just remember, I wouldn’t go … Every Sunday we’d go to visit relatives in the suburbs and I would not go without like a big stack of comics to them with me. I was reading them early and I got into the superheroes very, very early. Something about that … I remember reading Sad Sack and Popeye and Little Lulu so that, it’s stuff but it’s super heroes that really … I’m from an era when every kid read comics for a year or two or read them casually, whether it was Archie or Casper, the Friendly Ghost or Superman. But there were two or three other kids, I was in a class of like 50 kids in this school I was in, we were all in the same … We kind of progressed together through school. In that group, there were two or three other kids who were into comics more than casually, who, one of them was the one who said, after I’ve been reading for a few years, reading comics for a few years said, “There’s this new thing called the Fantastic Four you should check out.” So that was my grape vine. I grew up on the upper east side of Manhattan, on the wrong side of Lexington Avenue, people who know Manhattan will know what I mean. There was literally, I’m so old, there was literally a brewery a block away from my house making Rupert Knickerbocker beer.

Danny: If you can imagine your movie image of the glamour of Manhattan and suddenly there’s like a factory making beer down the block as if we were in some town in Ohio or something. No offense, Ohio listeners. There were a couple of … There were a new stand where I bought so many comics that when I went away to summer camp, even though I would leave my mother a detailed list of what comics to get me, because God forbid I would miss an issue of anything, the guy at the news stand already knew what I wanted. I had a credit line with him, sometimes I owed them as much as like 60 cents.

Alex: That’s pretty cool.

Danny: He did not send the leg breakers out obviously. you know. Then there were also some secondhand magazine shops that sold comics in the neighborhood and that was always … I remember there’s one in the Bronx, because I had a lot of Bronx roots because that’s where my parents were from and they worked and my grandparents lived. I remember buying Fantastic Four number two as a back issue and I paid 5 cents for it because it was an old comic. You weren’t going to pay full price for an old comic book. So I pretty much lived and breathed those comics and I was the perfect age for Marvel when it came out. When Marvel started, if you look through your comic history you’ll see there are a lot of people born somewhere between 1951 and 1955 who ended up in the business. I think that was, if you were like eight, nine, 10, 11 years old and you forget you got your first dose of Marvel Comics, of the first marvel comics, then it really was transformative.

Jim: Did you write any letters?

Danny: Yes, but what I did was, and I look back now, I felt so as if I knew Stan and Jack and Steve, that I would write these long, rambling, comprehensive letters like what I thought of every single thing you did this month. And of course, you know, once you’re on the inside, you go, well, nobody’s printing like a 10 page letter. If you write a reasonably intelligent and witty 50 page letter, 50 word letter, you have a much better chance to getting printed. So I did write letters. I think I did get some of those postcards thanking me from Stan and the gang.

Alex: Oh, that’s cool.

Danny: I never joined the Merry Marvel Marching Society, I have to admit. I just compared, you could be a Superman of America for a dime, or join the MMMS Society for a buck and I just couldn’t. I could never justify that, which might be indicative of the fact that I never really got involved in organized fandoms. So I wasn’t one of those kids who had a fanzine and correspond to … I had this obsession with the comics and a certain point it became just with Marvel comics.

Alex: So that’s Ben and Jack stuff really sucked you in.

Danny: Totally, totally. I was who they were looking for.

Alex: The target audience as they say.

Jim: And how old were you when you thought for the first time I might want to do this for a living?

Danny: Probably pretty young, I’d say, because accompanied by my fascination with and obsession with comics, I was obsessed with drawing. I drew all the time, superheroes, baseball players, were the two main topics. I’d draw The Marvel and DC heroes, I’d make up my own characters. I was a big New York Yankees Fan, so I’d be drawing a Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.

Alex: Oh, nice.

Danny: So I think I figured out obviously that somebody was drawing these things. So I think from pretty early on. I do know, I remember when I’m 12 or 13, here I am living in Manhattan so that means I’m in walking distance probably of like the top 10 greatest art schools in the world. But I wanted to take the famous artists course, the mail order correspondence course, the one with Norman Rockwell and Albert Dorne. So I took the course and I took the test and shockingly I passed it and I can’t … I don’t know if anybody ever didn’t pass it. So the sales man came to our apartment. My parents were actually … They said, “Think about it for a few days, if you still want it, we’ll pay for it.” In that way, I wasn’t as obsessed, as obviously some future professionals, I was a kid and few days later my attention had drifted and I didn’t get the course. So I was pretty good for a 12 year old.

Danny: I had a friend who was really good, who I think could have been professional but chose to become both a dentist and a lawyer, so-

Alex: There you go. Secure, that’s good secure work.

Danny: Yeah, it is really. Obviously I’m a writer, an editor and word person, but I don’t think any … You have to be a real special kind of kid to love comics and not want to be Jack Kirby. So that was the fantasy I had that maybe one day I could do what Jack or guys like that did. I ended up … That was as a kid my comic book fantasy. Then I lost interest in the comics that were coming out in the early seventies. I look back on it now and I go, wow, there’s a lot of great stuff, but I think it was a combination of the typical becoming interested in girls and music and school and movies and a hundred other things.

Jim: Was that around the time that Kirby left marvel or did you stay around for-





Danny: When Kirby left Marvel is around the time my Marvel interest waned. I did follow, I look at my collection and I do have most of the fourth world stuff that Kirby did. In there I started developing a certain amount of interest in the undergrounds but I was never immersed in the underground. I’m certainly familiar with them, and later on I became a huge Harvey Peacock Fan. It’s kind of the underground, it’s almost been a more a matter of me catching up. I think at that point in my life my attention shifted. We’re talking about late high school, my attentions shifted to literature, movies, and always a great fondness for the medium of comics. Anytime I saw an article about comics or a news item I was interested in it. But when I look back on the comics, and again, I think it was just my becoming a later adolescent and developing other interests, but I think it was when a certain level of innovation ended and a level of professionalism came in.

Danny: So I can look at that professionalism now and I can say, boy, these were some really talented people doing these stories. But the explosive excitement where every issue of Fantastic Four and every issue of Spiderman in every issue of Tales of Suspense would have 10 new cool things and 10 risks that to me were new, maybe they were knocked off from a TV show or a movie or a Shakespeare play or something that I wasn’t familiar with, but when it shifted from explosive new things every issue to, oh, here’s a very well done, competent, professional, comic, that’s when my interest started waning.

Alex: The magic is less at that point.

Danny: Yeah. And of course there was that old cliche, this cliche, because it’s true that the golden age of anything is 12.

Jim: Ales and I were talking about that earlier.

Alex: Yeah, outgrowing it.

Danny: What was your education? Did you go from high school straight to college?

Alex: I went from high school. I went to a Bronx Science and then I went … I ended up in Suny Binghamton where they had a very unique film program. It was … It had a lot of things in common with comics and Marvel comics but it was an avant garde. It was a film program run by Avant Garde film artists, people who most people haven’t heard of, the most famous, he didn’t teach there, but the kind of film making done by a guy named Stan Brakhage.

Danny: Sure. Of course.

Jim: I went to a USC Grad School, and taught film for Duke for 15 years.

Danny: Okay. So Ken Jacobs was one of my teachers, if you know Ken’s work.

Jim: Yeah, of course.

Danny: Larry Gottaim was another teacher, Dan Barnett, Saul Levine, these were people in the Brakhage … Obviously we’re all unique and different and had their own visions, but it was non narrative film, which was the very opposite in the sense of Marvel Comic because Marvel Comic is … Among the things that marvel does well is it tells a story with a beginning, middle, a traditionally structured narrative story. But of course I was the narrative guy in this non narrative program, which I didn’t take any abuse for people, respected it. So I had this kind of fine arts school education in this esoteric area of film.

Jim: Were you doing production or was it more critical studies?

Danny: I was doing more production, which again was that sort of avant garde ideal. If you remember a book, this will really date me and whoever knows what I’m talking about, this book by a guy named Lenny Lipton, who is also the co-writer of puff the magic dragon, the song. But Lenny Lipton wrote a book called independent filmmaking, and the introduction is by Stan Brakhage. There’s a photo in it of Brakhage with a Bolex slung over his shoulder as if he was a gunfighter in a 50s western. So that sort of loaned, bold genius with a camera was the vision that became, that sort of replaced Jack Kirby in my imagination. So that was my education. Actually we-

Jim: So when did you finish the film program?

Danny: I finished, boy, you want to know my age? I finished in ’76. I sort of had a toe hold in that world. I had a shared show at a place called The Collective for Living Cinema, which was in Tribeca. That’s where I showed my senior thesis film. I did some PA work on movies in New York. I didn’t want to go to graduate school, at least not yet. I really didn’t want to move to Hollywood, especially given my anti Hollywood aesthetic education. This is where being from New York comes in handy or determines your fate or something because like a lot of kids after college, I’m going home to live with my mom. My father passed away when I was in high school, but my mom happened to live on the upper east side of Manhattan. So it was like, okay, well here I am in the media capital of the world, I have a really cool fine arts education, but it’s one that certainly is not going to make me rich tomorrow, what am going to do?

Alex: It didn’t feel practical at the time.

Danny: It didn’t feel practical. It’s not like something that I would do for love and maybe apply for a grant or something. But then the most well known, the fact is Stan Brakhage even being say the most well known filmmaker still had to have a day job teaching and spent a lot of his time barnstorming different colleges and museums, I think largely because he had a lot of children that he had his support.

Alex: Right. Exactly.

Danny: So we benefited because we got to see Stan Brakhage and all these other filmmakers in person, but I think given their druthers, that was probably not their ideal way, how to spend their time. So I’m back in New York and what am I going to do? Well, it might be fun to work at Marvel Comics.

Jim: Let’s go back, and I’m going to hand you over to Alex in a second, let’s go back. You’re already a comics professional to some degree at this point, because you’ve worked in some of these for-

Danny: Says it again, no, no, no. I think I hear you jump.

Alex: Did you … I had read that you’d worked at Atlas Seaboard, is that correct?

Danny: This is totally incorrect. This is the pain of my existence. I should’ve talked to you guys about this before. My first boss was Larry Leiber. Larry Lieber hired me, but he was back at Marvel.

Jim: Was he working in the British department at that point?

Danny: Yes. Larry had been the editor at Atlas Seaboard during that company’s brief existence, and Larry was my first boss. So somewhere, I think it was Jerry Bails who somehow inferred from that, that I had worked for Larry at Atlas Seaboard. The problem is that’s now in Jerry’s who’s who and is therefore in Wikipedia. But Jerry has died and his wife I don’t think has any interest in updating his web.

Alex: And correcting it.

Danny: And correcting it. So yes, it makes me seem older than I am, which I don’t like, and it’s not true. I came to the back to New York in 76 I worked a bunch of odd jobs in the local movie industry. Then I knew somebody who knew somebody who got me in on an informational tour to Marvel where I thought it might be fun to work and then I … Then I had interview with Larry who had come back from Seaboard. So I started there in ’77.

Alex: That was totally after Atlas for sure then.

Danny: Yeah, yeah, atlas ended in ’75 and Larry got in the British department. So that’s … I got to get somebody, if one of you guys wants to go and correct that, I would-

Alex: On Wikipedia, there you go.

Danny: Because I’m not allowed, but I’m sure somebody will go. But it says I’m Jerry Vale this age, blah, blah blah. So it can’t be right.

Jim: That’s great news for us, we’ve now served a purpose because everybody listening to this is going to know that’s not right because I saw that you had worked with Lieber on the British Comics, and I wondered if he got you the job because of your past at Atlas. Now it all makes sense. And it also, I couldn’t reconcile your education with working there. So this makes sense.

Danny: What happened was I went up to Marvel, like I said, I had a distant connection that got me up there for an informational tour. While I was there I ran into a guy I went to high school with who was working there and he helped me, like a year later, get the entry level job as Larry’s assistant in the British department. So that was how I started. That was my, my beginning as a comics professional.

Jim: Was that a natural place to go, the British Department? Because again, we’ve talked to, I think it was Tom, was Tom Orzechowski and some others where it seems like that’s where they hit off their first. Was that a normal first step?

Danny: Yeah, I think there were a few, yes, because there was very little new … There was a lot of new material in the sense that they were new covers and new splash pages because we split the stories up into chapters so there were new splash pages, new covers, and there was a lot of … For artists there was touch up work and exhibit tone so you could kind of learn the ropes. There was a little new material, Captain Britain was being put out.

Jim: Oh, that Black Knight series and Hulk was great.





Alex: Those are fun series.

Danny: That was actually done in England. That Hulk series was done. A lot of stuff happened in the British department in a short period of time. So basically I came in there and ’77, Larry was the editor, I was the assistant editor slash production manager, and then we had a small bullpen that consisted of Irv Watanabe who was a letterer, sat in there and did his work and did a lot of work for us, Duffy Volland. There were people who either used the room just as freelancers, they used it to work in. But Howard Bender, who is an artist, his name you may know, was a staff production artists working in the British department, a guy named, David Cohen, who at the time was Saul Brodsky’s son-in-law, went out to Hollywood to become a musician. So a lot of different people kind of came to the British department.

Danny: So if you were like a new artists looking to get some practical experience, then yeah, come dothis splash page, this recap slash page. So a lot of people went to the British Department, and I think Tony Isabella, was the editor, Scott Edelman. Then it was sort of a natural funnel into the mainstream editorial department. If you know your history, in the mid, late seventies, the editorial department was in constant flux. So what happened was a guy named David Skin who had been the, at that point, I think he was the British publisher of Mad, and I guess he’d probably done a bunch of other stuff too. He approached Marvel about, my impression is, I wasn’t in those meetings of course, but somehow making the British product more authentic, which made sense. Like instead of the British Comics being put out by a bunch of guys in the Bronx and Brooklyn and Queens, maybe they should be put up by actual English people.

Danny: So this convinced Marvel to move the operation to England. At that point Larry was doing the penciling and also the writing on the Hulk newspaper Strip. He segued into that and I became kind of an all around assistant. They invented this general assistant for me. So I was the liaison with England. I was helping them get the reprint material so that they could do the books and I was also the assistant editor on Star Wars because England was using the Star Wars material at twice the rate that the US was. I became Archie Goodwin’s assistant on Star Wars. And I worked … So early on I got … So I worked with Carmine Infantino in a lot of new covers.

Alex: Late seventies, yes.

Danny: Right. So the Star Wars which was … I think he was among the first of my childhood idols that I got to work with.

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Alex: That’s pretty cool.

Danny: And I learned how weird it was. I worked with guys who I knew, but I couldn’t say that they were legendary in my mind as names, but to me Carmine was always a star, from the Flash and the Strains and Batman. I always say you know you’re a professional … Actually Carmine was very good at hitting deadlines. He was the ultimate professional. There’s that weird moment when you’re on the phone and you’re talking, and it’s like, “Hello childhood idol, I can’t believe I’m speaking to you. It was my dream my entire life that one day I might actually get to know you and work with you, now where are the frigging pages?”

Alex: Exactly, because he had to kind of answer to you in some way.

Danny: Yeah, that’s a totally surreal moment. You go, oh well this is definitely … We’re not in Kansas anymore.

Alex: How was Larry Lieber as a boss?

Danny: Oh, Larry was great. Actually Larry is somebody I’m still very friendly with currently. I see him every few weeks. So we have lunch, he’s, Larry. I’d say that he … I guess everybody has a unique series of people who mentor them and train them, but I may be one of the few people who was kind of, who learned a lot of what I know about comics from Larry, Louise Simonson and Jim Shooter. Then I learned a lot from a lot of other people. Those were the three who either by default or by choice, said that I’m going to teach you how to do comic. Larry, his brother is who he is so there’s always sort of that in the background but Larry on his own is incredibly smart and creative and talented.

Alex: Versatile. He can write and draw, that’s pretty good. And Archie Goodwin and Jim Shooter, so was there-

Danny: And Louise Simonson.

Alex: And Louise Simonson.

Danny: I worked with Louise Simonson, formerly Louise Jones because she … What happened was I worked in the British department then the British department went to England and I had this combination, utility player. That’s when I, if you remember, I ran a line like half a dozen reprint books.

Jim: I’ve got questions about those for sure.

Danny: I worked, I was a shared assistant between Saul Brodsky and Jim shooter, which was interesting because let’s just say they weren’t best friends.

Alex: Oh really?

Danny: Yeah, that was sort of interesting to be in the middle of. Then about a year later, Louise, she was Louise Jones then, came over from Warren and I was assigned as her assistant and luckily we got along very well. So she took over, this was an incredible workload, The X Men titles, the Cone End titles, The Star Wars titles. I think we were doing like 12 books a month. Micronauts, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica.





Alex: A lot.

Danny: And of course the Dazzler.

Jim: Let’s not get too far ahead because I got questions about those for sure.

Danny: It’s going to be like a six hour interview by the time we’re done.

Jim: No, no, we’re going to move it fast.

Alex: Was a Jim Shooter’s style of communication versus Saul Brodsky, that’s interesting that you mentioned that was there … What was like a disagreement between them and difference in style between those two guys, because Jim shooter wrote Saul Brodsky’s obituary when he died, so that’s interesting.

Jim: Well, Jim was the editor in chief, so I guess, look, this is … How do I … They were different personalities and they were different phases in their careers, you know what I mean? Saul, even though I’m older now than Saul was then, Saul I think had nothing to prove. He had a nice job that he was good at, people liked him. I think he was just … I think he would have been content to just play out however many years he was going to work until he retired. He had gone out on his own with Star Wars, as I see the history now. So I guess he came back, he had an executive position with numerous responsibilities but he wasn’t … It seemed very much like it was a job to him, which was fine. He was a very nice guy. People liked him. I think Shooter was a young, ambitious guy who had a different vision for Marvel and comics and what life was about.

Jim: So it was just kind of a clash of two people or two different periods in their life. Then of course Saul had … Saul got suddenly ill and died, I’m probably over simplifying it, but Saul had … When Saul was in the army, his platoon had been one of those groups of soldiers they put in the desert and said, “We’re going to set off this nuclear device here. You’ll be fine. You just stand here. We’re going to go into this bunker, you guys stand out here and you’ll be fine.” He and I think a number of other people he served with all have this kind of cancer that very quickly came on very quickly spread because he was, Saul I was 64. He wasn’t even that old when he died. I think it came on very quickly so that I think everybody was sort of shocked. That was, again, I have no scientific-

Alex: But that makes sense.

Danny: This was sort of the scuttlebutt of how and why Saul suddenly got so ill and passed away. So I think he and Jim were just, they had different world views and different things they wanted out of life and so that just ended up I think in a … Again, I never saw them have an argument but my understanding was that they were-

Alex: Not on the same page.

Danny: Yeah, exactly.

Jim: Was Stan around at all? I know he wasn’t running things per se, but was he in the offices? Did you see him?

Danny: Stan was in the office a couple of days a week. I don’t have, and it’s funny especially because I wrote this … I’m writing his biography of him. I’ve been wracking my brain for what’s my first memory of meeting Stan and I can’t remember it. He was just there. He had to … He was certainly there enough when I started out but no cover … If he was in the office, no cover left the office without him seeing it and approving it before it went to the printers. So I know that certainly there were times say if Larry was out sick or on vacation where I’d have to go to Stan and get the British department covers approved by him. But I can’t, it’s killing me, but I can’t remember, and I should probably just make up something so I have a story to tell. But yeah, he was definitely a presence. He was there. There would be like large editorial or company wide meetings where he would say a few words.

Danny: I think he was hands on with the various editors in chief. Then I think by 19 … I think he was traveling a great deal to the west coast, and then by 1980 he moved completely out there.

Alex: Yeah, I think he went Hollywood.

Jim: All right. So you, after you left the … You were moved over from the British stuff to editing the American reprints, the amazing adventures, which was the X Men, Tales-

Danny: It was simultaneous, but go on.

Jim: Tales to Astonish, submarine and Marvel super action Avengers, and the Silver Surfer fantasy masterpieces, but not Marvel Tales. Was that under a different system or why was that not one of them?

Danny: My understanding of the whole reason for me getting those books or those books existing at all, was that marvel had promised it’s advertises that they would be in a certain number of comics every month, X million comics every month. I think in order to fulfill that commitment they had to rush these reprint titles out.

Jim: Oh, that’s fascinating. I’ve never heard that before.

Danny: So I guess whoever had Marvel Tales, and also I think maybe Marvel’s greatest comics also … I think that the idea was not, oh, this one person just supervises reprints, the idea was we need this reprint, Danny has a light work load, I’ll go, Danny is now editing these. I said, I guess to Shooter, I said, “Can I put my name in as reprint editor?” And he said, “Fine.” So that’s how that ended up happening. Then the thing that I had to do with most of those was delete a certain amount of material because I think these were 20 or 22 page stories we had to fit into 17 page formats or 18 page formats.

Alex: Oh, so some panels were missing actually.

Danny: Oh yeah. If you go through, I think the purists, they don’t like those, for that reason.

Jim: Was that hard for you to take an issue of Lee Buscema’s Silver Surfer and say, I’m going to lose this page and this page?

Danny: I think in that case it was the opposite in that we split them into, maybe split them into two. I think we didn’t do that. I think those worked okay. Some of them I don’t remember. I remember being more an issue with the Avengers and with the sub mariner. Here’s the thing, I was not from fandom. I was a fan and a passionate lover of comics as a kid, but I didn’t fetishize in that way. I do now but when I was like in my early 20s coming into the business, I even did … Here’s something I did that will really bring down the wrath of your listeners on me. In one of the summer reprints, might’ve been the surfer, but I think it was an Avengers reprint, there were like … There was some scene where there were a couple of a small time hoodlums robbing a truck or something and I had the production department white out, whatever they called each other, I had them white out their names and put in the names of two of my friends.

Alex: You’re an editor, why not?

Danny: And who’s going to …I can’t imagine that anybody would notice or care.

Alex: That’s funny.

Danny: Now of course I go, oh my God, how could someone … It actually, now I’d be horrified if somebody accused me of doing that, but then it was like, this will be cute. I’ll put my friends.

Alex: It is cute actually.

Jim: Would you be the one that would decide that it needed a new cover or cover changes but especially getting like say Gil Kane to do a cover instead rather than use the original or where did that come from?

Danny: I’d say most of the time, I guess since I answered to Shooter on those I’d say … I remember we split up the X Men stories. So then I would try to get somebody, say John Byrne did one or two covers, Carmine did some Splash pages, not because his work looked anything like from 1963 but because Carmine had a contract that guaranteed him X amount of work and to help him make the contract we … A lot of stuff was done just because somebody needed work or was contractually obligated to get … There’s a lot of creative decisions, especially back then that had more to do with fulfilling contracts and commitments. So yeah, so the X men stuff I remember we definitely split that up into two parts because those stories were so long and then we had … Then we could put like the origin, the X Men origin five pages from the 60s in the back.

Danny: So that would be I guess me and I guess it would have to be approved by Jim who I was answering to at the time as far as getting the covers. I think from then the surfer, I think we’ve put out that fantasy masterpieces as a full size comic. So there was … We didn’t ever have to cut the surfer. We left out the tales of the watcher stories that have been in the back of the originals.

Jim: That’s right. I think that’s exactly right.

Danny: So I think at least in the case of the other ones I did it was only the Amazing Adventures or the X Men reprints? yes right?. Again, if we split a story into the same thing we get a new Splash page on.





Jim: So was was marvel super special, the Xanadu one, your first assignment where you were editing all new material and yes, I’m bringing that up.

Danny: Wow. That’s a good question. All new. I edited the articles. Louise edited … That was … What a saga that Xanadu was, because that was … I got a lot of Xanadu stories. I guess that was probably among the first things, because I was in charge of all the articles in that. I made as many beginner mistakes as anybody else makes as a beginner in terms of the articles. I think they ultimately were approved by the Xanadu people. You really have studied my career, it is frightening.

Alex: Yes.

Jim: That’s what we do.

Alex: That’s how we function.

Danny: I know. So are you going to ask me questions about like my ex girlfriends and ex wives?

Jim: I do that for my day job as a divorce lawyer, so I don’t bring those up.

Danny: My favorite Xanadu story is, as a movie, it was not one of the great movies ever made, but when you’re working on a project, you have to convince yourself that it is.

Alex: You’ve got to get into it.

Danny: You become emotionally invested in it. So I remember we had done the comic, which was … Louise literally finished editing the comic and like leaves the next day to get married to Walt and leave on their honeymoon.

Alex: Cool.

Danny: We had a hundred people helping finish it and then we tried some new … The idea was we were going to do it as a pencil’s only job, and they’d reproduce on the pencils but the problem was the technology didn’t really exist to do that yet. I remember, so, Joel silver, this is before he was Joel Silver, this is just Joel Silver, was the producer of Xanadu and he … We’d finished the comic, everything had gone to press, I don’t think it had come out yet, but he came in and he took everybody who had worked on it to this a private screening room in midtown, a couple of blocks from Marvel’s offices. We’re all pumped, because again, we all, oh boy, we bet it’ll be great. It’s got Jim Kelly and Olivia Newton John, and it’s got all these great … And music actually was good. If you ever listen to the soundtrack, it’s not a bad soundtrack. So we’re all pumped, and then the movie plays and really the only …

Danny: The closest metaphor I can bring to you as the audience and the producers watching springtime for Hitler on opening night, that’s kind of … You could’ve seen it through our faces just looking at the screen and going, oh my God.

Jim: And you’re coming from a Stan Brakhage’s background. This is hilarious.

Danny: Actually … The lights went up and we all said something for light to Joel Silver and got the hell out of there fast as we could. When you say from Stan Brakhage’s background, my friend David Caselkov of who was active in Fandom, and actually was one of the writers of that famous article about Master Race, that he wrote with Jon Benson or Oliver Lieberman.

Jim: Oh, sure.

Danny: So David, I went to college at David and he studied the same program, and he actually worked … helped them get hired working in production of the British Department for about a year when I was in the British Department. David ran into Ken Jacob I think in Soho at a magazine store and he showed Ken the Xanadu magazine, and Ken said, I hope jokingly, he said, “If I could, I’d go back and lower his grades.”

Alex: That’s funny.

Jim: That’s great.

Danny: I believe it was a joke because I’ve been in touch with Ken since then. He hasn’t mentioned Xanadu.

Jim: When you were there during those early years at Marvel, did you make any major friendships? Were you friends, did you become friends with Archie Goodwin or with any of these people?

Danny: I’d say my closest friend-

Alex: Mark Gruenwald, was Mark Gruenwald a friend of yours?

Danny: Wow, I have say you guys are good interviewers because I’ve never been asked questions like this. I had close friends from like so called real life, people I’d gone to high school and summer camp with. I’d say the people I was closest with at Marvel, I got to back this up because it’s-

Alex: It’s hard to answer. It’s a complex question.

Danny: It’s a complex question because work friends are difficult, and although obviously there are people at Marvel who’ve met and even gotten married … I had a lot of friends of various levels over the years, a lot of whom I’ve actually reconnected with on social media. I’d say at different times, people I was close with would include a Bob Budiansky, Eileen Norton, Scott Edelman, Howard Mackie, Neil Young. But there’s all sorts of different … Grunewald certainly. The reason that you’re getting such a tongue tied answer from me really goes to the topic question of-

Alex: Yeah, you don’t want to insult anybody.

Danny: No, no, no, no. Well, no, not even that. People I don’t want to talk about I’m just not mentioning. But it’s the idea that you work at a place like Marvel Comics and it’s your first job that ends up lasting close to 20 years. You’re growing up in public. So it’s this really weird fishbowl thing where you have this combination of these public and private persona. There’s a couple of people. I’d say right now the closest friends I have from my years in comics, and of course now that I’m saying this we’ll probably have some big falling out or something, but Tom Defalco, JM Dematteis, Eric Finne. I’m sure I’m leaving out some people who will be offended but it’s it’s a tricky thing especially if you’re somebody’s editor or they’re your editor or they can determine whether you get work or get promoted or …

Danny: So boy, oh, boy, human relationships are complicated enough but when you add in this factor of also being involved with people’s careers and incomes and egos and creative talents and self image. Sorry, I know you’re expecting me to say like blah, blah, blah was a great guy and blah, blah, blah. There was groups of guys I went to lunch with, there were some people that I hung out with, but I would say maybe because I am a native New Yorker and didn’t write for a lot, because although there were a lot of native New Yorkers in the business, in my generation there were a lot of people from-

Alex: Out of town.

Danny: So I think for those people, comics for better or worse became their social life as well as their professional life. I was always a little wary about that. I just felt like it … For me I was a little cautious about becoming too friendly with people at work and I had a group of friends from my other lives.

Alex: Outside of it.

Danny: So there’s a lot of people I like, a lot of people I hung out with, a lot of people I went to movies and lunches with, but I was careful about making my social life and my work life entirely intermeshed.

Alex: You didn’t want it incestuous.

Danny: Comics is incestuous enough. One day you’re somebody’s … One morning, you’re somebody’s editor and that same afternoon they’re your editor.

Alex: Like a religious compound in a way.

Danny: Hahaha. I guess there’s a reason that phrases like true believers came to existence.

Alex: That’s true. That’s all ties together. That’s interesting.

Jim: So you started editing new books, not just like a special but around the time of the Man-Thing relaunch you were doing that when Chris Claremont was writing it.

Danny: What happened was I became Louise’s assistant, and so she, I guess she was the editor maybe of record but it was part … Marvel, especially under Shooter but in general, had a farm system almost, that was the best metaphor. I think we called it that. So if you were someone’s assistant then they would delegate a couple of titles to you to edit, ones either that were considered marginal so if you screwed them up who cared or, and, or that had a strong creative team that were on a pretty set course so again there was a limit to how much you could mess it up. I think under Louise’s supervision I edited Man Thing, and I think King Conan eventually.





Jim: And that was with Bruce Jones writing it, right?

Danny: That was with Bruce Jones writing it. So that was just Marvel, again, coming from Shooter who had a lot of good ideas, the idea was we are … We have figured out the best way to do 22 page superhero comics at least in 1980, whatever. This is what we consider the state of the art, and so now let’s codify it and teach people how to do it, and so they did that. So I started with, with those comics and I was also writing the Dazzler at the same time, and I was editing the Dazzler. I was editing the Dazzler and then I had a big, it was a big editorial crisis. There was a big editorial crisis and Tom was unhappy with the editorial decision that I made. Heres of course this is of course the irony of life again but of comics too, is that … I mentioned to you the two of, two people I consider some of my closest friends are DeFalco and DeMatteis, they’re guys who have every right not to talk to me because I really butchered some of their stories as an editor.

Alex: I see. So there’s more conflict there.

Danny: Yeah, but they’re actual grownups who were able to separate. And of course I think I got better as an editor.

Jim: But you were listed in the credits as co-writing Dazzler’s issue six and then went onto to write it. Was it actual co writing or did you take it over?

Danny: Was what?

Jim: Did you take it over in the middle of an issue or were you actually working with Tom in co-writing it?

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Danny: Tom is, there’s a reason Tom is considered a top professional, that’s because he’s a top professional. So Tom had outlined three or four issues in advance. So his outlines really for many artists would have been enough to do a plot, but I took those out lines and then with Shooter who took over as editor, expanded them into more detailed plots, which Frank then, Frank Springer then penciled. So I expanded on … I think the credits are correct. I think there’s something like story, however the credits are, we try to be accurate. So Tom accounted for the basic story but I flushed it out into more detail and wrote the dialogue.

Jim: What was a Frank Springer like to work with?

Danny: Swell.

Alex: He had a lot of experience by that point.

Danny: Frank, whatever.

Jim: Do you think he was a good match on the book? Were you happy that he was the artist?

Danny: I didn’t have any … Whatever. I’m sorry. I just assume not talk about that. Frank professionally did his job.

Jim: You did about 20 issues of that, and then you left and immediately they bring in Bill Sienkiewicz to do covers, and they’re like some of my favorite covers of that time. Did you ever feel like, gee, why didn’t I get those?

Danny: Actually Bill had done a lot of covers while I was writing it.

Jim: He did do a few.

Danny: He did a whole bunch. No that was … Jim Shooter became obsessed with Dazzler for whatever reason I’ll fully understand.

Alex: So I was wondering that. So you’re not sure what that reason is?

Danny: I think he wanted to prove, this is probably something better to ask him, but in retrospect I think he probably wanted to prove that he was skilled enough as an editor and writer to take even an idea like Dazzler that a lot of people made fun of and make it succeed.

Alex: And maybe make a movie.

Danny: Make it credible as a mainstream Marvel comic. I think it could have succeeded but I think the emphasis on the cheesecake aspect of the comics and of the characters undermined that intention. Because I wrote it and I approached it as if it was Iron Man or as if it was Thor, as a serious Marvel Comic. But it is sometimes hard when you have a character whose breasts are twice as big as her head and wearing a glowing disco costumes necessarily be taken as seriously as she might be. I think that the Dazzler Galactus trilogy was actually very good.

Alex: Yeah, I liked it.

Danny: I think we did surprise people with a number of those comics and really did pull off that impossible task of doing serious 80 style superhero comics with the Dazzler who even though-

Alex: 70s Disco character

Danny: Even though she never officially had the disco in front of her name, everybody knew she was a disco Dazzler.

Alex: Disco Dazzler yeah.

Jim: Then besides Dazzler you did some, in the early, pretty early days, you did some What Ifs beginning with Dazzler becoming the Herald of Galactus, were those fun books to do?

Danny: Loved doing What If. What If, I guess even though I wasn’t the a star scholar in Yeshiva, I think there’s something about that kind of history and detail passing that you’d go back into a story and you’d try to find the moment where, oh, if this had happened differently, you’d have a whole different set of reality. Then later on in the, I guess in the 90s I did a lot of What ifs for Craig Anderson. Those were a immense fun, again, because you could, as long as you could justify what you were doing as being true to the personalities of the various characters you could do a lot of stuff and just play with the characters in the ways that you really couldn’t in the more mainstream shared universe.

Jim: I have two more questions and then I’m going to give you over to Alex for Spiderman. My first question is, the graphic novel X Men, the God Loves, Man Kills, were you the chief editor or assistant editor? What was your role?

Danny: I was the assistant in that. That was all Louise and Chris and Brent. I might have put the numbers on top of the pages, I can’t say I put it all up.

Jim: What was your reaction to that? That always seemed like such a major book to come out in terms of those early days of playing with the graphic form that way.

Danny: Yeah, it was really impressive. I knew Brent’s work from Ka-Zar and of course Chris was Chris. I don’t know if I have anything profound to add about that, but it was this interesting period where the term graphic novel was becoming popular through Will Eisner and through Art Spiegelman and Maus and so you have this thing called the graphic novel and then Marvel in a way that you can blame them tried to co-opt that label of graphic novel. And really most of what we did was just like really long superhero comics. But some of them were quite good and had really talented people at the top of their game, and I think that’s what God loves, Man Kill. It’s a great title, God Loves, Man Kills.

Alex: That’s great book.

Danny: That’s up there with some of the great film titles of Hollywood history.

Jim: It easily could be one of those. It’s a great title.

Danny: So as I said I was literally the assistant on that, I didn’t have a whole lot to do with it.

Jim: And then you were doing writing work on the official handbook along with Grunewald and Peter Sanderson and a few others, out of all of them, who was the guy that knew everything already in terms of the history? Was it was the Sanderson? Gruenwald?

Danny: Both of them. I don’t think it was a contest. I think it was … They were … There was a reason they did that book. I wrote maybe half a dozen entries if that many for the book, I was very much involved with the Marvel saga.

Alex: I love that story.

Danny: Thank you. That was the handbook. Again, there were a few, there were characters that I was either writing or editing or just had an interest in. Again, I named Ka-Zar’s parents after my own parents, because nobody had ever given them names.

Alex: That’s awesome. I like how you put in your friends and families in these.

Jim: That’s great information.

Danny: You do stuff like that, and it didn’t contradict anything, just nobody ever given … That was not as egregious as my, as my horrible sin of putting my friends’ names and the Avengers reprint.

Alex: As far as replacing, but it’s fun.

Danny: I remember there was one night a bunch of us were out having dinner and we were kind of riffing on various handbook, how different characters in history and fiction would be described in the Marvel universe handbook. I remember I got a big laugh when I said something like Jesus could bench press.

Alex: 10 tons. 10 tons I would estimate.

Jim: He is stronger.

Danny: He had the ability to transmute.

Alex: like molecule man basically?

Danny: Pretty much, which is actually I think of how Shooter played him later on in the Secret Wars.

Alex: That’s funny. That’s a funny comparison. I never thought of equating them.

Jim: And then after this is done, Spiderman takes over your life to some degree, and I’m going to hand you off to Alex primarily for this part.

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