One More Paul Levitz Note

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Back in September, I posted a note about Paul Levitz’s departure from his position as President & Publisher at DC Comics, and in it, I mentioned seeing a quote from him, early in his career, to the effect that he didn’t intend to make comics his career, but was just working in the field as a way to pay for college.
A number of people wrote in to suggest sources for that quote, and I discussed a couple of them here.
Since then, a couple more people have pointed me at an entry on Scott Edelman‘s fine site, noting another possible source for my memory—in this case, The Comic Reader #98, back in 1973.
That’s very, very much like the quote I remember, so that may well be it. Except that I wasn’t even reading comics yet in 1973, didn’t start reading The Comic Reader until 1976 or 1977, and have never seen that issue.
But maybe it was quoted somewhere later on, and I saw it there.
In any case, enough has been turned up that I think we can put this one to rest. While I may never know exactly where I saw it, Paul said something like it for print at least a couple of times. We can all be glad he changed his mind along the way.

No, Not This One – UPDATED

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Back in September, I posted some comments about Paul Levitz leaving the President/Publisher chair at DC Comics and returning to writing. I mentioned in that entry that I remembered a text piece at DC—a “DC Profile” or “Meet the Staff” or some other such feature—where Paul was quoted as saying that he wouldn’t be making comics his lifelong career, but was enjoying working in the field while he was in college. And that it was to all our benefits that his plans changed.
Since then, a few people have e-mailed me, telling me where I could find the 1977 “DC Profiles” entry on Paul. Glen Cadigan even sent along a handy link to where it could be seen online, and for those of you who can’t (or don’t want to try to) make out what it says above, you can see it here: DC Profiles #13.
But while I thank you all, I have to note: That’s not the one I meant. That is, indeed, the “DC Profiles” entry on Paul, but it’s not the text piece where he says he’s not planning to make comics his career. So the one I’m remembering is from somewhere else. Others—and I apologize for not saving your names—have suggested in appeared in an issue of Amazing World of DC Comics, which is faintly possible, though I only ever read one or two of those. So if it’s in the one with the “Golden Age” cover by Marshall Rogers, could be—but that’s deep in the morass of the Basement of Comics That’s Long Overdue for Organizing and the Great Cull (I mean, am I ever likely to need full sets of Blackwulf and Nightwatch?), and I won’t be finding it any time soon. Dougie Clark tells me he has a vague memory of it appearing in Stalker #1, but that, too, is somewhere in the BOCTLOFOATGC, and, like that issue of Amazing Word, isn’t in the mostly-kinda-sorta-organized part.
A couple of e-mails have suggested that it was in an interview in The Comics Reader or The Buyers’ Guide, but I don’t think so—the reason I remember it is that I ran across it at some point after it was quite clear that Paul was in comics for the long haul, and that’s why it stood out as memorable.
So for now, at least, it remains a mystery. But thanks to all who’ve made suggestions, and if anyone out there has Stalker #1 in a readily-findable location, take a look and let me know, okay?
ADDENDUM: A reader named Bob tells me it’s not in Stalker #1, so scratch that. John Wells turns up this exchange, from The Comic Reader #162, in 1979:
RB: Had it been your plan, while doing TCR, to try to get into the industry or was it just something that happened along?
PL: It occurred to me while doing TCR that the industry would be a nice place to work my way through college. It still basically is that to me. The process is taking a lot longer than i ever counted on because since Carmine’s leaving DC, of course, my role in the industry has changed so much and the proportion of time devoted to college and work has sort of reversed. But I’m still going on with the education, and I still hope to be out of the business within a few years.

That’s the sentiment I remembered, but I’m not sure that’s the place I saw it. Still, nice to know I wasn’t completely hallucinating!

Paul Levitz

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Some years ago, while I was negotiating with DC Comics over their offer to publish Astro City after the initial 6-issue run at Image, I was in Paul Levitz’s office talking over contract terms. I mentioned there were a couple of points that were troubling to me, and Paul told me he couldn’t take them out of the contract, but he could assure me, if it had value to me, that as long as he was sitting in the Publisher’s chair at DC those clauses wouldn’t be activated. I said that no offense meant, but there was no guarantee that he was going to stay in that chair, so while I believed him and appreciated the gesture, I still had to negotiate as if those clauses could be triggered tomorrow. He nodded, and acknowledged that while he had no intention of leaving DC any time soon, that yeah, there were no guarantees. I wound up signing with Wildstorm—and then DC bought Wildstorm, and has published Astro City ever since. Though I’m glad to report that the contract doesn’t have those two clauses that troubled me, because DC bought the Wildstorm contract along with the company.
And I’ve been glad to have Paul at the helm; had it not been for those two minor contractual terms, I’d have happily signed with DC then and there.
Well, today—over a decade since that conversation—the day came. The internet’s abuzz with the news that Warner Bros. is reorganizing DC Comics, creating a new company called DC Entertainment to shepherd DC’s characters and concepts more smoothly into movies, TV and other media. And as part of that restructuring, Paul is stepping down as President and Publisher and will return to writing, as well as being a contributing editor and a consultant to the new management.
As I’ve told a couple of the comics news organizations already, the DC Entertainment news, like the Disney-buys-Marvel news, doesn’t much interest me—it’s all about movies and video games and brand management, and I’m sure it’ll change the way things get done in some ways, but the part of the industry I care most about, the comics—it doesn’t seem to affect that much at all.
But Paul Levitz leaving DC management?
That’s huge. That‘s the story that’s going to change things.
Paul has been at the forefront of just about every industry development of the last couple of decades, and has been key to how the industry’s shaped itself over those years. Shifting from a periodicals-only business to a strong backlist-oriented business with trade paperbacks and hardcovers, adding imprints like Vertigo, creating new opportunities for creators and for creator ownership, seeing that DC gave a fair (or at least fairer) deal to the creators who originated the concepts that turned up in DC-based movies, from Arkham Asylum and Lucius Fox to Robin’s motorcycles (yeah, because they called Chris O’Donnell’s ride the “Redbird” in one of the movies, Paul Levitz saw to it that Chuck Dixon got money) and more, Paul was an important part of a huge number of changes that DC’s seen, and that the whole industry’s seen. Some of them big changes everyone’s noticed, some of them behind-the-scenes stuff few people know about.
And some people have been impatient that Paul was cautious, and wanted him to move faster, to leap into new things instead of easing into them. But in an industry where many publishers throw money into the latest cool thing, only to find themselves overextended and floundering, Paul was always careful that growth and change should be sustainable, doing things like building a backlist of trade paperbacks slowly, so the revenue from the existing books would fuel the addition of new ones, and a large library was built over time. And often, when other publishers’ precipitous actions had made things unstable, DC Comics provided a backstop, a stability that let the comics industry ride out the rough waters and get to the next safe haven. To mix metaphors shamelessly.
Paul is one of a very few people who’ve been absolutely key in shaping the comics industry from what it was in the mid-Seventies to what it is today. Staggering changes, built slowly over time, so that DC (and the companies that adopted DC’s innovations) could build from strength to strength.
I don’t know who’ll sit in that chair next, and I don’t know what they’ll do. But whoever they are, whatever their experience, instincts, skill and priorities, they’ll be different from Paul’s, and that’ll change comics. In a good way? In a bad way? Probably a mixture of the two. But this, I’m confident, is where the big changes for comics publishing will be coming from. Not Disney deals and movie plans, but a new guy in what for a long time was the most stable, influential, skilfully-run office in the business.
On the other hand, while the freelancer in me braces for change, the reader part of me is delighted that we’re going to see Paul Levitz writing comics again, starting with Legion of Superheroes, the feature that established his name for so many enthusiastic fans. No door closes but a window opens somewhere, and I can’t wait.
And just to wrap up—I’m reminded of a text feature, back in DC books in the mid-Seventies, one of those “DC ProFiles” or “Meet the Staff” features, that gave a quickie bio of and interview with Paul. At the time, he was attending college and paying his way by working for DC in his spare time, and the bit of it I’ve always remembered is the part where Paul said that he couldn’t see staying in comics after he graduated, that he loved what he was doing, but his career plans would take him elsewhere.
Well, maybe you didn’t see it then, Paul, but your plans changed, and took you along a pretty damn cool career path. And comics has been better off for it. So congratulations on all you’ve done.
And now new possibilities open up, and we’ll get to see what Paul Levitz does next. Whatever it is, it’ll be worth watching.
[And I haven’t been able to find that mid-70s DC text feature again, so if anyone knows where it ran, let me know so I can dig it out, huh?]