A Weisinger Resources List Part Two (of Three): Books

Posted by on October 20th, 2010 at 12:01 AM

Previously: Part One.

This list includes only what I’ve seen, not all Weisinger materials. Second, the format is homemade — there’s no city of publication, for example. But, for the record, TwoMorrows Publishing is located in Raleigh, N.C. The Bantam, New American Library and DC books (meaning the Showcases) were all published in New York City.

About Weisinger

Steve Duin and Mike Richardson, Comics: Between the Panels (Dark Horse, 1998).
~ The Weisinger entry is on pp. 492-94. If you’re interested in Silver Age DC, you should also take a look at the entries on Murray Boltinoff, Wayne Boring, gorillas, Robert Kanigher, “Alan” Schwartz (it should be Alvin), Julius Schwartz and Curt Swan. They all provide good material.

Specific to Weisinger, we find Boltinoff’s description of him pre- and post- retirement (“He was a rambunctious, egotistical schmoe, king of the realm, and suddenly he was a poor old man, really sick”); Swan’s version of a showdown over money from an insurance company ad that featured Swan’s art of Superman; Swan’s version of his relations with Weisinger in general (“Eventually I had no fear of Mort and I would chew his ass out”); and Alvin Schwartz’s description of life as a freelance writer for Weisinger, including Schwartz’s claims that Weisinger vetoed story proposals so he could then farm out the ideas as his own, that he ordered rewrites just to drive down writers’ income, and that Don Cameron tried to push Weisinger out a window. Schwartz: “The fact that DC became old-fashioned and didn’t keep up with Marvel was because of Weisinger. … If he didn’t recognize it as having been done before, he wouldn’t go along with it.”

Glen Cardigan, The Legion Companion, (TwoMorrows, 2003). And Cardigan was editor of The Best of The Legion Outpost (TwoMorrows, 2004).
~ Notable in Companion: a Jim Shooter interview on pp. 50-60. On Weisinger: “He was mean as a snake, but he really did a lot for me.” Shooter wrote scripts for Weisinger while a teenager; here he tells how he’d sometimes fly round trip from Pittsburgh to New York ($26) to make deadline. “I mean, you did not want to miss a deadline for Mort Weisinger.” The interview was in January 2003.

~ A Weisinger interview runs on pp. 62-65. He calls Shooter “a wee bit paranoid,” reams Jack Schiff for the bug-eyed monsters used in Batman stories, says of the Legion of Super-Heroes that Jerry Siegel “revitalized the series after Binder went stale on it.” The interview was done in 1974 and ran in Legion Outpost #9 in 1975.

From “Lois Lane’s Kiss of Death!” in Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane #7 (February). Written by Robert Bernstein. Art by Kurt Schaffenberger. [©1959 DC Comics]

~ In Outpost, a 1974 interview with Jim Shooter appears on pp. 33-40. On working for Weisinger: “it got so I was afraid to pick up the phone.” But Shooter doesn’t badmouth him: “I’m sure that in many ways I caused him more problems than I was worth.” Of their increasingly “strained” work relationship: “I can’t say it was Mort’s fault.” And: “I really like him and I’d like to straighten things out.” The interview was done in 1974 and ran in Legion Outpost #8, the Summer 1974 issue.
~ The book includes the same Weisinger interview as Companion, here on pp. 55-58. The interview was in response to Shooter’s, and in it Weisinger is all class: “I still think the kid is a genius. But if I’m the heavy he made me out to be, how come he couldn’t survive more than a few weeks at Stan Lee’s? Methinks the lad is a bit paranoid.”

Les Daniels, Superman: The Complete History (Chronicle Books, 1998).
~ Weisinger’s influence: pp. 102-110, 115-16.

Michael Eury, ed., The Krypton Companion (TwoMorrows, 2006). Go here to find the first 68 pages on GoogleBooks.
~ The first two chapters (34 items total) are devoted to Weisinger. Notable items include an interview with Weisinger’s son on pp. 16-17. The son, Dr. Hendrie Weisinger, offers this defense: “One of the reasons my father was a difficult boss was that he thought the people working for him were ‘idiots.'” Repeat, that’s meant as a defense. On Edmond Hamilton: “Ed Hamilton, I think, is sort of an old guy and Edith Hamilton is his wife.”
~ Curt Swan’s “Drawing Superman” is on pp. 58-64. It’s a brief essay in which the artist looks back on his career. “Weisinger always thought you were just goofing off. It drove me crazy. […] I decided the only way to deal with it was to dig in my heels and fight him every inch of the way. It worked.”
~ Roy Thomas’s “Two Weeks with Mort Weisinger” is on pp. 68-71. It’s an account of working as Weisinger’s assistant, and is described in this series’ first post.

Gerard Jones, Men of Tomorrow (Basic Books, 2004).
~ Out of the Weisinger pages, the ones I found most useful: pp. 120-33, 183-84, 217, 227, 285 and 312, and especially pp. 289-91, Jones’s vivid account of Weisinger as bully (“working for Mort Weisinger was a hell on earth”). The whole book is a must-read if you’re interested in U.S. comics.

Gerard Jones and Will Jacobs, The Comic Book Heroes (Prima Publishing, 1997).
~ Of the Weisinger pages, the ones I found most useful: pp. 14-18 and 79-88. But, again, read the whole book.
Specific to Weisinger, the book analyzes how he set about remaking Superman, how he managed his artists and writers, and the product he got out of them, with attention to the different writers’ and artists’ styles, important individual stories that they produced, and the development of a Superman family and associated gimmicks and stand-by items.

Alvin Schwartz, An Unlikely Prophet (Destiny Books, 2006). Originally published in 1997 by MacMurray & Beck.
~ Mort material is on pp. 26 and 94-95. Schwartz wrote for DC for 19 years, notably the Superman and Batman comic strips. “Like many others, I found Weisinger difficult to deal with. But I endured until one day he insisted that I write a story in which Superman finds some way to transfer his powers to Lois Lane. … I thought such a plot was out of character.” Schwartz wrote the story against his will, then quit: “I never wrote comics again.” Schwartz says this happened in 1958, when Weisinger “took over the Superman books from Jack Schiff.” Note: All this sounds plausible to me, but remember that the book is a spiritual allegory, a pretty fanciful one, and is not meant as a record.

Mark Voger, Hero Gets Girl!: The Life and Art of Kurt Schaffenberger (TwoMorrows, 2003).
~ Mort is on p. 44. Of him, Schaffenberger says, “He was a sadist.” And: “He practically drove Otto [Binder] out of the comic book business.”

Eddy Zeno, Curt Swan: A Life in Comics (Vanguard Productions, 2002).
~ Mort is mentioned on pp. 82, 131. The book is a lavish production built around Swan illustrations and 40 or so reminiscences by people who knew Swan. Irwin Donenfeld describes how Swan came to him for a raise, and adds, “Nobody really liked Mort Weisinger. I’ll tell you that right now. For various and sundry reasons, he was not popular with his men.” The text says “(laughter)” between the first and second sentences.

Swan’s son, Chris, recalls coming along now and then on the two-and-a-half-hour trip to the office his father had to make whenever a cover was due. Swan would spend the day drawing and Weisinger would stand over him, giving directions. Chris Swan: “The editors wanted to have a lot of input … since that was what was going to be selling the book.” Of course, “editors” suggests that Weisinger wasn’t the only one who followed this practice; at DC, covers were an editor’s top job.

By Weisinger

1001 Valuable Things You Can Get Free, 4th ed. (Bantam Books, 1961). The cover, which is worth a look, is in a post here.
~ On bottom of title page: “Research compiled by Thelma Weisinger,” Mort’s wife. Each item has a sentence or so talking it up, followed by the write-to info. The writing sounds like Weisinger: “Innocents abroad who don’t know a krona, an escudo or a peseta, will be grateful for a chart which lists the current foreign money quotations.” (Even the comma seems typical. It strong-arms you into understanding the sentence as Weisinger wants it to be understood, resulting strain and artificiality be damned.)

The Contest (New American Library, 1971, paperback edition of 1970 hardcover from World Pub. Co.). The cover isn’t much but is in this post.
~ Supposed to have been ghosted by a team under the direction of Dorothy Woolfolk, a comics writer and editor. The book is like Harold Robbins crossed with Arthur Hailey and purports to tell the behind-the-scenes workings of a big-time national beauty contest that involves celebrities with changed names (I think the hero is Tony Bennett) and contestants whose sex lives come in for discussion. Whoever wrote it, the prose is really something: “Dave regarded her yearning eyes and smiled. Evelyn might be brash, but she wasn’t one of those hotel imps who play push-the-button with the elevator all day.” And: “Lori’s hand groped out, aching for the warm encounter of male flesh. But the bed was empty, as she had known it would be.” Lori takes in an ocean view: “she could see the amber and red lights of crawling cruise ships. There were men out there. Virile, uniformed, rangy roosters who did their best to service the sex-starved females prowling the decks in packs.”

From “The Duel Over Superman!” in Superman #150 (January). Written by Robert Bernstein. Art by Kurt Schaffenberger.  [©1962 DC Comics]

How to Be a Perfect Liar: The Complete Alibi Handbook, with Arthur Hanley (Castle Books, 1977).
~ Hanley comes first in the byline, but Perfect Liar strikes me as quintessential Weisinger. The book isn’t just about alibis, or even lies in general. It’s a compendium of nasty conversational tricks: table turning, one-upping, putting down, etc. The authors don’t analyze or classify the tricks; they just churn out examples, one after the other, each presented as the thing to say in a given situation (if your husband is sneaking around with his secretary, if you’ve been caught bluffing about your tie’s label, and so on).

DC Showcase collections

Legion of Super-Heroes, Vol. 1: Adventure #247 (April ’58) thru #321 (June ’64), plus single issues of Action, Superboy and Superman.

Superman, Vols. 1 thru 4: Action #241 (June ’58) thru #309 (Feb ’64); Superman #122 (July ’58) thru #166 (Jan ’64).

Tomorrow concludes this series with a round-up of websites and blog posts.

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