A Weisinger Resources List Part Three (of Three): Websites and Blog Posts

Posted by on October 21st, 2010 at 12:01 AM

Previously: Part One, Part Two.

First, this list includes only what I’ve seen, not all Weisinger materials. Second, thank God for the people who put together the comics sites mentioned below. If you’re interested in U.S. comics, there are some great resources here.

From “The World of Doomed Olsens!” in Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #72 (October).  Written by Jerry Siegel. Pencils by Curt Swan. Inks by George Klein. [©1963 DC Comics]

Websites

Decades of Weisinger-approved covers are on view at Coverbrowser (the start of his final run of Superman covers can be found here). You can look at them one by one or lined up in double columns, 50 issues at a time. The latter experience is astonishing. Weisinger’s neuroses are on full display, with the covers getting nastier and more involved as the ’60s go on; as far as I’m concerned, they’re visual evidence of the breakdown he said he suffered during this period.

The Grand Comics Database, or GCD, covers thousands of comic books, including Weisinger’s. Each entry provides a given issue’s credits and format info, plus story-by-story summaries and a reproduction of the cover. (Superman #151 is here.)

Sales for U.S. comics during the 1960s are listed here by the Comics Chronicles. The information all comes from the comics themselves. Back then publishers would include a small-print notice of a given title’s average monthly sales; the notice would appear the year after the period in question and would be tucked away on a random page in a random issue. That’s all the evidence we have about Silver Age sales, and often enough a publisher would skip a year for one or more titles. The site pieces together what’s available, and comics writer John Jackson Miller analyzes the results. It makes for a very interesting read. (Circulation for U.S. comics, including DC titles, is very hard to come by. In Comic Book Nation, on p. 19, the historian Bradford W. Wright says Action Comics sold 500,000 a month soon after Superman became its regular cover subject, and that Superman the comic sold 1.25 million copies a month in 1940.)

Wittenberg University maintains the Comics Trade Magazine Indexes, actually an index of three fan magazines: Alter Ego, Back Issue! and Comic Book Artist. Note that the Alter Ego entries are for the 1998 revival, not the original run back in the early 1960s. In other words, they start with Vol. 2.

Weisinger’s comics aimed at the very young, so I wanted an idea of how many such people were about as his career marched on. A post on “The Changing Age Distribution of the U.S. Population, 1950-2050″ is found here at Economist’s View; the graphics are especially useful. For comparison, there’s material on “USA Population Figures for the Years 1980 to 1996″ here at Fathers for Life, a right-wing site about family issues. I used eight charts down at the bottom of the screen, each based on U.S. Census figures and tracking year by year what percentage of the population was made up of males belonging to a particular age group (the first chart being “USA Population, Age 5-9,” the second 10-14, and so on).

Internet Posts

Mark Evanier describes Weisinger’s habit of giving neighborhood kids free comics; he’d see which ones they took, ask them why, and also ask them what they’d like to see on future covers. (The item ran on Scott Shaw’s Oddball Comics site, which can be searched here. Look for Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane #27, and be warned that the item may not show up. It used to, which is why I have a printout.)

The fan writer Mike Grost discusses Weisinger, Jerry Siegel and others here, and Rich Morrissey’s brief survey “Superman in the Seventies” is here.

Alvin Schwartz lays into Weisinger (“this confused, angry and unhappy pachyderm of a human being”) in an Internet column reposted here. “I knew precisely how to rub Mort’s various childish sensitivities the wrong way,” the writer recalls.

Cover to Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane #10 (July). Written by Robert Bernstein. Pencils by Curt Swan. Inks by Stan Kaye. Letters by Ira Schnapp. [©1959 DC Comics]

Image from www.comics.org’s archive page on Lois Lane #7.
A piece on “Mort Weisinger, Architect of the Superman Mythos” by a writer called Ouzomandias is posted here. The piece gives a good rundown of Weisinger’s career from pulp days to his retirement from DC.

An interview with Mort Weisinger is posted here. It originally appeared in The Amazing World of DC Comics #7, the July-August 1975 issue. Weisinger looks back on his career, discusses his approach to Superman, describes the emotional turmoil he suffered because of the character, and complains about the comics industry (“a golden graveyard”), specifically about the way that production methods fragment responsibility.

Finally, we have “Here Comes Superman,” a 1940s magazine article posted here. (Check out the whole site, which is called Superman through the Ages.) Decades later Weisinger published a second Superman article, “I Flew with Superman,” which appeared in the Oct. 23, 1977, issue of Parade. I have it on scanlation but can’t find a URL for it.

From “The Story of Superman’s Life!” in Superman #146 (July). Written by Otto Binder. Art by Al Plastino. [©1961 DC Comics]

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: , , , , ,

9 Responses to “A Weisinger Resources List Part Three (of Three): Websites and Blog Posts”

  1. Joe S. Walker says:

    In fairness to Weisinger, his later covers weren’t notably more neurotic than most DC covers of the late 60s/early 70. Heroes betrayed, helpless, guilty, broken and grovelling were standard cover motifs of the time, often in scenes that had very little to do with the story inside. I believe the covers were nearly all produced from rough ideas by Carmine Infantino, so maybe he had a few psychological issues too.

  2. patford says:

    Syracuse University has an archive of Weisinger’s personal papers, including business correspondence, Unfortunately the material is not digitalized, and can only be viewed at the University Library Special Collections.

  3. Tom Crippen says:

    True about the other late-60s DC covers, though I don’t agree with the conclusion you draw. Weisinger was making psychoneurotic covers a staple for his comics years before DC’s other editors fell in with them. His covers also show a greater variety of psychoneurotic premises. When the rest of DC started running sick covers, they tended to be of one sort (described vividly by yourself). Weisinger had all sorts of variations, some of them baroque, a few of them horribly simple.

    Or that’s my impression from too many hours with Coverbrowser. People can differ, of course.

    As for Infantino, my guess was that he was chasing sales and wasn’t sure how to do it. His covers from before he took over aren’t usually all that neurotic. But he was put in charge because DC was reeling and thought it needed a new direction — what did the kids want? Infantino did a lot of casting about as he tried to answer the question, but tear-down-the-adults seemed like a safe guess. To middle-aged people in the 1960s, it seemed like that was the burning preoccupation of young people.

  4. Tom Crippen says:

    Patford, thanks for the news about the Weisinger archives. God knows I’m tempted to go there.

  5. patford says:

    Tom, Someone should go and check it out, it’s a potential goldmine.
    Take a look at what they have:
    http://library.syr.edu/digital/guides/w/weisinger_m.htm

  6. Tom Crippen says:

    Seems like the focus is on his magazine freelancing, not his comics work, but I’d still like to see it all. Any insight into his cunning brain …

    How did you find out about it?

  7. patford says:

    It seems to me the correspondence to Weisinger would have to be the most interesting part. If you notice the collection takes up only one foot of shelf space. That could still be a substantial number of letters.
    I’d read the Weisinger interview a couple of years back, and the papers are mentioned.
    “Mort ducks into a huge closet-sized cabinet and shows the visitor some of the rarest Weisinger papers. Most, he admits, have been donated to Syracuse University at their request, but he still has some gems around.”

  8. Tom Crippen says:

    I read the same interview and never thought of finding out what Syracuse had. Damn!

  9. Joe S. Walker says:

    You’ve got a point about the distinctive nastiness in Weisinger’s covers – especially since what was shown on his covers tended to actually happen inside. And considering that he was aiming at a very young audience, check out Superman #149, “The Death of Superman,” which is basically inviting small children to think what it would be like if a loved and trusted adult died. The fact that it’s presented as an imaginary story makes it worse, in a way.