Bob Haney Interviewed by Michael Catron Part Five (of Five)

Posted by on January 11th, 2011 at 12:01 AM

Previously: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four.

From Metamorpho’s first appearance in The Brave and the Bold #57, with art by Ramona Fradon and Charles Paris. ©1964 DC Comics Click to view larger image

Ramona Fradon and Metamorpho

CATRON: Ramona [Fradon] said that this is probably the best work she’s ever done.

HANEY: It was.

CATRON: The most fun she ever had.

HANEY: She was brilliant. Yeah.

CATRON: So why don’t you —?

HANEY: She’s not just the greatest woman artist in comics, she’s one of the best there ever was in comics. I’m trying to remember  — the actual genesis of it was, again, George and I were working together well. We’re friends. We’re co-workers. We’d done a few things. And I think it may have been, “How about coming up with another character, you guys?’’

CATRON: This was for Brave and Bold.

HANEY: Right.

CATRON: In fact, it broke the initial beginning of the team-ups.

HANEY: Yes, it did. Yeah. George and I sat down. And George said to me, “How about a guy who changes chemically?” That’s all he said. I mean, I don’t want to take any credit away from George or give him any credit, I’m just saying what happened. I went home with that and I ran with the ball. I went home and I created everything about the guy — [the] name — I wrote the whole first script. That was good dialogue. A little bit tongue-in-cheek and good dialogue and good concept and a little bit different than most DC stuff.

Stan Lee read it and liked it and wanted me to come over to write. I should have gone over [laughter] to Marvel at that point. But I didn’t. We’re talking — ’65? Ramona was brought in, I guess, by George.

CATRON: Well, of course, she’d been drawing Aquaman for years.

HANEY: Yeah, well that’s true. Yeah. You see, I’d forgotten some of this.

CATRON: Yeah, this is ’65. Metamorpho #1 is dated 1965. So this — actually, Brave and Bold might have been ’64, then.

HANEY: ’Sixty-four or ’65 and that’s not crucial, but I know I’m pretty close to the year. [The Brave and the Bold #57, featuring the debut of Metamorpho, was dated December-January, 1964-1965.] Ramona was brought in, and I had never met her. Very attractive, nice lady. All I did know about her was that she was kind of classy compared to most of the apes in that business. Her husband was a well-known New Yorker cartoonist. [Dana] Fradon. She took the first script. I was knocked over when she brought back her work. I thought, “Oh, wow. This is great.” I mean, she really made it better than my scripts, I thought. I got to know her a bit, casually. She’s been a very nice person. I was very happy that we were often running what looked like a very successful book for a while. Donenfeld was ecstatic. He loved it, his wife loved it, that made him feel good. All kinds of shit was going on. He didn’t say to me, “Here’s an extra couple thousand dollars” or anything. No bonus. They’re just, “Do it. And we own it and you blah, blah, blah.” Then Krantz, Steve Krantz, the Hollywood animation producer loved it and he bought the rights for a while and did a cartoon out of it. And he did a record out of it.

CATRON: I’ve got the record. I didn’t know about the cartoon until —

HANEY: I think there is some footage. I don’t know whether it ever — I’m a little hazy on that but I’ve heard that there was — that they were animating it. Now whether it turned out well or whether it ever was actually released, I don’t know. DC might know about that.

Anyway, to jump ahead a little bit, the book was doing OK. We did about four or five issues. Then Irwin Donenfeld increased the print run like crazy. Because he thought — well, that killed the percentages. Pushed the percentages down.

CATRON: Because sales didn’t go up commensurate with the —?

HANEY: Yeah. Well, you increase the print run a big jump like that. And then he started bitching at me that it wasn’t doing as well — I didn’t know that he’d increased the print run. I found this out later, see. He pulled a fast one on me, in a way. I thought, “Well, Jesus, maybe I’m goofing.” I was conscientious when I shouldn’t have been with those people. They didn’t really treat you right. And I started changing it. I started making it humorous. Too humorous.

Right around that time, we lost Ramona. She came in one day, she was like “I can’t do it any more.” Her husband was leaning on her because she was spending too much time on it. He was a self-centered prick whom she later divorced. And she came in, with one script, #6 or 7, whatever the hell it was. I asked her to have all these flowers. It was down in Mexico.

CATRON: She told me to ask you about that. [Laughs.]

HANEY: Yeah, right. But you see, she was so conscientious she drew every damn flower perfectly. Beautifully. It took her like a week to do one or two panels. I’m exaggerating. But she said, “Bob, I’ve got it.” But mainly it was partly her own problems. But I was awfully sorry to lose her. Then we had a succession of artists. [Joe] Orlando briefly, and then the Italian guy — what was his name?

CATRON: Sal Trapani.

HANEY: Sal. Who tried hard. And then, I don’t know. I never liked it as much, myself. It ran, what? What was the total — 18-20 issues?

CATRON: I think it ran 17 issues, not counting the Brave and Bolds.

HANEY: Yeah. Then I did one issue years later for Murray that was mediocre.

CATRON: Was that the First Issue Special? Because that was you and Ramona again on the strip.

HANEY: Yes, I think it was Ramona. Yeah. Yeah that was one of them that Murray edited. But that came years later and by that time sales of everything were down. I don’t know. I think it was some of my best work but it never became what I hoped it would become.

Metamorpho #1. Cover art by Ramona Fradon and Charles Paris. ©1965 DC Comics Click to view larger image.

CATRON: There was also a series with John Calnan in World’s Finest as a back-up.

HANEY: Yeah, they always did it straight. Too straight.

CATRON: But you were writing those. Your name’s on them.

HANEY: What was that?

CATRON: You’ve forgotten this.

HANEY: The Calnans?

CATRON: There’s a whole series of Metamorpho six-, eight-page stories in World’s Finest. And you’re the writer on them.

HANEY: Well, they lied. [Catron laughs.] No, I don’t remember that at all. That I would remember that I did these six and eight — I never did anything but full-length stories.

CATRON: I’ve got to tell you —

HANEY: They’ve got my name on them?

CATRON: Yeah!

HANEY: John Calnan was the artist?

CATRON: Yeah.

HANEY: Who’s the editor?

CATRON: Hold on. Let me dig ’em up.

HANEY: Well, I don’t think I did those, Mike. This is interesting. I mean, why were they putting my name on it?

CATRON: Well, why would they put your name on it —?

HANEY: Well, I was the creator. Maybe they were finally giving me —

CATRON: No, it says story, or writing, or whatever. Here. I just picked one at random. This is World’s Finest #220. It’s Superman and Batman. And you wrote the lead. This is — first of all, let me check the indicia.

HANEY: What’s the name of the story?

CATRON: This is Murray Boltinoff, editor, E. Nelson Bridwell, assistant editor, and Dick Dillin and Murphy Anderson —

HANEY: What’s the name of the main story?

CATRON: This is called “Let No Man Write My Epitaph.”

HANEY: And what’s the Metamorpho story?

CATRON: In the back, it’s called “Tears of an Element Man.” Story: Bob Haney. Art: J.C.

HANEY: “Tears of An Element Man”? Well, that has a familiar ring, you know but if Murray was involved — but a six-pager, eight-pager?

CATRON: This is 10 pages. And in the issue before, #219, we’ve got “The Prisoner of Rogue’s Rock.” By you.

HANEY: Yeah, I think, you know, I did write those. Isn’t that funny? I really — maybe my memory’s not as good —

CATRON: “Tick-Tock Boom-Boom” is the title of this story.

HANEY: Yeah. Well, you see, I guess maybe I did do those but I didn’t — You know, they were short, they were kind of throwaways and I don’t remember and the art was mediocre.

CATRON: This was Dick Dillin and Dave Cockrum. “Who was Capricorn?”

HANEY: Oh! Well, you see, I don’t remember those.

CATRON: There you go! There’s a whole bunch of ’em. There’s a whole series of them. It must have run for a year or so.

HANEY: Really?

CATRON: No kidding.

HANEY: Now I’m beginning to wonder again.

CATRON: “The Haunted Millionaire.”

HANEY: [Laughs.] Those titles —

CATRON: I’m telling you, this is the stuff —

HANEY: Well, maybe I did write them.

CATRON: Here’s one with Superman and Batman co-starring Metamorpho —

HANEY: Well, that I — my name’s on that?

CATRON: Yeah and it’s by Dick Dillin and Murphy.

HANEY: Yeah, I guess I wrote that one. Yeah, right.

CATRON: Let’s see if that’s a full-length story.

HANEY: They aren’t Weisinger? They have Murray as the editor of those World’s Finests? The Superman and Batmans.

CATRON: This is Murray’s. Carmine Infantino, publisher; Murray Boltinoff, editor; E. Nelson Bridwell — and this is 1973.

HANEY: Well, maybe I did the suckers. Jeez, I don’t … [Catron laughs] … know — I tell you what throws me. It’s the number of them. I mean, if I did two or three, I could easily forget that. But if I did a whole year’s worth and I didn’t remember that.

CATRON: “Let No Man Write My Epitaph.’’ This is during the Super-Sons’ run in World’s Finest. Maybe it’s only a handful of stories.

HANEY: Well, also the fact is that I would have to read them and see if the style is mine — that’s the best way to tell who wrote something. Not credit or name or, you know, titles. But if the style is my style, then I wrote them. Anyway, it’s not important. [Catron: What I didn’t realize at the time of our conversation was that Boltinoff had given Haney the chance to continue the adventures of Metamorpho beginning in Action Comics #413 (June, 1972) and continuing through #418 (Nov., 1972). The series then moved over to World’s Finest for three more installments #218 (July-Aug., 1973) — #220 (Nov.-Dec., 1973). Metamorpho appeared as a guest-star in the Superman-Batman stories in World’s Finest #217 and #228. The Grand Comics Database (www.comics.org) shows that Haney wrote them all.] Look, I wrote for DC from 1954 to 1982.  That’s a long time. Half a lifetime. So, you know, things do drop out of your memory. I’m amazed I remember as much as I do. This interview is bringing a lot of stuff back. I’m not senile yet.

From “Terror from the Telstar” in Metamorpho #2, with art by Ramona Fradon and Charles Paris. ©1965 DC Comics

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