Filmation and Duke Ducovny
CATRON: I wanted to talk about your TV stuff. Because you did work for ā
HANEY: Duke Ducovny. [Allen āDukeā Ducovny began his association with DC Comics when, with Robert Maxwell, he was involved with the creation of the Superman radio show in 1940. When the animated series The New Adventures of Superman premiered on CBS Televisionās Saturday morning lineup in 1966, he was executive producer. He went on to produce a number of other DC Comics-based animated television series. He was, at different times, head of CBSās Saturday morning programming and head of Filmation Studios.] Yes. Well, that was fun.
CATRON: How did that come about? And how did you manage to do it from the East Coast?
HANEY: Well, we did all of it from the East Coast. The writing part. Duke came in in the ā60s to be the producer of the new TV stuff that DC was getting into. He was cozy with Jack Liebowitz. Duke was a pro, I liked Duke. We got along fine. This is a guy, he had some background in the business. I donāt know too much about his background. George started writing for him and heās looking around the office for other talent ā because hereās this office full of talent, you know. The editors and freelancers. And heās about to produce, out on the Coast, the various animated series.
CATRON: Superman, Batman ā The Superman/Aquaman Hour, as I recall.
HANEY: Well, I wrote that because Aquaman was one of my main books. I forgot. Thatās one of the titles I keep forgetting. That was one I was a main writer on for some time. Nick Cardy, blah, blah, blah.
CATRON: With Mera and Aqualad and all that?
HANEY: All those characters. I created the brother, the half-brother. What the fuckās his name?
CATRON: The bad guy? Ocean Master. I read this stuff, Bob. [Laughs.]
HANEY: Yeah, right, you were just a kid.
CATRON: I was your audience!
HANEY: Yeah, you were! Anyway, Duke ā I was like the second writer he hired after George. Because I think George had been fired by that time or whatever. I was very happy to work with Duke. You know Filmation, the studio, right? Well, DC and Liebowitz and Duke put them in business. The guy who was the founder of Filmation. He had nothing. He didnāt even have a studio. But he and Duke made a deal. He got the rights to these famous characters. After all, at that point Superman and Batman are household names, right? And the Super-Friends. And Aquaman. All that stuff. So they put Filmation in business by giving him the rights to go ahead and capitalization and blah, blah, blah. And they began to churn them out. Duke would go back and forth between ā but all the writing and conceptualizing was done at the DC offices. It was an in-house product. George and I wrote most of them and then there were a couple other writers. I guess Jack Miller wrote some. There were other writers outside the office that Duke knew. Friends of his, or accomplices of his. There were other writers. But all the writing and creative ā because, after all, we had the whole library of characters. And Filmation, of course, made them out on the Coast. I did a fair number. I did a fair number of the Batman and some two parters and I did some Aquaman. I did a couple of Super-Friends, I think. One or two Flash. A variety of them.
I was happy to work with Duke. He treated me right. Iāll tell you, the check ā you got, not a big check ā actually we were underpaid but that was Liebowitzās stinginess. But you could churn those out and I liked working in the ā if comics are frozen movies, here we were actually doing a movie script. Therefore the actual timing of things was more exacting. But they were simple, short scripts. So the money, in a way, was a little bit better. I was building my house at the time, so I was pouring the money I was making, the extra money, into that. Then Duke and I tried to get 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea off the ground as a series. I did the pilot for that. It was a longer script and I got a better check. That never did sell, though. Freddie Silverman was a 29-year-old wunderkind at CBS. Head of Childrenās Programming. Of course, he was who we were selling to. He was our client. He was the one who was going to put it on the air. It was made by Filmation out in L.A. but it was emanating out of New York. But the client, the buyer, was CBS. And we went up and had meetings. And I heard about this guy, Freddie Silverman, the wunderkind of TV. Duke loved this guy. Duke was old enough to be his father. But he was attaching himself to this wunderkind. We went up and had meetings with him. I didnāt find him a wunderkind. What I found out about him in one hour was that he had more balls than anybody else. And thatās important. He could make decisions and he had opinions. I liked that. But he and Duke ā I was in conferences with them. George and I and so forth. That was to get the series off the ground. And going up into the Tower of Fear, going up to the 33rd Floor and meeting with Silverman, it was sort of heady.
Arnold Drake and glory days
HANEY: Anyway, those were the days, Mike, when in New York, in the ā60s ā and of course the Vietnam War was on and all that ā but there was an awful lot of money around. There was no inflation and the country was booming. George and Arnold and Iād be in a bar, sometimes ā Kennyās Steak Pub ā and weād be talking. And some guy standing behind you you didnāt know, would say, āHey, I got a couple hundred thou Iām not doing anything with.ā Weād be talking ideas, you know, scripts and projects. Those were great days. Things like that would happen. Or the guy would buy you a drink and youād sort of con him along. [Laughter.] And I was writing those. And I was writing my books. And I was always building my house. I was doing a seven-day week for months and months and months.
CATRON: You and Arnold Drake spent a summer writing a movie script?
HANEY: Well, we didnāt spend a summer. What did he say?
CATRON: I think he said a summer.
HANEY: Part of a summer, yeah. Well, wait a minute. Thatās right. He came up. I know what he means. He came up and rented a little summer place for his wife and kid. They were right here in Woodstock. Of course we saw a lot of each other. We were good friends. Yeah, we worked ā we did a script on Hitlerās son. Hell of a good idea and way ahead of its time, at the time. I hear now thereās a big book coming out with the same theme. We did a movie script on Hitlerās son, Chase the Crooked Cross. We also did a script on the Kennedy Assassination.
CATRON: Thatās the one he told me about.
HANEY: Which was way ahead of its time. That got read in Hollywood and a lot of stuff was stolen out of it later ā or maybe it was just coincidence. We did that one and I think we did ā oh, we did Doom Patrol. I think we may have done another movie script together. I canāt remember. Arnoldās done several movie scripts. He did a film that has become a cult classic, now. Who Killed Teddy Bear? Did he tell you about that?
HANEY: They revived that.
CATRON: Mainly we were talking about you. So I didnāt go too far with him.
HANEY: Oh, you were doing this in research for this one?
CATRON: Right, right. Yeah, heās another interview I should do one of these days.
HANEY: Yes, you should. Heās had a more interesting career than I ever had. Arnoldās a very talented man. Anyway, he did a cult film called Who Killed Teddy Bear? in the ā60s starring Sal Mineo and Juliet Prowse. It was a crime movie. Thriller/crime movie. Kind of sleazy but very effective and the film didnāt do much at the time. Arnold got like 10 or 15 thou for it, which was pretty good for a script that he wrote, probably, in a few weeks. They made the movie and now they revived it. They showed it again in New York. They had a special showing of it at one of the art theaters earlier this year. I almost went down to see it. I hope Arnold went to it. Itās interesting, ask him about it. The filmās now kind of a cult film. Because he put some stuff in there that was ahead of its time. Arnold wrote and produced a couple of films with a partner of his who later died. Heās written a lot of other stuff. Heās a real jack-of-all-trades in the writing game. How did he sound when you spoke with him?
CATRON: Oh, he sounded fine.
HANEY: Good. Heās only a year or two older than I am. He also is a great war hero. Heās a combat veteran of Pattonās 3rd.
CATRON: Right, he was telling me about that a little bit.
HANEY: Yeah, he saw some shit.
HANEY: Heās a mensch.
Cave Carson and grinding it out
From āThe Fury of the Fiery Avengerā in Showcase #49. Art by Lee Elias. Ā©1964 DC Comics Click to view larger image
CATRON: We havenāt even talked about Cave Carson.
HANEY: Oh, golly. The Inside Earth. I enjoyed that. Eddie Herron had done the early stuff on that. He did a nice job. I didnāt create any of it, to speak of. He really created it. Eddie was a sweet guy and a talented guy. Thereās a lot of stories about him, too. Anyway, he created it and I ā I guess Jack or somebody assigned it to me. I did several issues of that. Inside Earth. That was fun. Any variety ā thereās an awful grind in those years.
CATRON: Was it really?
HANEY: It was, yeah. People donāt appreciate it. The fans never appreciated it. They didnāt know how the comics were really created.
CATRON: Well, it doesnāt take very long to read them, you see.
HANEY: [Laughs.] It doesnāt take that long to read them! No, but not only was it the hours you spent actually writing them. It was the grind of just constantly churning them out. I was so happy to do other things, like the PR films and stuff, and building houses up here and so forth. Anything, any change of pace was welcome. So then, through the ā70s, I kept pretty much the same drill. I was doing a lot of building at that time up here, in the ā70s. I built a dozen houses.
CATRON: Tell me about that part of your life.
HANEY: Well, I built my own house in the late ā60s, and moved into it, right?
HANEY: Then a friend of mine asked me to do his house. Heās a movie producer who lives here and I did his house a couple of years later. I started doing that because the income from the comics ā although I wrote all through the ā70s for DC ā things were more and more expensive all the time. And to pay off my house I started doing building. I enjoyed the building. I was working a seven-day week through some of the ā70s. I would do two or three days comics and three or four days building. I built houses for friends, mainly, around here. And additions, and a pool house, and so forth and so on.
Then in the early ā70s, also, I did my book, Woodstock Handmade Houses. It was a best seller. It sold 150,000 copies in paperback and that was a triple best seller in ā74. Itās a nice book. Itās a photo book of funky Woodstock houses.
CATRON: Why didnāt you go to Marvel? I get the impression you were unhappy at DC.
HANEY: Oh, well ā
CATRON: And Stan offers you a job at the up-and-coming company.
HANEY: I have no answer for that, Mike. I probably should have. Looking back. The great humorist S.J. Perelman said he was going to write his life story and call it The Hindsight Saga. [Laughter.] Like everybody else, you look back and say, āWell, I should have made that turn, or done that.ā Well, I didnāt. I donāt know the reasons. Oh, one reason might have been at that moment at DC I had all the work I could handle for a change. And was getting some credit and more money. I was working for Duke, too. You know. I was working, as I said, a seven-day week, part of it because I was building my house. But was Stan going to offer me more money? Who knows?
Probably more credit. Because the credit change didnāt come until Jenette [Kahn] came in. Carmine didnāt push hard enough ā he was on the freelancerās side, to be fair to Carmine. And he treated me decently. But he never really made the revolution that Jenette and Paul did when they came later. Because they were forced to by the changing conditions of the business. Now, you get your name in the credits and ownership and ā
CATRON: You get royalties!
HANEY: Royalties ā oh, I get royalties. But ex-post facto, in a sense. At that time, even in the mid-ā60s, the late ā60s, we were still not getting ā Then there was the union we tried to form at that point.
Union, yes! Clout, no.
CATRON: Yes, we need to talk about that. Tell me the story of the union that you tried to form. Who was involved and what happened?
HANEY: Well, Arnold was the main instigator. And I was, somewhat, although Arnold was the main one. Who else? Poor Bill Finger was involved briefly. I guess he was still alive. And one or two others. Gardner Fox came to a couple. We had about ā oh, I donāt know ā four or five meetings in peopleās apartments. I donāt know the year exactly, I know it was in the ā60s when all this stuff was happening. I guess itās around ā67? I donāt know. You may be able to check on this.
CATRON: My guess would be ā67, ā68.
HANEY: You can ask Arnold.
HANEY: I think youāre right. Arnold would maybe know better. But Arnold was the main instigator. Weād all been talking for years about how to get some kind of better treatment. Iāll tell you a story. A little earlier than that, like ā65-6, Arnold and I and the guys were unhappy, the writers, with the page rate. They were the same page rates for a decade.
CATRON: What was that rate at that time?
HANEY: Oh, Jesus. It was terrible. What was it? $15? Some artists had moved up. Of course, artists were more important. They always had more clout, right? They were getting better money. They made more money, even though it takes you longer to do an art page than a writing page, of course. But they still grossed more money every year. We guys were grinding this stuff out and theyāre still selling. And we went in to Donenfeld, young Donenfeld, for a pay ā
He had a problem about money, that man. Thereās two stories about him. One when he turned 13 in his bar mitzvah year, right? And his father, Harry, old Harry the drunken live-it-up guy, gave him $25 to go out and have a good time, right? Heās a 13-year-old boy, $25 in whatever year it was, 1940 or so. Thatās a lot of money in 1940 when youāre 13, right? [Chuckles.] What he should have done was gone out and gotten laid or something. Got drunk. I donāt know. He comes back and he gives his father back $24.75. He spent a quarter. [Catron laughs.] And Harry, who loved to spend money, turned to Herbie Siegel, his flack and said, āWhat kind of a kid have I raised here?ā [Laughter.]
He was weird about money. I saw him try to beat a waitress out of three dollars one time. That she would have to pay later. Anyway, we go in to him to get a raise, right?
HANEY: And he starts to ā the sweat runs off his nose. Here he is, this millionaire, with this company thatās still going strong. Weāre asking for a raise. We figure weāll ask for $5 a page more. Which would have been ā considering all the years we hadnāt gotten one, would have been nothing, really. It should have been $20 more a page, that would have evened out the years.
Anyway, we argue with him back and forth, you know. Finally he starts to give in. He says, āOK, Iām going to give you a dollar more.ā
And I go, āWhat the fuck is this?ā
Arnoldās sitting there and Iām sitting there. And he says, āBut Iāll only giving it to you, Bob, to start with. And you canāt tell the other guys.ā Well, and Arnold, of course.
I was ready to quit at that point. I was ready to walk out and say, āYou son of a bitch.ā Just walk out. Then I remembered that I had all these commitments and I was making fair money then. And I thought, well maybe he was kidding. But he wasnāt. [Laughter.] So I said, āWell, I canāt take it under those circumstances. The other guys, you know.ā
So, as my memory serves, he said, āTo you and Arnold.ā Just the two of us. And weāre not to tell the other guys. So that was like ā thatās pretty close to accurate. True. And we walked out. Arnold and I walked down the hall and I was like, āWhat kind of people are we dealing with here?āā
Thatās when we tried to form the union and Arnold was the mainspring. We got John Broome, Gardner Fox, Bill Finger, me, Arnold. I think George came to a couple of meetings because I think he was no longer editor. A few other guys. They were all writers.
We had Kurt Schaffenberger come to one meeting because heās a good guy. But we could never get the artists interested. They were all reasonably happy with their situation. Artists are a bunch of conservative guys, you know. They donāt believe in unions. Or sticking up for yourself. Writers are intellectuals and socialists and drunks. [Laughter.] In any order. Without them, we had no clout. Right?
HANEY: Because if we quit, they could have replaced us a lot easier than they could have replaced the artists. So we had ā anyway, we went in and met Liebowitz one morning. You go to the top to the big man, you know. Donenfeld washed his hands of it. We knew dealing with him was ridiculous, you know? If Liebowitz wasnāt more fair, he was more intelligent and would realize that maybe you should give something just to keep production going. He gave us a pretty hard time, too. He put on a poor mouth. Heās the guy who one day when I went in to Duke Duchovny to get my check and Duke said to Gloria, the secretary, āDraw up a double check for Bob.ā Double the amount.
And Liebowitz is standing there, the President of the company. Or chairman, or whatever he was. And he suddenly butts in and he says, āWhy is that a double check?ā
And Duke says, āWell, it was a double script, Jack.ā And he says, āYeah, but itās only one idea, isnāt it?ā [Catron laughs.]
And I thought to myself, āHereās this millionaire, right?ā Ah well, anyway. It gets my blood pressure up. Anyway, we tried to form the union. We dealt with Liebowitz. To make a long story short, we kind of fell apart after a month or two because we couldnāt get the artists. And we had a few weak vessels in there. I said to Arnold one day, āLook. I donāt want to keep pushing this.ā I was maybe a little less angry or revolutionary than he was. I felt a little badly later. I just had to drop out. I said, āLook, Iām building my house. Iām getting a lot of work and if I keep pushing this, Iām going to ā ā they did this twice before. They twice before, in previous years, had retaliated and fired everybody. In fact, at that point, Arnold did get kind of eased out. Around that point. You could ask him and I donāt pretend to know the true story and I donāt pretend to point any fingers except I think at that point, unfairly, Arnold was, like, eased out of the freelance assignments he had at DC. Which was, if it really happened that way, very unfair to him.
CATRON: But it actually did. That was the point where suddenly Denny OāNeil and Len Wein and Marv Wolfman and all those guys came in because suddenly Bill Finger and Gardner Fox and Arnold Drake and those people were gone.
HANEY: Yeah, they were eased out and part of the reason was that. Yeah, itās coming back to me now, yeah. I stayed and I admit I did give in. But I gave in reluctantly and I was part of the group from the beginning. I stayed as long as I thought it made any sense. I could see that we were not going to get anything. And they didnāt get anything and they were eased out. Thatās right. Thatās the story.
Iāve always had some ā I donāt know if you call it guilt, Iāve always had some bad feeling towards myself about it. But then I said āI would have just been eased out, too.ā Nobody got anything. In other words, it was a lost cause from the beginning. Because if the bosses donāt want to give you something and they can replace you, which they did with all those guys ā Yeah, because, you see, Carmine was very much a company man in some respects. The great story about Carmine ā
āCarmine fucked himself upā
CATRON: Tell me again. [Laughs.]
A promotional still from the 1978 film Superman, featuring Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor and Ned Beatty as Otis.
HANEY: Well, weāre talking the first Superman movie. ā78?
CATRON: It was released in ā78. It was first announced around ā75.
HANEY: Yeah. Well, this is important. Carmine was in his last months there. Because I think this had something to do with him being let out.
CATRON: Let me tell you something about the timeline. Some people have telescoped this in time. The first Superman movie was released in 1978, in December. So at the tail of ā78. The agreement that DC and Siegel and Shuster signed was actually three years earlier, in ā75. So they got their settlement with DC in ā75.
HANEY: Youāre sure about this, ā75?
CATRON: Believe me, I know these dates.
HANEY: Yeah, OK.
CATRON: Thatās when Shuster, in January of ā76 ā not even a month later ā thatās when he first moved out to San Diego. These negotiations that involved Jerry Robinson and Neal Adams, that was all going on during October and November and December of ā75.
HANEY: OK, thatās important, yeah. Because I had gotten the dates mixed.Ā In ā75, youāve show me where that timeline is, Carmine, of course, is still editorial director. When did Jenette come in?
CATRON: Jenette comes in, I think, in ā76 or ā77.
HANEY: OK. Because I know it happened not long before Carmine fucked himself up. Well anyway, Jerry Siegel was threatening another lawsuit. He knew the Superman movie was in the works. Right?
HANEY: And he chose that time wisely.
CATRON: He wasnāt just threatening. He had filed the suit.
HANEY: Yeah, right.
CATRON: The suit was filed in 1970, I think.
HANEY: Yeah, well, whatever. Carmineās editorial head. He calls everybody into the production room. He gets up on a desk and stands there, big guy that he was, and he starts emotionally lecturing us about Siegel and this lawsuit and how Siegel is no good and heās biting the hand that feeds him and donāt ever side with himĀ ā heās warning everybody. And Iām looking at him and Iām thinking, āThis guy is more royal than the king.ā You know that expression? And I think, āWell, wait a minute. This is bad timing from him. Why is he pushing it so hard?ā The upstairs people, up on the 23rd floor, you know, Bill Sarnoff, who was president of the company at that point ā of Warner publishing, head of everything ā wasnāt that kind of a guy. And here Carmine is going beyond even what Liebowitz would do to Siegel and Shuster.
Of course, we all, as freelancers or creative people, were sympathetic to [Siegel]. We were sympathetic to him as a creator. Theyād fucked him over for 30 years. Sure enough, very shortly thereafter, Sarnoff, who was a smart man ā hell, theyāve got this multi-million dollar movie coming out, or theyāre developing and starting to work on it. And here the publicity of these two poor old guys ā one of them blind, right? That would be the worst thing they could do! So of course he made a deal. And Carmineās caught out on a limb, sawing it off. Right? [Catron laughs.] Looking like an asshole. I tried to tell him that, after this meeting. I went into his office. He and I were chummy. I said, āYeah, Carmine, I donāt think thatās whatās going to happen here. I think the company is going to get smart and give them something for the PR. Not because theyāre generous or nice, but strictly for the PR. They have this huge movie thing coming out. And more movies to come, right? Superman, blah, blah, blah.ā
Anyway, later on ā and that isnāt exactly the same package in a way but it seems to me related, his arrogance ā Carmineās arrogance towards the upstairs people who were his bosses. He would sit there in meetings with me and brag about how he told Sarnoff off about this or that. And I thought, āThat doesnāt ring right to me.ā Because Sarnoff was not some guy you told off. [Laughs.] You know?
Sure enough, within a brief time, maybe you know the date, Carmine overreached himself. Sales were not so great. They called him up in some meeting and he got ā whatever he did, I donāt know exactly what he did ā but they fired him.
They fired him like āWham!ā Iām a little hazy on the exact tactics here. But I think they were leaning on him about sales and he said, āIf you donāt like it, Iāll quit.ā And they said, āGood-bye.ā It was like being fired and firing yourself all at the same time. You may have data that I donāt have on that. But that was what I remember. I came in the next morning because I was staying a couple days over. And Murray looked stricken. I said, āWhatās the matter?ā And he says, āCarmine just got fired.ā He couldnāt believe it.
I went into Carmineās office. He looked like somebodyād shot him through the heart. He didnāt think theyād call his bluff. Well, theyād had enough of him at that point. He just wasnāt smart, you know? You donāt go up to the big people and do that kind of shit. Pretend youāre their boss or something. You might push hard, aggressively for a certain point, or justice, or whatever. But you donāt do all this kind of shit. These guys were much bigger people. At that point, of course, sales were still dropping. Not all Carmineās fault by any means. But weāre in a much tougher, competitive era in the mid-ā70ās. So Jenette comes in, you have a new type of management.
Jenette Kahn arrives
HANEY: I think youāre right about the time. The ā75 thing was Jerry Siegel and the lawsuit, if thatās the year. Then she would be within the next year or so. I donāt know exactly when, either. I remember vividly when she came in. I canāt place the year any more. Some of these years float around. But I know the day she came in and was introduced to us all.
CATRON: Were you there that day?
CATRON: What was your initial impression?
HANEY: Well hereās this tall, young woman who I had heard ā the grapevine was already buzzing that she had had a personal relationship with somebody important upstairs ā I donāt know who that was ā and thatās how she got the job. But she had some minor background in comics. They showed us this little comic book sheād worked on. Which I think was ā what do you call them when itās a public-service thing? A public-service publication. I may be wrong about that.
CATRON: Something called Dynamite.
HANEY: It was a cute little thing. Sheād somehow been the producer or publisher of it. But she had no real background in the rough-and-tumble world of major comic-book publishing. Much better to have taken somebody from the business. She was introduced to us all; she seemed terribly nervous and unsure of herself.
Immediately she surrounded herself ā or they surrounded themselves around her ā with Neal Adams ā and she had a personal relationship with him. Also Paul and people like that. All flocked around her. She needed them. Because she didnāt know how to run that crazy shop and how to deal with all the problems it was facing. To give her credit, of course, she brought in a different attitude, she was a different generation and she and Paul and all these other people, they began to realize that unless you started bringing DC Comics into the 18th century, let alone the 19th or 20th, right? Just bring it up to the 18th century, in terms of how you treated writers, artists, whoever. Thatās when things began to change. In terms of rates, credit, blah, blah, blah. You know. It didnāt change overnight, but they began to change. I was there for a few years while that happened.
CATRON: Now what were you writing at that point? You were doing Unknown Soldier by then.
HANEY: Yeah, I was doing Unknown Soldier again. Brave and the Bold Iām still doing. Worldās Finest? No, not Worldās Finest any more. Now weāre talking 10 years after the ā60s; weāre talking mid- and late-ā70s, so I had less books. But there was a whole new wave, then, of very creative people. New writers, new editors ā you had Len Wein, you had Paul, you had Denny, you have new writers, freelancers, new artists. There was a big, big changeover. Murray was still there.
CATRON: Well, I was there in ā78. Murray was still there, then.
HANEY: Yeah, he was still there. Weisinger was dead, of course.
CATRON: He died while I was there.
HANEY: That year?
CATRON: I remember the day they came in and announced Weisinger had died that day. So he died in ā78.
HANEY: Yeah, OK. That sounds right. Well, letās see. Kanigher had retired, or was he still editing?
CATRON: I donāt remember seeing Kanigher in the office. So if he was doing anything, he was doing it freelance.
HANEY: Yeah, I guess he had retired by then. Well, maybe not. Maybe he had retired a little later. Anyway. But he retired when I was still there. That I remember, Iām pretty sure. I didnāt leave until ā82. Schiff had retired, of course and as I said, these new editors. There was Orlando and Dick ā
HANEY: Giordano. I worked for them briefly. I had the Teen Titans back again for a brief while ā but I had less total work. Then by ā82, of course, I was forced out. Pretty much.