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

Posted by on January 6th, 2011 at 12:01 AM

Working at DC, the Early Days

HANEY: I suddenly found myself with hardly any work. I did a couple of jobs. Of course, I had cheap rent in those days in New York. It was a whole different world, things were much cheaper, blah, blah, blah. I did a couple of jobs, other type work, for part of one year.

[Laughs.] One was for a brokerage firm. They hired some crazy Russian who defected from Russia and he sold them on the idea of a Geiger counter — it was like a Geiger counter, I think — that would measure cosmic rays. And if you correlated the cosmic rays, you could tell what the stock market was going to do. [Catron laughs.] He had one on the roof of the building. And they would hire a bunch of young guys like me. We would rotate shifts and you’d sleep beside this goddamned counter thing and you’d write down certain fluctuations. In those days, they didn’t have a tape, a way of recording, like an electrocardiogram or something. [Laughs.] I had that job for a couple of weeks. I thought, “This is insane.” [Laughter.]

Then I had some other office jobs for a research outfit, which I hated. I even sold Fuller Brushes for a while. [Laughter.] You know what my territory was? You’d never guess. When the guy gave it to me, I thought he was kidding — the theater district in Manhattan.

I said, “Nobody lives there!”

He said, “Oh no, there’s lots of people living there.”

And he was right. There were all kinds of people living above stores and above theaters and above bars, and all sorts of — interesting people, theater people and entertainment people. I could write a short story about that.

So what happened was, I managed to survive until ’54 and walked into DC one day and that’s when I started for DC. But everybody else by that time was out of the comics business except one or two others.

I walked into DC probably in ’52 or ’53, looking for work. I remember meeting with Murray Boltinoff. The irony is that Murray was one of the editors there and he interviewed me and — I don’t know. He and I didn’t seem to hit it off. It wasn’t a hostile interview but — Murray never had the balls to do anything on his own, anyway. He just sort of held me at arm’s length. It must have been a full year later at least, in ’54, that I walked in again, that I gave them another try. They were forcing Kanigher to take on a writer. Because he wrote everything himself.

CATRON: And what was he writing at that time?

HANEY: He was writing everything. He made his — he’s insane, the man’s certifiably insane. I don’t say that lightly. He was writing — with this incredible, manic energy of his, he was writing everything he could get his hands on. He was writing all his own stuff to make as much money as possible. He didn’t want to take on a writer but the publisher forced him to.

But anybody he took on, he made life absolutely miserable [for them]. You know. Bill Finger did some work for him and Eddie Herron, too. Because they only worked for him now and again, he gave them as much shit as he could. I did my first couple of scripts for him from a distance. I saw him once and then I worked on the phone. Then I sold these two scripts. They were pretty good scripts and I think he was surprised that anybody could write this stuff the way he wrote it. The war stuff we’re talking. Then I started working for him more steadily.

Julie and he shared an office — this is all in Gil Kane’s interview. There were two desks, opposite each other. He wrote for Julie and he wrote for himself. But to give him credit, they asked him to start the war books and he did. And he made them work.

CATRON: Was this before or after they got the Quality books? They got G.I. Combat from Quality and they got Blackhawk.

HANEY: They had just gotten them, and they gave the ball to Kanigher and he ran with it. He’s crazy, the man’s insane but he did a good job. And I worked with him for several years.

Well, anyway, the war books were about five or six titles at that point and they were very successful. Of course, to be accurate, everything was selling in those days. DC was General Motors. They were selling everything. [Readers would] buy their Superman and Batman. But the one thing about the comics in those day which I miss — and a lot of people have agreed with me — you had all these genres. You had crime, you had war, you had romance — was very big, getting bigger — you had mystery stuff. You had all these genres with a broad spectrum of appeal to the readership all over the country or the world. Then later it all became only superheroes and I feel that’s been one of the problems with comics, that eventually that would torpedo comics and I think it partly has.

CATRON: Well, part of the reason for that, though, is that those other genres you were just speaking of seemed to have died out. I mean, presumably they were canceled because people weren’t buying them.

HANEY: Well — I don’t know whether that — that seems simplistic to me. I know it sounds right but I don’t think it’s that easy an answer, or it’s too easy an answer, rather. But in those days, the one thing about writing comics that made it more tolerable was the fact that you could jump from one type of thing to the other.

This sequence is from “Tank 711” in Our Army at War #86, September 1959. Art by Joe Kubert ©1959 DC Comics Click to view larger image.

At DC, my first years there, of course, I did mainly war stuff for Kanigher. But I did write other stuff for Kanigher, too. Like I wound up writing the early B&B’s, you know, Brave and Bolds, Viking Prince, and Robin Hood, and I wrote Rex, the Wunder Hund [laughter] for Julie.

CATRON: How many of those did you write?

HANEY: Oh, not many. I think Gil may have worked on one or two of mine. Again, we’re back many years. I can’t always be sure. So we were cranking this stuff out, I was writing the war stuff and this is now the mid-’50s.

In those days, DC was the powerhouse and they treated their freelancer people terribly. And of course writers were considered shit. Were treated like shit. Some of us deserved it because we didn’t rise up and strike back at them. But anyway, artists got a better deal and if anybody got a byline it was an artist and it wasn’t many of them. The Bob Kanes of the world got bylines but not many other people.

CATRON: Right. The funny thing is, Bob Kane wasn’t drawing them. [Laughs.]

HANEY: Exactly. He had ghosts and we all knew it. People used to complain about it. Jack Liebowitz would fight with him. I heard some of the arguments, “We’re paying you all this money!” Well, they did pay him well.

All right, I disliked Bob Kane personally. I think he was a shmarmy shlump but I always take the side of the creator against the damn business people. And he did create the characters. Of course, a lot of the Batman world — and this is an old cliché now — was created by Bill Finger, who, of course, was an unsung good guy, poor bastard. He was abused by them all the time. He contributed a lot to that outfit. But they abused him. And he let himself be abused. He was kind of a broken man in those years. Gil refers to that, too, in his interview.

But Bob Kane would get back at them by just hiring these bad ghosts and doing bad work. He did a lot of bad work for years and the character kept selling because everything was selling but it wasn’t as good as his early stuff, right?

CATRON: Right.

HANEY: It wasn’t until later — and I was partly involved in that, of making Batman a “sinister man of the night” kind of guy again in the ’60s. I made my contribution to that with Brave and Bold, along with Neal Adams and Jim Aparo. But back in the ’50s, there, Kane was sliding along, getting all this nice money and not even — he could do the heads. [Laughter.] He’d draw the heads. The faces.

This sequence is from “Secret of the Ace’s Helmet” in Our Army at War #97, August 1960. Art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. ©1960 DC Comics

DC Editors and Owners

CATRON: Now who was at DC at that time? What editors and writers —

HANEY: The staff, I can give you. In the romance was a crippled lady who Kanigher was always trying to fuck and probably did and she was there a while — then Jack —

CATRON: What was her name? [Laughs.]

HANEY: I don’t remember her name. This is true, though. This is all — I observed this firsthand. And Larry Nadle took over. Larry was a horse player with a heart problem. Bent over one day to tie his shoes and died. [Laughs.] I’m giving you the real nitty-gritty of real life, here, Mike. It’s not some of the shit you read in fan magazines. Although, I must admit your Comics Journal has a lot of good real gritty stuff these days. It’s much more of an adult mag than some others. Anyway, you want to know the editors?

CATRON: Yeah, well, I’m trying to get a flavor of the times. Who was there?

HANEY: At 480 Lex, right? They had a whole big floor there and it was also Independent News. But they had the romance division, which was growing, it was one of the main moneymakers. That was this woman, the young woman, and then later came Larry Nadle. In fact, Larry edited for quite a time and then he did suddenly drop dead. Then they gave it to Jack Miller years later.

Then you had the office that had Murray Boltinoff, Jack Schiff, who was Senior Editor, and George Kashdan. They had all the mystery books, adventure books — My Greatest Adventure, House of Secrets, House of Mystery, all that stuff. A few other things. Then you had Kanigher and Julie, the two of them in one office. That was the war books, the science fiction, Rex the Wonder Dog, Brave and Bold, all that stuff, right? Then you had the really important nucleus — Mort Weisinger’s little domain. Which was the Superman books. Right?

CATRON: Right.

HANEY: And he — I’m trying to think, he was for a while sharing the office with Schiff and then he got a — but he was a neighbor, out on Long Island, of Jack Liebowitz and rode to work with him every day in the limousine. And gave him stock tips. So he got his own office. Weisinger was a prick and a lot of people hated him and I disliked him and I did work for him for awhile. That’s a long, interesting story, too.

But anyway, to give him credit — you’ve always got to be accurate. You give credit where credit is due, no matter what the guy was like. He knew that Superman, after all, was a great property. It was a billion dollar property we’re talking about. He had a big responsibility. He ran those Superman books and he ran them well. He made a lot of money for the firm.

And Liebowitz, didn’t like — he kind of had contempt for him because he was a slob. And a prick. Liebowitz was much more of a gentleman. But he indulged Mort and he knew that Mort made a lot of money for him. And that was the Superman line, right?

CATRON: Mm-hm.

HANEY: That was it. There weren’t that many editors when you get down — am I missing somebody?

CATRON: Well, I’m trying to think what else — there were Westerns.

HANEY: Well, Julie edited those. He had that — what was that Indian one? Kanigher wrote a lot of those, they were Westerns. Johnny Thunder, blah, blah blah — I’m trying to think. Am I missing one other office?

CATRON: There were like some Hollywood titles, or some funny animal titles —

HANEY: Well, they got thrown around. Maybe Schiff’s division would kind of — what was interesting about all of this is the personalities. I could write a novel about it. Because the personalities and the little fiefdoms — and the two main guys, of course, are Liebowitz and Donenfeld. The owners.

CATRON: Now what kind of relationship did you have with them?

HANEY: Well, I hardly knew them. But Harry, little Harry, he’s a whole story in himself. Gil Kane gets into some of that but he left some stuff out that’s interesting. [Laughs.] Again, these are personal, believe me, they’re not that interesting.

CATRON: [Laughs.] You gotta fill in the stuff that Gil left out!

HANEY: Yeah, all right. Of course, as Gil pointed out, Harry had inherited the comics. He was a printer who was owed money and he inherited the business from a guy who went out of business because the guy owed him money. And Liebowitz was the accountant, who was a much smarter man.

Little Harry Donenfeld of course — you probably never knew him. He was a little funny-looking man. He was a little bully, like a lot of little men are, and he was rich, of course. And he was known as an awful drunk.

To be accurate and fair, Harry was important to the firm and, again, Liebowitz knew what was important about him. He was this awful little man and a drunk, and when he was drunk he was a miserable little bully and pushed people around under him and so forth and so on.

But he was also the guy who would drink with all the salesman and all the printers and he’d travel around the country and he was the president of the company and he was rich. He would buy everybody drinks and he’d have dinners with them. In other words, he was the marketing cement. Liebowitz was the brains, who made all the real decisions but Harry was the glad-hander out there that, you know, all these other shmarmy types loved him. They didn’t know what he really was. He served a very important function. He’d get them all drunk and laid and pick up the check and all that kind of stuff.

He was always with whores. He would get thousand-dollar-a-night women back when a $1000 was a lot of money. [Laughs.] He was a character. If you were on the right side of him, he was one of these happy as hell, fellow-well-mets but if you were on the wrong side of him, then look out.

But Liebowitz was making all the major decisions. Liebowitz was the brain. Liebowitz went to Chicago way back, in the early ’50s, right? With this new magazine called Playboy? [Laughs.] And Jack’s a fairly staid individual. He’s not a wild man by any means. But he didn’t give a damn whether it was about tits or not about tits, he saw that this was going to be huge. And he signed a deal to distribute it. And we distributed it. Independent News distributed Playboy. And made a fortune for everybody, including Hefner.

CATRON: Right. They’re still distributing it today. [Laughs.]

HANEY: Yeah, I guess they are.

CATRON: Well, the successor to it. But it’s still all in the the Time-Warner family.

HANEY: Well the metamorphosis that came later, when the first absorption by, not Warner, but what the hell was it? Between National and —

CATRON: Kinney.

HANEY: Well, they were [laughs] quasi-mafia. They were a great group. They came in and of course, [Steve] Ross came out of that, then they go Warner Brothers, then it became Warner Communications and then it became Time-Warner, blah, blah, blah. You know, there’s a great story there and somebody will do a good book about that someday. The evolution of a major media — now the greatest media conglomeration in the world. But within that is the DC Comics kernel and the Kinney parking lots and funeral parlors and sort of junior mafia types and all that, mixed up together.

This sequence is from “The Fort Had a Heart!” in Our Army at War #120, July 1962. Art by Russ Heath. ©1962 DC Comics

Marriage and Woodstock

CATRON: Anyway, back to you. [Laughs.] When did you get married?

HANEY: Well, through the ’50s, quickly, I was working for Kanigher and Julie and so forth. In ’58, which is a crucial year, I went to Europe. I lived most of the year in Europe and I conned Kanigher and the business office into — I did the scripts over there and sent them back and they sent me checks. It was great. I knocked around Europe and I had a French mistress and it was a great year. Looking back, sometimes, from this point in my life, I wish I were back there! [Laughs.]

Anyway, Mike, I got over there and I came back in ’58 and I had a house on Fire Island. I came back in the fall and spent some time there — rented a house. I had come up to Woodstock, here, to ski, for several years with friends from the City. And I thought, “Jeez, I don’t want to live in the City anymore. I think I’ll move to Woodstock.”

So I moved to Woodstock that December. And I met my wife. She was a young, beautiful divorcée with two little children. I met her through mutual friends of hers, the [first] week I was here, I guess.

CATRON: Now how long a commute was that, in those days? Was that a train ride to get from Manhattan to Woodstock and back?

HANEY: No, no. Well, it was. And still is. What happened was, the thing that changed everything for this town — the people who haven’t been here that long, they keep asking me and I say, “Well, what changed Woodstock from a sleepy little art colony town was the Thruway.” The [New York State] Thruway opened in the early ’50s or mid-’50s. That changed everything upstate.

When I first came up here, before the Thruway opened, it was a four- or five-hour ride through towns. Red lights. But the Thruway came and made it a two-hour trip. Which, of course, began the change in this town and other upstate towns and counties. So I would come in every second week to DC through all the late ’50s and early ’60s and through all the ’70s and on into the ’80s. I often took the bus. I would take the train, I would drive. Whatever.

CATRON: That must have been a hell of a bus ride.

HANEY: Well, it was only two hours. One problem with the bus was I’m 6’ 2” and I always had my knees under my chin. So then I started taking the train, which was a little more expensive. Then, often in the later years, I drove. I liked to have the car. I could stay late or leave early.

In fact, it came out, every year, to just about 25 trips a year. When I did my taxes, I had deductions for my travel. I would spend a day or two at the DC office. I would plot the next batch of stories. Get a check or whatever, go talk with the editors. Hang out a bit.

I had my friends, like George Kashdan. Arnold Drake and I were real close. Arnold and I collaborated in those days, especially in the ’60s. We collaborated on movie scripts and comics and stuff. But I came in all through the ’70s and into the ’80s. Until ’82, when DC eased me out.

A big change overcame in the early ’60s. Some of the war books got cut back. For the first time there were some drops in sales in the early ’60s, right? Because up to that point, DC was selling 80, 90 percent of every print run and some of them even more than that. But they were the General Motors and the only other real opposition was Marvel, right?

CATRON: Well, yeah, but there was Dell.

HANEY: Well, you had to consider your Dells and you had your Archie and all that but they were special — you know. But in terms of a broad spectrum — and some of the genres were dropping out, it’s true. So there was a certain turning point in the early ’60s — even bigger turning point later — but Kanigher, in terms of my writing there, Kanigher cut back a bit. He didn’t have the same number of issues. And he didn’t want to give up his writing. He wrote most of the stuff anyway, you know. So he cut me back. Right?

CATRON: Right. Were, basically, you and he most of the writers there at that time?

HANEY: We were the only — I was the only writer. Nobody else could stand him. The man is insane. The man is one of the sickest human beings I’ve ever run across. I say that quite emphatically and quite — he’s one of the sickest people. Nobody else could work with him. I put up with him, I shrugged off a lot of his shit. I worked with him but it was a ridiculous way to work and I was looking for an out.

And two things happened. One was that he cut me way back. Part of that was his own selfish attitude and his own pique at various things. Then I started working for Schiff’s division. I went over to them.

CATRON: What was Schiff working on at that time?

HANEY: He and George had all the other stuff. House of Mystery, House of Secrets, My Greatest Adventure

CATRON: Detective —

HANEY: Detective. Right. Yeah. Jack was very important there. Jack’s a very nice human being. He’d been an old pulp editor and he was a solid editor. He wasn’t the most imaginative man, or creative person, himself. But he was a good editor and he knew what was decent stuff. He was very fair and he had all these titles and he had — what were some of the other majors he had?

CATRON: He had World’s Finest, didn’t he?

HANEY: Yeah, he had World’s Finest, although that went to Weisinger later. He had — oh, what the hell was it? Brain, brain, brain, brain, brain — he had some other major stuff at that time. And I started writing for them.

One thing they did at DC in those days was — there were a lot of new titles suddenly thought up, almost overnight. Because if a title died, or if they had some room on the stands — after all, they controlled their own distribution, too — young Donenfeld — Irwin Donenfeld — would come in and say, “How about a new title this month?” That’s how Teen Titans got started. And Metamorpho, and so forth.

Of course, it was a rotten way to work because what you were doing, what you and the editor were doing, for no extra money whatsoever — except you as the writer might get the writing assignment if you came up with a title that was viable, right? But they did that with everybody. They did that with Kanigher because, to give Kanigher credit, he created a lot of titles for them for no extra money. Like Sea Devils and what have you. That’s how some of the titles got started.

So I started writing for Schiff’s division. And doing all sorts of things. I was mainly with George Kashdan.

CATRON: Was he Schiff’s assistant editor?

HANEY: Yeah, he was his assistant. George was good. He pulled his weight and he was a writer himself. Murray, at that point, had become a proofreader. That’s all Murray did. He was useless otherwise.

CATRON: Now why was that?

HANEY: I don’t know. That was personal with him. Murray was a nice guy and I don’t mean to — I’m not bitter about him or anything — in fact, he and I later worked together very well but that was because I ran everything. He had no balls about things. He just wanted to — he was a time server. He had been the original guy there, decades earlier, when they were cutting out comics and pasting them — in paste-ups in books, before Superman and Batman.

Anyway, he was more or less a proofreader at that point. He had been editor of several successful books. But I don’t know what happened.

So George was the guy I worked with. And a bit with Jack, of course. They were doing all these books and so I was no longer with Kanigher at all. This was the early ’60s, right?

CATRON: OK. So you had already written the Sgt. Rock story by then?

HANEY: Yeah. I’d done six, almost eight years of stuff with Kanigher there. Whatever the total time was, it was something like that, anyway. I began in ’54. Then I wrote for these guys, mainly. Or totally, I guess, right? And Jack Miller was an editor now, or writer, anyway, and then he became the romance editor a little later when Nadle died. So we’re now — and this is when the big turning point in the comics comes vis-à-vis Marvel.

From Our Army at War #123, October 1962. Art by Jack Abel. ©1962 DC Comics

The Marvel Revolution

HANEY: Arnold and I got friendly — they had a writer’s room there — the office building. Where were we? 909 Third Avenue, or one of the offices. It went from one office to another in those days. And we were distributing Marvel, right?

CATRON: Right.

HANEY: The Marvel revolution began, right?

CATRON: Right.

HANEY: We’re talking what, ’62 is it?

CATRON: Somewhere in there, yeah.

HANEY: And we saw this stuff. Arnold and I, late at night. We’d be working late at night sometimes. We’d go over to the other side of the office building, the other part of the floor where Independent News was. We’d look at stuff and steal a few magazines [laughs] because they distributed all sorts of magazines.

And we were looking at this Marvel stuff and saying, “Look at this stuff!” Kirby was doing this great stuff and Stan Lee was editing and writing it. And we said, “This is terrific stuff! This is real far-out, wing-dingy comics!”

We recognized it immediately. So Arnold and I went in together to see Donenfeld, young Donenfeld. I think his father was either dead by then or no longer involved with anything. And we said, “Look at this stuff!”

CATRON: Now was he publisher? What was his title?

HANEY: He was publisher. He had inherited it, his father was the president, the founder. Irwin was the boss, now. Of course, he didn’t know shit about Shinola. He never should have been in that job. He inherited it. He’s much happier as a man who runs a boatyard now. [Ed. note: Irwin Donenfeld died in 2004.]

He tried to think he knew things. So we came into him and he was an insecure guy and when you work out of insecurity, you’re defensive and you don’t see things and you don’t do the right thing. He’s a very unfair man and I don’t think he even understands that but he was a very unfair man.

Anyway, we came into him and we said, “Look Irwin, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. This is great stuff.” He says, “Well, we do $90 million a year” — whatever the figure was — “and they do $35 million.” And we said, “Yeah but look at this stuff!”

Well, about a year or two later, Mike, DC starts doing the 35 and they were doing the 90, right?

CATRON: I think it took a little longer than that.

HANEY: I know. I’m —

CATRON: But essentially —

HANEY: But essentially what was happening was the Marvel Revolution and we pointed it out to him. And he didn’t recognize it. It took years for him to recognize it. So then the DC sales began to really drop. We’re getting through the mid- and later ’60s. In other words, instead of a book selling 92 percent or whatever, they were selling 70 percent. That would be great today but it still was a long way — here was General Motors no longer selling every car they could turn out, right?

Carmine and Murray

HANEY: So you had some shake-ups coming. One big shake-up was Carmine taking over. Then you had — well, the only thing they ever did, really, in terms of firing everybody was poor George Kashdan. They fired him. Because he wouldn’t kiss ass. That was really the reason. Carmine came in to take over as editorial director, which I think was a mistake.

I always got along with Carmine. I liked him, I don’t dislike him or anything like that. I got along with him and he treated me all right, so I have no — I just felt that he was not the man for that job. When he came in — he maneuvered to get the job because he was close to Liebowitz and he had been one of their best artists and he maneuvered and maneuvered to get the job. And he got it.

He shouldn’t have — maybe art director would have been fine. But not editorial director. He was wearing both hats and he wasn’t suited for the editorial directorship. That you needed a different mind and personality and maybe a writer, you know? [Laughs.] I’ll never forget. When Carmine was appointed editorial director and a couple days had gone by, Gil [Kane] came into the office. And somebody said, “Oh, did you hear the news? Carmine is Editorial Director.”

Gil turned around, he went, [imitating Gil Kane] “Carmine!?” and he practically fell on the floor. [Laughter.] We all laughed, because we all felt the same way. If Carmine reads this, he’ll probably hate me. I like Carmine, but he’ll probably resent my being candid. But this is what happened.

Then they fired George. It’s a complicated story but he — he wouldn’t really kiss ass. And they fired him. That’s when they made Murray take over his books. I was a little bit upset because I was a friend of George — so Murray needed me to continue the books because I was the writer and conceptualist on them. So I started working with Murray. With Murray, I did the whole complete job. With George, of course, he made some contributions. Murray just — I’d go in and plot with Murray. I’d just throw the plot at him and go home and do it. I’d check the art and everything else. [Laughs.]

CATRON: Now the story I get about Murray is that he was very meticulous and that he really copy-edited the —

HANEY: Oh, Murray was great at, [laughs] “Did you leave a comma out?” That kind of shit doesn’t mean anything. It’s got nothing to do with creativity — whether the story was really good.

He and I would plot, he would sometimes throw in a little thing. But he was just listening. I would bring in the whole wrapped-up plot and just throw it at him. One of the problems with him was — and I’m trying to be fair and accurate now — he was not an imaginative person and he was also very frightened of things. Sometimes I’d try to throw something a little more way out at him and he’d get very nervous about it. He wouldn’t want to do it. When I brought up the Super-Sons, he almost shit a brick, for instance. [Catron laughs.]

But Murray and I got along fine. His problem was he wouldn’t go to bat for you against the front office. He was always terrified of being fired. They were never going to fire him. But he never knew that. He would never go to bat for you against the front office. So you knew that.

Anyway, the books I did with Murray, I pretty much edited them. So I deserve either the credit or the discredit for them, mainly. He was a bit inhibiting but I can’t blame all that on him.

The Comics Code

HANEY: One of the biggest problems with working in the comics all the years I worked on it, up into the ’60s anyway, was with the Code and with some of the editorial mindset at DC. It was very hard to be really creative. Or to be controversial or be far out. Especially with the Code. There’s so many things you couldn’t handle. So many topics. So many treatments and approaches. And of course, everything was antiseptic and highly self-censored because of the Code.

Today it’s a whole different — I don’t know whether these young people in the business today appreciate how lucky they are to be able to write anything they want. Is there any — what would you call it — any self-censoring any more in the comics?

CATRON: I really don’t know.

HANEY: There isn’t!

CATRON: I know that the period while I was there — this was 1978.

HANEY: That’s already far back.

CATRON: Right. This was after they had revised it to allow ghouls and vampires and stuff. But I remember from my experience there, that they were basically using the Code at that point as a PR tool. So that if somebody wrote them a letter saying, “Well, how can you say, ‘Oh my God!’ on a cover?” they would write back and say, “Well, it’s been approved by the Comics Code and they’re a respected organization.”

HANEY: You’re right. Your memory’s good. That’s exactly what was happening at that period.

But prior to that, going back to the early ’50s when the Code was formed, and up through the ’60s and into the ’70s, you had this awful inhibiting thing plus the fact that — another thing: DC stood for story. Which has a good side and a bad side. Story’s important. I’m a story man. That was my main strength, plot and story. I was not the greatest creator otherwise — well, I was decent with dialogue, I believe, too. But that was my main thing. Julie was strong on that, too.

But comics were selling story a lot. And gimmicks. Plots. And we were good at that. That’s why we were never impressed years later when Hollywood started doing comics, everything from the Terminator on down. The plots never impressed me. People’d say, “Wow, wasn’t that interesting?” I’d say, “Ah, we did that 37 different ways in comics years before.” [Laughter.] Well, we did. We weren’t geniuses. We were just hacks but we did it. Because we were forced to by the exigencies of the Code and the business and grinding this stuff out, month after month, year after year. These kids today, who can do anything — we could have all, as I think I said before, we could have all written “better” than we did. But you couldn’t, considering the inhibitions you were working under.

But today, comics — man, anything goes in comics. There are no inhibitions, none that I see. And that’s been a double-edged sword, too. They’ve sort of used up everything much quicker. The fact that it’s all superheroes now, the other genres all withered away is a sad thing in a way.

Tomorrow: Bob Haney talks about Sgt. Rock and telling off Mort Weisinger.

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