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  1. #1
    Fantastic Member Vampire Savior's Avatar
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    Default Your thoughts on Mort Weisinger

    Post your opinions on the most legendary editor to work on Supie, from his creative decisions to him as a person. Jim Shooter (and plenty of other people) has gone on numerous times about how mean the dude was, but admitted that he ultimately liked Weisinger. Weisinger saw potential in Shooter to become a good editor, and is the one who trained Shooter for the job. I'm sure he must have been difficult to work for, but hearing about some of the stories in retrospect, he sounds kind of hilarious.

    His contribution to Superman can't be understated. Though I still wonder about the wisdom of adding a Super dog, and the Super horse was absolutely ridiculous.

  2. #2

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    Totally agreed that his contributions to Superman can't be understated. However, I think the guy, from all reports, was a truly awful human being with some pretty serious issues.

  3. #3
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    It's a toss-up for me if the did more good than harm to the character. For all that was added to the mythos during his tenure, he also presided over the longest period of going in circles. He assumed all readers were part of a cycle that turned over ever few years and had no qualms about retelling the same story multiple times with the serial numbers filed off. He fought to keep Superman out of the developing DC Universe that had Flash, GL, Hawkman, etc creating cross \-continuity amongst themselves. IIRC he opposed Superman being in the JLA and management had to remind him that he didn't own the character, they did.

    A Superman without his presence might have vanished with the others heroes in the 1950's or it may have become a larger tentpole of the greater DCU during the Silver Age.

  4. #4

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    It would have been very interesting to see what would have happened if Julie Shwartz had taken over as Superman editor in 1960 instead of 1970 after Marvel had already become the dominant force in comics. I'm sure Stan Lee, Kirby, & Ditko would have still cleaned up, but it would have been a closer competition than we ended up getting.

  5. #5
    Astonishing Member superduperman's Avatar
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    I think his legacy is a mixed bag. He certainly treated Jerry Seigel poorly. His ideas saved Superman during a time when comics were in decline by going out and actually asking kids what they wanted to see in the comics. By the same token, it was many of those same ideas that made the reboot in 1986 necessary. By all indications, he was a deeply troubled man with a lot of insecurities. And it's not surprising that he taught Shooter everything he knew about being an editor given how much Shooter was hated during his tenure at Marvel. Supposedly John Byrne threw a party at his house to celebrate when Shooter was fired. Where a bunch of copies of New Universe comics were burned in effigy. That's doesn't speak well for ones legacy. I think at one point Weisenger once said that his favorite Superman stories were ones where he lost his powers. And this is the guy who was put in charge of Superman! I agree he probably should have been taken off the character sooner than he was. He certainly didn't seem to like Superman very much.
    Now listen to me, Clark! This great strength of yours--you've got to hide it from people or they'll be scared of you!

  6. #6
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    Mort Weisinger and Jack Schiff were the senior editors at National Comics. Julius Schwartz and Bob Kanigher were considered junior, even though they were the same age and had come into DC only a few years later. But they came by way of All-American and I think that may have been why they had to take the back seat.

    Weisinger and Schiff had worked more closely with Whitney Ellsworth. Ellsworh himself had replaced Vin Sullivan, although they both started at National Allied as junior editors to Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson--but Ellsworth had taken off for California where he pursued a romance with an actress, only to return jilted back to New York, when Sullivan was about to quit because he didn't like his new bosses, Harry Donenfeld and Jack Liebowitz. Later, Ellsworth got to go back to Hollywood when THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN was on the air, while Weisinger and Schiff took over the Superman and Batman titles, although Ellsworth was still ostensibly the editor on all the books.

    Mort and Julie had been friends since teen-agers, having their own science fiction club, then a fanzine and finally becoming literary agents for a number of pulp writers. Mort left the business in Julie's hands when he became a pulp editor himself for the Standard Magazine outfit. To his great credit, Weisinger created the character of Captain Future at the science fiction convention Schwartz had organized in conjunction with the New York World's Fair. Mort hired one of his and Julie's biggest clients, the science fiction writer Edmond Hamilton, to pilot Captain Future's destiny.

    Then in 1941, Mort Weisinger jumped from Standard over to National, working for Ellsworth. His editorship was interrupted by the war and his national service, where he was in Special Services, writing the radio show I SUSTAIN THE WINGS, an army broadcast. But he returned to National in 1946, shortly before the departure of Siegel and Shuster, and he actively recruited writers he knew, like Hamilton, to work on Superman and Batman.

    Mort Weisinger gained a reputation as a bellicose editor. But that's like pointing at a pool of sharks and saying the fat one over there is the mean one. Editors were all mean. Some were more charming and got better press. Given that Weisinger was always socially awkward, he probably never developed the skills to deal with people the way that his friend Julie Schwartz did. But his accomplishments point to him being a very intelligent person, who could get others to follow his orders. And the proof is in the pudding.

    His editorial reign over the Superman family--especially between 1958 and 1968--is legendary. That didn't happen by accident. Yes, he was mean to people like Jerry Siegel and Wayne Boring. But in additon to friends like Hamilton, he had a strong influence on young writers such as E. Nelson Bridwell, Cary Bates and Jim Shooter--who were all hired by him to work on the Superman books.

    Who else but Mort Weisinger would trust in a young kid like Jim Shooter, who was only thirteen when he was mailing in his hand-made comic book stories to the editor. Rather than ignore the fan, Mort responded and began a long communication with young Jim, over the phone, hashing out ideas for stories. I think that, for Shooter, Weisinger was like a second father. Jim learned so much from Mort--to the extent that Shooter himself has often been hated and maligned by the writers and artists that worked for him when he was an editor. But he developed that demanding style by working so closely with Mort.

    Mainly, I feel both respect and pity for Mort Weisinger. His family love him and he had loyal friends, but it seems that he also had severe emotional problems. He was a fellow nerd. And most of us nerds were social outcasts. It's not hard to see how, under different circumstances, that could turn a person bitter and cruel--or at least make him seem so to people who couldn't get close to him and just had to judge the book based on the cover.

  7. #7
    Fantastic Member Jon-El's Avatar
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    I’ve only read that he wasn’t a pleasant guy to work for to say the least. However, the stuff that was added during his time on the books I pretty much love. I guess looking at Krypto or all the red kryptonite stories as adult or even a teen, it might look silly. I starting reading in the 70’s when I was 5 so it’s all just burned into my brain as being part of the Superman story. The Fortress, Superboy, Legion, Supergirl, Brainiac, Krypto, the tv series.... I’m not sure how much he had to do with each idea but that’s quite a bit added under his direction. A tyrant maybe but he helped define Superman for me.

  8. #8
    Father Son Kamehameha < Kuwagaton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Kelly View Post
    his accomplishments point to him being a very intelligent person, who could get others to follow his orders. And the proof is in the pudding.

    His editorial reign over the Superman family--especially between 1958 and 1968--is legendary. That didn't happen by accident. Yes, he was mean to people like Jerry Siegel and Wayne Boring. But in additon to friends like Hamilton, he had a strong influence on young writers such as E. Nelson Bridwell, Cary Bates and Jim Shooter--who were all hired by him to work on the Superman books.

    Who else but Mort Weisinger would trust in a young kid like Jim Shooter, who was only thirteen when he was mailing in his hand-made comic book stories to the editor. Rather than ignore the fan, Mort responded and began a long communication with young Jim, over the phone, hashing out ideas for stories. I think that, for Shooter, Weisinger was like a second father. Jim learned so much from Mort--to the extent that Shooter himself has often been hated and maligned by the writers and artists that worked for him when he was an editor. But he developed that demanding style by working so closely with Mort.
    Yeah, for all I gather about any situation where one would manage and edit for creative talent (who put in a ton of work off-site and send in to regular deadlines), it requires being firm, maybe adamant. Especially for the sake of protecting company IP. The Superman line has long been a model of productivity and sure I can imagine that compensating and treating the talent better would only be a benefit, but at the end of the day the line was exceptional. Not limited to Hamilton, Boring, Dorfman, Siegel, Bates, Swan... those years had some really good creators work very hard and entertain a bigger audience than comics have had since.

    Shooter was very young and his work was impressive. Whatever benefit came from tutelage was legit. People also point to his stint at Marvel as divisive and hostile, but those comics under him hit some pretty unbelievable highs creatively and commercially. Some people don't work to make friends, and if they're handling business you have to respect that.

    Mort died almost a decade before I was born as a stranger, so that's all I can think if it comes to discussing his personal life or something like that. My perspective has to be limited to his work.

    Were they really trying to stop Marvel from gaining momentum? Stifle the competition and flow of time across the industry? Because I don't think that was possible. We're still only unpacking some of what Kirby was putting down in the early 60s.

    Check out Brian Cronin's CBR series looking up his responses to readers. I love informal lettercols and I don't know where his responses were coming from, but they were funny. Especially so far before the internet and regular fan communities, where you could just make stuff up. For some reason I think it's easier going through Google than the site but

    https://www.cbr.com/tag/dont-send-me...re-letters-no/

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cbr...elgangers/amp/

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  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bored at 3:00AM View Post
    It would have been very interesting to see what would have happened if Julie Shwartz had taken over as Superman editor in 1960 instead of 1970 after Marvel had already become the dominant force in comics. I'm sure Stan Lee, Kirby, & Ditko would have still cleaned up, but it would have been a closer competition than we ended up getting.
    I disagree with this. Weisinger's Superman line was the top seller at DC so why replace him with an editor whose comics, including Justice League, sold less?

    I'm the first one to say that writers need to stop rehashing the Silver Age in Superman comics, but during the Silver Age, it kept DC ahead of Marvel. Lois Lane was selling around 500k each issue, Superman and Action more than that.

    I grew up on Julie Schwartz's Superman comics, and his 1971 revamp took away all the silly 60s stuff, but didn't replace them with anything better, which is why his 70s comics are rarely reprinted and rarely mentioned or referenced by later writers. Putting Schwartz on Superman in the 60s would have only hurt the character and sales. Superman did not need a drastic revamp then. The 1970s was the perfect time for a new voice on the character.

    Mike Carlin, who followed Andy Helfer on the John Byrne reboot, was the best Superman editor to follow Weisinger because his run combined the Weisinger world building with a modern storytelling sensibility.

    I have fond childhood memories of Schwartz's Superman comics, but I know they really have little value in the scheme of things. As good as they were, they were rarely great and certainly never classic and timeless. Weisinger and Carlin were the two best editors that Superman has ever had in my opinion.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Comic-Reader Lad View Post
    I disagree with this. Weisinger's Superman line was the top seller at DC so why replace him with an editor whose comics, including Justice League, sold less?

    I'm the first one to say that writers need to stop rehashing the Silver Age in Superman comics, but during the Silver Age, it kept DC ahead of Marvel. Lois Lane was selling around 500k each issue, Superman and Action more than that.

    I grew up on Julie Schwartz's Superman comics, and his 1971 revamp took away all the silly 60s stuff, but didn't replace them with anything better, which is why his 70s comics are rarely reprinted and rarely mentioned or referenced by later writers. Putting Schwartz on Superman in the 60s would have only hurt the character and sales. Superman did not need a drastic revamp then. The 1970s was the perfect time for a new voice on the character.

    Mike Carlin, who followed Andy Helfer on the John Byrne reboot, was the best Superman editor to follow Weisinger because his run combined the Weisinger world building with a modern storytelling sensibility.

    I have fond childhood memories of Schwartz's Superman comics, but I know they really have little value in the scheme of things. As good as they were, they were rarely great and certainly never classic and timeless. Weisinger and Carlin were the two best editors that Superman has ever had in my opinion.
    Fair enough. There's no doubt that Weisinger's tenure on the Superman comics was wildly successful, helped quite a bit by the George Reeves Superman TV show, of course (the Adam West TV boosted sales on the Batman books as well).

    My thinking was more that Shwartz was running out of steam by the time he'd taken over the Superman books in 1970, while he was still at the top of his game in the '60s and building more interconnected continuity with his books that might have been better competition with what Marvel was doing. I don't know if Shwartz editing the Superman comics in the 1960s would have necessarily produced comics as good as Weisinger's era did, but it would have been interesting to see how a more unified DCU would have fared against the more cohesive world that Marvel was creating at the same time.

    Granted, DC didn't have the depth of characterization that Marvel had at the time, so, like I said, I'm sure they still would have become the dominant force in comics either way.

  11. #11
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    The thing is the Mort Weisinger run on the Superman books that we remember is the one after the George Reeves series had ended. He was an editor when the series was in its original run (it did continue in syndication for years after that) and he did serve as the story editor for those shows, but what's called the "Silver Age" Superman is what followed once the show was over and Mort could institute more significant changes.

    I happen to really like the 1970s Superman edited by Julie Schwartz. At the same time he was editing Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Justice League--and I enjoyed them all, too. When he left those other comics, I felt the quality went down.

    While Schwartz was beloved by the fans there was a dark side to his character. There's a famous inside story of comic books that was told and retold to the extent that it might be an urban legend, but it seems to have begun with an argument between Julie Schwartz and Alex Toth. The telling of this story says that the artist hung the editor by his heels out the window of his office, when the editor refused to pay him. Whether it went to that extreme, I don't know, but what seems undisputed is that Schwartz was playing cards on his lunch break when Toth came in to pick up his pay for work he had done, and Julie was belligerent and refused to move because he was playing his hand. And that angered Toth who roughed up the editor, demanding he get his money. And after that Alex refused to work for Julie, although he continued to work for other editors at DC.

  12. #12
    Boisterously Confused
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    Weisinger looks to me like a case of what is sometimes called The Incumbency Curse in business. For all his successes, he missed the signs that the median age of comicbook readers was rising, and that the fans were staying with the hobby longer.

    That said, he did have an array of successes, and ably shepherded Superman for many years.

  13. #13
    Father Son Kamehameha < Kuwagaton's Avatar
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    Yeah... sounds like whatever conflict they had spun into a ridiculous story. It's not hard to believe that Schwartz didn't treat Toth the way he wanted to be treated, but it's more than apparent that Toth wasn't built for the mainstream comics grind, especially by the late 70s and mid 80s. Same with Cardy in many respects. Plastino, Boring, and Swan could each carry pretty massive workloads, but I do wonder if it were possible to keep up with the flashy, head turning styles coming out of Marvel without playing down the stalwarts more than they did.

    Since "Weisinger vs Schwartz" did come up I just have to say that although the latter didn't really see any contributions that stood the test of time and I suppose
    inevitably lost ground to the competition, the Weisinger stuff doesn't hold up nearly as well. I think a lot of modern readers who get intrigued by the quirkiness of the era are let down when they actually read the stories. I think Mort was pretty lucky to have been so established against the young age of Marvel.
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  14. #14
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    Mort Weisinger faded from the Superman world voluntarily. He had developed other interests and by around 1968 he was leaving most of the editing up to E. Nelson Bridwell. Also most of his generation had left DC, if not comics all together. Kinney National had bought out National Periodicals, Irwin Donenfeld was gone. Edmond Hamilton left with his wife Leigh Brackett to travel the world (and good they did, because they wouldn't have many more years together), Otto Binder was a broken man after the death of his daughter, other writers were already long gone. Mort fired Jerry Siegel and Wayne Boring. But you could say he fired himself. Other writers and artists came onto the books that weren't in his camp. Leo Dorfman was probably the last writer that belonged to the old talent pool. In addition to Boring who left for comic strip work, there was Al Plastino who took over on the Batman comic strip. Kurt Schaffenberger and Curt Swan were the last two artists remaining from the old guard.

    I know that some people think DC was out of it by the late 1960s, but really there wasn't a good economic reason for them to change and develop the direct market business model, because the direct market didn't exist yet. It was still a mass market world and DC could sell a lot more comics at the newsstands and drugstores than Marvel or Charlton. Carmine Infantino instituted changes to appeal to older readers, but comic books depended largely on little kids for their sales. And Superman was still the biggest seller.

  15. #15
    Father Son Kamehameha < Kuwagaton's Avatar
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    Thanks for the info, especially about Bridwell. It's something I wanted to suspect but never had a source. The transition out of the "silver age" vibe just felt too subtle to attribute to the debut of Schwartz as editor.
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