INTERVIEW WITH BOB ROZAKIS
Conducted by Brian G. Philbin
Brian G. Philbin: I suppose the beginning is the best place to start. How did this magazine come about? Was there simply an idea to do a more "behind the scenes" type magazine or was it in response to something else that was on the market, perhaps like Charlton Bullseye or some of the fanzines of the time?
Bob Rozakis: I think Sol Harrison just wanted to cash in on the fanzine market, figuring that he had some reasonable talent on staff to do it. (Paul Levitz was, after all, publisher of The Comic Reader.)
BGP: How did your involvement occur?
BR: Sol gathered the "kids" of the staff together. I was one of them (and, as I said previously, it was I who named us the Junior Woodchucks).
BGP: In the first issue, there is a short memorial to Bill Finger - it was quite short and doesn't mention very much about his involvement with Batman and completely ignores his part in Batman's creation. E. Nelson Bridwell wrote the bio and I would guess that he'd have liked to have said more about Mr. Finger, but shall we presume that giving Bill Finger any type of credit for Batman would have been an inappropriate move on the part of DC, as Bob Kane was legally the creator?
BR: Probably, though I don't recall any of the specifics about this.
BGP: In the Days of the Mob was a Kirby vehicle that was quite short lived. I remember seeing ads for it, but never saw it on the newsstand. An unpublished story is featured in AWODCC #1 - how was this project, as a whole, perceived around the DC offices?
BR: I suspect it was an idea whose time had not come.
BGP: Also in the first issue is a retrospective on the Fleischer Superman cartoons - this was my first exposure to the existence of these films (as well as, I'm sure, many other readers) - this article was also the most history I saw for a long time with regard to the films. They remain a fan favorite and have been produced by several entities for sale, but never by either Warner or Paramount (who distributed the films in the first place). What was the situation at the time regarding ownership of the films? Did NPP happen to have copies lying around the office?
BR: I believe some of them were offered a few years ago, paired with newer Superman cartoons. There were copies in the office and every now and then we would spend a lunch hour watching them.
BGP: There is an interview with Cary Bates and Elliot Maggin in issue #2 - I note that none of the pictures included in the article carry notations of who is whom - do you think this occurred because the folks doing the interviewing were aware of which was which? Did this type of proximity to the subjects of the interviews create other problems of this sort?
BR: We probably just assumed everyone would know who as whom. Probably, but we never seemed to notice.
BGP: You did a short article about the DC ComicMobile in the second issue - it gives some information about how the idea came up quite informally. I realize this was a long time ago, but how long did the ComicMobile last and what were the long range plans for it? I know that I lamented its demise much as other comics fans in my area did.
BR: Mike Uslan drove it for about a month; I did about six weeks. Then Bruce Hamilton had it down south for a few months.
I think Sol envisioned a fleet of them. Unfortunately, there were local laws and problems with where we could go that made it an impossible dream.
BGP: I also note that the ComicMobile was manned by Laurie Neu, later Mrs. Bob Rozakis - care to give a little history there?
BR: People in love will do amazing things sometimes. :-)
The blurb in #2's listing about the ComicMobile implies that my wife Laurie rode in it with Mike Uslan. She actually rode with me. Mike had his own "lovely female sidekick," a young woman named Robin.
BGP: The next few issues of AWODCC had "themes" of a sort - was this decided as the new direction once you had a few issues under your belts?
BR: I think we'd decided on themes early on. It was probably after the first issue that we set up the list of themes we wanted to do, and added more as we went along.
BGP: I note that the Interviews featured many of the "old-timers", many of whom are even more old timers now or have even passed away since then. Was there a feeling that this would be the perfect opportunity to give them another "voice" other than the pages of the stories they worked on?
BR: I think we were approaching it much more as fanboys given the ultimate opportunity to interview the men whose work we'd grown up reading.
BGP: Anything you'd like to note about the following folks who were interviewed:
As Julie always likes to say, quoting Yogi Berra talking about Bill Dickey, "He learned me all of his experiences."
I think I just met Jerry briefly.
Murray was a real gentleman. Before I got the job at DC, but after I'd been up to visit the offices, I spotted him in a Friendly's Ice Cream Shop on Long Island. I went over and said hello and I think it was probably the first time Murray had ever been recognized by a fan. For years after that, he would ask me if I'd been to Friendly's.
Wish I'd had more of a chance to talk to him.
Mort Weisinger (I'm really interested in your perception of
He and Julie were not on the best of terms by the time I got to DC. In fact, Julie was amazed that Guy Lillian had actually called Mort and invited him to the office for the interview. And equally amazed that Mort had shown up. Except for the brief moment when Julie said hello (in the photo in the issue), the two of them did not speak during that visit.
He hired me. Thus, he is responsible for everything I've ever done in the comics biz.
BGP: The humor issue (#6) features a story from EC's Weird Fantasy #8 by Bill Gaines, Al Feldstein & Joe Orlando - was there any sense of camaraderie with the EC folks who were now hooked up with DC after being purchased by Time-Warner?
BR: Other than having Bill Gaines work as an advisor to Carmine Infantino, there was no interaction with the MAD guys. In fact, years later, when DC became directly involved with the running of MAD, the guys there always referred to us as "the suits."
BGP: Also in issue #6, there is a mention in Direct Currents of Jack Kirby departing - any comments on how that was handled in the pages of AWODCC? How do you feel about the claims that Carmine Infantino acted out of something other than a desire to make the Kirby books more DC-ish?
BR: Frankly, I don't recall much about Jack's departure beyond Paul Levitz telling about it one afternoon.
BGP: Issue #7 was an all-Superman issue from 1975, during the throes of litigation with Siegel and Shuster. Consequently, there is little mention made of them during the issue. First, was that intentional and second, what was the feeling at the DC offices at the time with regard to the case?
BR: Yes, it was intentional. Beyond that, I can't comment.
BGP: Carmine Infantino was considered a DC staple when I was a kid - Issue #8 was dedicated to him and his work. Many of us truly enjoyed his work and in recent years have gotten a different sense of the man through some of his letters to fan publications, etc. Any comments?
BR: I always liked working for Carmine because you could walk into his office and have a talk with him. John Workman and Bob Smith got their starts at DC one day because I could do just that.
I came back from lunch and saw them in the lobby. When I asked why they were there, they said, "We're waiting for Conway." I thought they said "Carmine."
So I strolled down to the end of the hall and told Carmine they were there. He told me to bring them in. He looked at their portfolios and next thing you know, Bob's got some inking work and John is in the Production department.
BGP: The Legion Issue (#9) was handed lock, stock and barrel over to Neal Pozner - how come?
BR: Neal had already prepared all that Legion material himself.
BGP: Dave Cockrum got his start on LOSH and left soon after - many of the Legion fans at the time became so because of his slick new look on the characters and their costumes. It seems that his departure didn't hurt the book at all - or did it? Can you comment?
BR: It didn't hurt as far as I know. Readers were more caught up in the stories in those days.
BGP: Comments were made about departures & arrivals once again in #9's Direct Currents column with Carmine Infantino's retirement and Jeannette Kahn's ascension to his position. How did folks feel about the shift - was it an expected move?
BR: It was not expected at all.
BGP: In #16, Paul Levitz did a column entitled "Dating the All-Stars" in which he attempted to peg the age of the characters appearing in All-Star Comics. Even through today, there is a feeling that aging characters should be drawn to a halt - lest we end up with a Bruce Wayne who is one day aged and in a wheelchair or a Clark Kent who is married to Lois Lů oops - well, you get the idea. There are certainly two camps on this type of idea - what camp do you fall in and how do you think most of the staff at DC perceive this type of ideology?
BR: I think the characters should be perpetually the age they have always been, regardless of the number of years that pass. Is Tarzan older? Sherlock Holmes? Dennis the Menace? Archie?
Ignore the fact that the character was "alive" sixty years ago and just make him/her current. (This from the guy who wrote "Superboy's Mission For President Kennedy" years after READING "Superman's Mission for President Kennedy.")
I have no idea what most of the DC staff believes.
BGP: Finally, you'd made mention of the Super DC Con of 1976 and how difficult it was and some of the logistical problems that happened on the eve of the 'Con - could you "tell all" I found your short version very interesting and it left me wanting to know more about the con, how it came about, how difficult it was for the DC staff, etc.
BR: I could probably tell more, but I haven't the time or energy. perhaps one of these years.
BGP: We'll look forward to it! Thanks, Bob, for your time and generosity toward this project!