Last Day of the Dawn of Comics

Last Day of the Dawn of Comics 150 150 Paul Levitz

Forty years ago, DC Comics held its one and only Super DC Convention, and we gathered together the greats of the Golden Age for what was the last time. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster had just reached the final accommodation of their lives with DC, and were there smiling, along with Bob Kane, Shelly Mayer, Jack Schiff and many others. The then-still active team that was present included Julie Schwartz, Murray Boltinoff, Sol Harrison, Joe Orlando, Jack Adler, Joe Kubert, Curt Swan, Denny O’Neil, and the youngsters like me. Jenette Kahn had just arrived at DC a few weeks before, and the chaos that was the convention provided her first great bonding with the small team that was then the DC staff of about 30 folks. Virtually everyone who was invited attended, with the notable exception of Bob Kanigher, who was nervous to be on the Wonder Woman panel with his old boss, Shelly Mayer.

Chaos? The convention had been scheduled to be at the Commodore (later the Grand Hyatt) Hotel, but they had gone on strike two days before. Hasty arrangements were made to shift to the Americana (now the Sheraton NY Times Square), and I have a vague memory of our needing to carry over a certified check for the deposit because Warner Communications/DC Comics’ credit wasn’t enough to satisfy them in the circumstances. DC folks were on phones trying to get radio stations to announce the new location, and we ended up rolling giant mail bins full of stuff for the con down 52nd Street from the offices to the hotel.

February 29th was Superman’s birthday under Nelson Bridwell’s analysis, so the official peak of the con was a giant birthday cake made of Twinkies (a major advertiser in comics in those days). There were leftover Twinkies to eat at the office for a long time. But the real thrill was meeting the men who had created the world of comics and super heroes, and for most of us, for the first or only time.

Somewhere in DC’s files there are grainy old videotapes of some of the panels, magic moments when the greats of the Golden and Silver Age of Comics met. Maybe technology has reached the point where they can been enhanced, and we can revisit that moment…

A tip of the hat to the departed Phil Seuling and Sol Harrison, who cooked up the event, and to my fellow “manager,” Jonni Levas (who as always, organized Phil) and the other Junior Woodchucks, whose love of comics showed through it all.

  • Paul, I remember your comment that despite the digit age, you were still a rubber cement and paste up guy. I’m the same, gender notwithstanding. Too bad that what few women creators at the time weren’t given their due. But thanks for the names and memories.
    I remember so vividly on my first day of work seeing you and Gerta. When I asked Adler who you two were, he made a special note of you saying he looks like a kid now, but one day he’ll run the company.

    • Thanks, Shelley.
      We really were so thin on women creators in ’76–Ramona Fradon, of course, and Lee Marrs did a few things for PLOP!, but the women at DC were either invisible (you and the others in the production department or accounting, mostly) or in the crafts we would just start to credit in the next year or so: Tatjana Wood, Liz Safian, Jean Izzo, probably another colorist or letterer who I’m not placing in the right chronology.
      As for Jack’s prognostication, he was among the folks who made it possible to come true by teaching me, of course. It’s been a strange and wonderful journey.

  • I love these kinds of memories, thanks! Were none of the Bob Kane ghosts there or invited? I remember watching Dick Sprang introduce himself to Jenette at breakfast at a Chicago Con about 14-15 years later. She was dining with a group of women and he was by himself. My wife and I were at a table in between both of theirs. He finished his meal and quietly rose to walk over and introduce himself to much “Ooh”ing and “Aaah”ing from the women. Come to think of it, you were at that show as well as I recall my wife and I riding in an elevator with you at one point. Ah, memories.

    • Of the Batman artists whose work appeared under Bob’s name, the only ones who might have been there were Jerry Robinson, Shelly Moldoff or Joe Giella, and I have no clear memory of them that day. I didn’t meet Dick Sprang until years later (maybe at that Chicago Con, or perhaps a San Diego Con). Shelly was friendly with Sol Harrison, who would have likely invited him, and Joe lived in the area and was still actively working for us. Jerry was probably aware of the event from his relationship with Siegel & Shuster, who he had just assisted in working out credits and compensation on Superman, and might have been there but I don’t recall meeting him there.

  • Awesome piece on comics history! Got my start in 77, but the most important lesson on comics I ever got was that they are about heart… the comics creators hearts flowing from their hands work, to the page and into the readers to stay. DC’s craftsmanship and storytelling inspired many a new hand in the industry. Mahalo nui loa for opening your heart to inspire us to share ours Paul!

  • Delmo Walters Jr. March 3, 2016 at 4:17 am

    I attended that con on a Sunday. I was 8 years old at the time and it was my first con. I wish I had been older so I could’ve appreciated the luminaries who attended. I do remember seeing George Reeves’ costume on display.