On The Spot

On The Spot 150 150 Paul Levitz

So it’s early 1973, I’m 16, a high school senior, and lucky enough to have landed the assignment to do DC’s house pages–the equivalent of the Marvel Bullpen pages. They alternate between Direct Currents, the listing of what’s coming in the following week, and Behind The Scenes, a general sort of hype page. I’ve only done one of the latter, when I’m told that for the next one my lead should be about this exciting new title DC is about to launch, something I’m told they expect to be a breakthrough hit. The last couple of launches have been SWORD OF SORCERY and the massive commercial creative and creative success, SWAMP THING, so this should be cool.

It’s confidential enough that I’m sat down at a desk in the production department, camped between the women who do cover and text page paste-ups (if you’re too young to know the term, think desktop publishing with zero tech and lots of rubber cement involved). The boards are brought out gingerly, not having been dumped in the usual production flat files where more mundane things like Joe Kubert’s TARZAN or Kirby’s KAMANDI are stored. This is the comic that’s going to give DC momentum against the burgeoning success of Marvel, coming out against their newer hits like Roy Thomas & Barry Smith’s CONAN or the just-starting TOMB OF DRACULA run by Marv Wolfman & Gene Colan.

I look down.

It’s PREZ #1, by Joe Simon & Jerry Grandinetti. Two solid and talented professionals who have literally been doing successful comics since well before I was born. But in about a page or three I know this certainly isn’t going to be one of them. It’s a tale of a teenager becoming the President of the United States, channelling a bit of the then-recent film WILD IN THE STREETS. But tonally? If Marvel’s capturing the style of the moment, this one is sliding backwards like an awkward Time Machine.

I manage to write a column, and devote more space to the upcoming SANDMAN collaboration between Joe and Jack Kirby…a one shot that would indeed be a hit, if not a project with enough creative bandwidth to sustain a series afterwards for more than a few issues. No memory of what I said to the folks who had waxed enthusiastically about PREZ, but despite the fact that I’ve never been famous for my diplomacy, I must have hidden my confusion. I’d go on to have a long friendship with Joe, and to edit Jerry on some delightful war stories, but I don’t think I ever told either of them about this day.

I could have been wrong. It happened often enough in the decades that followed, and I can’t claim a fraction of the creative success that Joe achieved in a career that included co-creating Captain America and whole romance comics genre. It would have been an interestingly different comic world if I had been, right?

1 Comment
  • Prez was a hard sell, yeah. But you say you’re not famous for your diplomacy? That’s surprising. You’re known as one of the nicest and fairest guys in comics, right up there with Archie Goodwin. You rose from your teen years to the very top at DC. You’re experience personified, Paul! But not a diplomat? Really? Hmm…