Jacob S. "Jack" Liebowitz (/ˈliːbəwɪts/; born Yacov Lebovitz October 10, 1900 – December 11, 2000) was an American accountant and publisher, known primarily as the co-owner with Harry Donenfeld of National Allied Publications (later DC Comics).
Jack Liebowitz working at the offices of DC Comics.
October 10, 1900
|Died||December 11, 2000 (aged 100)|
Jack Liebowitz was born Yacov Lebovitz in Proskurov, present-day Ukraine in October 1900, to a Jewish family. His mother, Mindl, never identified his biological father, her first husband (who had left the family), but married Yulyus Lebovitz when her son was three. Yacov soon adopted his stepfather's surname, and in 1910 the family emigrated to the United States. They arrived in the Jewish neighborhood of New York's Lower East Side and, as was common at the time, adopted Anglicized names: His parents became Julius and Minnie Liebowitz, while he became Jacob, soon shortened to Jack. Jack was a hardworking child and became a newsboy amongst other small jobs. In high school, he became adept at accountancy, a career he thought would help him escape his poor background.
By age 24, Liebowitz had earned his accounting degree from New York University, and by 1927 had married (Rose) and moved to The Bronx. Liebowitz set himself up as an accountant based in Manhattan's Union Square area, with one client, the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU); his father had been a steward for that union since the early 1910s. By 1925, Liebowitz was in charge of the union's strike fund, and a year later managed to keep the fund solvent in the wake of a six-month, 50,000-worker strike. His business acumen placed Liebowitz in a position of high standing with the union officials. Toward the end of the decade, Liebowitz had taken on more clients and begun studying the stock market. His initial dealings worked well for the union, but after the Wall Street Crash of 1929, funds plummeted and Liebowitz and the ILGWU parted company.
In 1929, Julius Liebowitz approached Harry Donenfeld, whom he had befriended through ILGWU ties, and sought work for his son. Donenfeld, a rising businessperson who felt a sense of loyalty to those from the old neighborhood, took Jack on as his personal accountant. Although a chance meeting, the two men complemented each other very well — Donenfeld was a social, chance-taking high-flyer, while Liebowitz was cautious and had a logical mind that ensured Donenfeld's fiscal mistakes were small, and that his business promises were binding only in favor to himself.
When Liebowitz first worked for Donenfeld, the latter's empire was little more than a publishing house for "sex pulp" and art nudie magazines distributed by Eastern News, a company run by Charles Dreyfus and Paul Sampliner. In 1931, Eastern News faced bankruptcy and could no longer pay its publishers; the company owed Donenfeld alone $30,000. A compromise was called for, and Donenfeld, not wanting to find himself hamstrung by a distributor again, approached Sampliner with the idea of creating the Independent News Company, a publishing house with its own distribution system. As a publisher, Donenfeld had managed to dodge creditors and break deals, but as a distributor, he came to rely more on Liebowitz to ensure that the company ran smoothly. Liebowitz ensured bills were paid on time and began to build a trust with clients that Donenfeld's enterprises had never experienced.
In 1935, Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson came to Independent News seeking a new distributor for the comic book projects his company, National Allied Publications, was producing. Although comic books were not Donenfeld's main field, he took on Wheeler-Nicholson, and Independent News began printing and distributing comic books. Wheeler-Nicholson brought out two comics, New Fun and New Comics — the former of historical note as the first modern comic book with all-original material, as opposed to newspaper-comic reprints with occasional, tangential new material — but it would be his third publication, Detective Comics, that would prove key. Already in considerable debt with Independent, Wheeler-Nicholson could only fund publication of Detective Comics by creating a subsidiary company — Detective Comics Incorporated — in partnership with Liebowitz.
In 1938, Donenfeld managed to remove Wheeler-Nicholson from the equation, pushing Detective Comics, Inc. into bankruptcy and buying its assets. As part of the bankruptcy action, Liebowitz — now sole owner of Detective Comics Inc. — bought up Wheeler-Nicholson's National Allied Publications, and Donenfeld and Liebowitz assumed control over the entire, growing comic-book publisher.
Liebowitz, now in control of the fledgling company, devised the title for what was to become National/DC's most important comic book: Action Comics. He asked editor Vin Sullivan to find material to fill the new title, and Sullivan, Liebowitz and Sheldon Mayer ultimately created comics history and kickstarted what historians and fans call the Golden Age of Comic Books by selecting writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster's character Superman to star in the new title.
In the late 1930s, Max Gaines, who had past experience as a comic book publisher, approached Donenfeld for finances and distribution to set up his own publishing company. Donenfeld agreed, on the condition that Gaines take Liebowitz on as partner. Donenfeld arranged this not only to reward Liebowitz for his work with Independent News, but also as a hook to keep Liebowitz with the company and to ensure Gaines would not act outside the interests of Donenfeld's business. By the end of 1938, Gaines and Liebowitz were principal and minority owner, respectively, of All-American Publications, an independent sister-company to National/DC.
In 1945/46, Gaines left All-American to found his own company — initially called Educational Comics, later known as EC — allowing Liebowitz to buy his interest in the company. Liebowitz promptly merged All-American with DC/National, and he and Donenfeld continued publishing the best of both companies' titles.
As the years went by, Liebowitz stayed at the forefront of new technologies and entertainment media, helping oversee Superman's transition to movie serials starring Kirk Alyn; to radio; and to theatrical animated shorts. Comics historian Gerard Jones described Liebowitz as the only comics publisher who "made any real effort to make the new medium [Television] work for him" when in 1951 producer Whitney Ellsworth brought the syndicated series Adventures of Superman to television.
DC Comics went public in 1961, and became officially known as National Periodical Publications with Liebowitz remaining president of what was by then America's foremost comics publisher. Six years later, Kinney National Services acquired the company; the following year, Kinney also bought Warner Bros. to form Warner Communications.
Liebowitz continued to be an active member of the Warner Communications board, visiting his office daily even into his 91st year, finally relinquishing his place in 1991.
In the 1950s the comics industry suffered a massive shrink in sales, credited by many to the newly introduced Comics Code Authority, which banned publications that printed scenes of what was described as of a horrific, violent or sexual nature. This not only affected the popular horror and crime comics, but even the teen romance market. Liebowitz, who had pushed for a moral code in his own publications earlier in his career, was made vice-president of the organization under John Goldwater, and unsurprisingly was least affected by the new code, as his own comics were in-line with the code before it was introduced.
In 1956 the comics market had shrunk by fifty percent compared to its early 1950 levels. When the American News Company was found guilty of restraint of trade in 1957 it was forced to divest itself of its newsstands. This caused George Delacorte of Dell Comics to a find a new distributor, and this in turn spelled the end of American News. Of those companies that had survived the early 1950s only half remained after the loss of such a large distributor. Liebowitz made three notable distribution acquisitions during this turmoil. The first was Martin Goodman's publishing company (whose staff would later form Marvel Comics), Bill Gaines's Mad magazine and Hugh Hefner's Playboy.
A founding trustee of the Long Island Jewish Hospital (renamed North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System), Liebowitz served on the board for over 50 years, beginning 1949, acting as honorary chairman, and was also the medical center's second president, from 1956 to 1968. In addition, he was a trustee of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies in New York.
Liebowitz died December 11, 2000, survived by his second wife, Shirley (his first wife, Rose, died in 1956), his two daughters, Linda and Joan, his stepson Robert, and his great grandchildren Eliana, Alex, Josh, Ben, Leo, Harry, and Ariana. Liebowitz's niece Carole was married for many years to Harry Donenfeld's son, Irwin, a long-time DC executive (and co-owner).
Action Comics #1 (cover dated June 1938) is the first issue of the original run of the comic book/magazine series Action Comics. It features the first appearance of several comic book heroes—most notably the Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster creation, Superman—and sold for 10 cents (equivalent to $2 in 2018). It is widely considered to be both the beginning of the superhero genre and the most valuable comic book in the world. Action Comics would go on to run for 904 numbered issues (plus additional out-of-sequence special issues) before it restarted its numbering in the fall of 2011. It returned to its original numbering with issue #957, published on June 8, 2016 (cover-dated August) and reached its 1,000th issue in 2018.
On August 24, 2014, a copy graded 9.0 by CGC was sold on eBay for US$3,207,852. It is the only comic book to have sold for more than $3 million for a single original copy.All-American Publications
All-American Publications is one of three American comic book companies that merged to form the modern day DC Comics, one of two largest publishers of comic books in the United States. Superheroes created for All-American include the original Atom, Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, and Wonder Woman, all in the 1940s' Golden Age of Comic Books.Boy Commandos
Boy Commandos was a 1940s comic book series created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby for DC Comics. A combination of "kid gang" comics and war comics, the title starred an international cast of young boys fighting Nazis — or in their own parlance, "the Ratzies".Fifty Who Made DC Great
Fifty Who Made DC Great is a one shot published by DC Comics to commemorate the company's 50th anniversary in 1985. It was published in comic book format but contained text articles with photographs and background caricatures.Harry Donenfeld
Harry Donenfeld (; October 17, 1893 – February 1, 1965) was an American publisher who is known primarily for being the owner of National Allied Publications, which distributed Detective Comics and Action Comics, the originator publications for the superhero characters Superman and Batman. Donenfeld was also a founder of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.Independent News
Independent News Co. was a magazine and comic book distribution business owned by National Periodical Publications, the parent company of DC Comics. Independent News distributed all DC publications, as well as those of a few rival publishers, such as Marvel Comics from 1957 to 1969, in addition to pulp and popular magazines. The company was founded in 1932 and operated until c. 1970.Ira Schnapp
Ira Schnapp (October 10, 1894 – July 24, 1969) was a logo designer and letterer who brought his classic and art deco design styles to DC Comics (then National Comics) beginning with the redesign of the Superman logo in 1940. He did a great deal of logo and lettering work for the company in the 1940s. Around 1949, he joined the staff as their in-house logo, cover lettering and house-ad designer and letterer, and continued in that role until about 1967.Irwin Donenfeld
Irwin Donenfeld (March 1, 1926 – November 29, 2004) was an American comic book publishing executive for DC Comics. Donenfeld co-owned the firm from 1948 to 1967, holding the positions of Editorial Director (1952–1957) and Executive Vice President (1958 – c. 1968). He was the son of Harry Donenfeld, co-founder of the company.Jerry Siegel
Jerome Siegel (; October 17, 1914 – January 28, 1996), who also used pseudonyms including Joe Carter and Jerry Ess, was an American comic book writer. His most famous creation was DC Comics character Superman, which he created in collaboration with his friend Joe Shuster.
He was inducted (with Shuster posthumously) into the comic book industry's Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1993.Joe Shuster
Joseph Shuster (; July 10, 1914 – July 30, 1992) was a Canadian-American comic book artist best known for co-creating the DC Comics character Superman, with writer Jerry Siegel, in Action Comics #1 (cover-dated June 1938).
Shuster was involved in a number of legal battles over ownership of the Superman character. His comic book career after Superman was relatively unsuccessful, and by the mid-1970s Shuster had left the field completely due to partial blindness.
He and Siegel were inducted into both the comic book industry's Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1993. In 2005, the Canadian Comic Book Creator Awards Association instituted the Joe Shuster Awards, named to honor the Canada-born artist.John L. Goldwater
John Leonard Goldwater (born Max Leonard Goldwasser, February 14, 1916 – February 26, 1999) founded (with Maurice Coyne and Louis Silberkleit) MLJ Comics (later known as Archie Comics), and served as editor and co-publisher for many years. In the mid-1950s he was a key proponent and custodian of the comic book censorship guidelines known as the Comics Code Authority.Mainline Publications
Mainline Publications, also called Mainline Comics, was a short-lived, 1950s American comic book publisher established and owned by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon.Marvel Comics
Marvel Comics is the brand name and primary imprint of Marvel Worldwide Inc., formerly Marvel Publishing, Inc. and Marvel Comics Group, a publisher of American comic books and related media. In 2009, The Walt Disney Company acquired Marvel Entertainment, Marvel Worldwide's parent company.
Marvel started in 1939 with the common name for that early Golden Age is Timely Comics, and by the early 1950s, had generally become known as Atlas Comics. The Marvel era began in 1961, the year that the company launched The Fantastic Four and other superhero titles created by Steve Ditko, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and many others. The Marvel brand had been used over the years, but solidified as the company's only brand with in a couple of years.
Marvel counts among its characters such well-known superheroes as Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Captain America, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Wolverine, the Silver Surfer, Daredevil, Ghost Rider, the Punisher and Deadpool, such teams as the Avengers, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, the Midnight Sons and the Guardians of the Galaxy, and supervillains including Thanos, Doctor Doom, Magneto, Ultron, Green Goblin, Red Skull, Loki, Doctor Octopus and Venom. Most of Marvel's fictional characters operate in a single reality known as the Marvel Universe, with most locations mirroring real-life places; many major characters are based in New York City.Max Gaines
Maxwell Charles Gaines (born Max Ginzberg September 21, 1894 – August 20, 1947) was a pioneering figure in the creation of the modern comic book.In 1933, Gaines devised the first four-color, saddle-stitched newsprint pamphlet, a precursor to the color-comics format that became the standard for the American comic book industry. He was co-publisher of All-American Publications, a seminal comic-book company that introduced such enduring fictional characters as Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and Hawkman. He went on to found Educational Comics, producing the series Picture Stories from the Bible. He authored one of the earliest essays on comic books, a 1942 pamphlet titled Narrative Illustration, The Story of the Comics.
After Gaines' death in 1947, Educational Comics was taken over by his son Bill Gaines, who transformed the company (now known as EC Comics) into a pioneer of horror, science fiction, and satirical comics.Old Westbury, New York
Old Westbury is an affluent village in Nassau County, in the U.S. state of New York, on the North Shore of Long Island. As of the 2010 United States Census, the village population was 4,671.
The Incorporated Village of Old Westbury is located in both the Town of Oyster Bay and the Town of North Hempstead.
In 2007, Business Week dubbed Old Westbury as New York's most expensive suburb. Old Westbury Gardens has been recognized as one of the three best public gardens in the world by Four Seasons Hotels magazine.Sky Masters
Sky Masters of the Space Force was an American syndicated newspaper comic strip created on September 8, 1958 by writer Dave Wood and penciler Jack Kirby, featuring the adventures of an American astronaut.Superman
Superman is a fictional superhero created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster. He first appeared in Action Comics #1, a comic book published on April 18, 1938. He appears regularly in American comic books published by DC Comics, and has been adapted to radio shows, newspaper strips, television shows, movies, and video games.
Superman was born on the planet Krypton and named Kal-El. As a baby, he was sent to Earth in a small spaceship by his scientist father Jor-El moments before Krypton was destroyed in a natural cataclysm. His ship landed in the American countryside; he was found and adopted by farmers Jonathan and Martha Kent, who named him Clark Kent. Clark displayed various superhuman abilities, such as incredible strength and impervious skin. His foster parents advised him to use his gifts for the benefit of humanity, and he decided to use his powers to fight crime as a vigilante. To protect his privacy, he changes into a colorful costume and uses the alias "Superman" when fighting crime. Clark Kent resides in the fictional American city of Metropolis, where he works as a journalist for the Daily Planet. Superman's love interest is his fellow journalist Lois Lane, and his classic arch-enemy is the genius inventor Lex Luthor. He is a friend of many other superheroes in the DC Universe, such as Batman and Wonder Woman.
Superman is a cultural icon of the United States. Superman popularized the superhero genre and defined its conventions, and it remains one of the most lucrative superhero franchises.William Moulton Marston
William Moulton Marston (May 9, 1893 – May 2, 1947), also known by the pen name Charles Moulton (), was an American psychologist, inventor of an early prototype of the lie detector, self-help author, and comic book writer who created the character Wonder Woman.Two women, his wife Elizabeth Holloway Marston, and their polyamorous life partner, Olive Byrne, greatly influenced Wonder Woman's creation.He was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2006.