Mort Weisinger

Mortimer "Mort" Weisinger (/ˈwaɪzɪŋər/; April 25, 1915[1] – May 7, 1978)[2] was an American magazine and comic book editor best known for editing DC Comics' Superman during the mid-1950s to 1960s, in the Silver Age of comic books. He also co-created such features as Aquaman, Green Arrow, Johnny Quick, and the original Vigilante, served as story editor for the Adventures of Superman television series, and compiled the often-revised paperback 1001 Valuable Things You Can Get Free.

Mort Weisinger
Mort Weisinger in 1975
Weisinger and DC Comics proofreader Gerda Gattel in 1975.
BornMortimer Weisinger
April 25, 1915
New York City, New York
DiedMay 7, 1978 (aged 63)
Great Neck, New York
NationalityAmerican
Area(s)Writer, Editor
Notable works
Action Comics
Superman
AwardsInkpot Award, 1978
Eisner Award Hall of Fame, 2010

Biography

Early life and SF fandom

Weisinger was born in the Washington Heights section of New York City, New York and was raised in the Bronx, as the son of Austrian Jewish parents. His father was a businessman in the garment trade. At 13, he was introduced to science fiction by means of a borrowed copy of the August 1928 issue of Amazing Stories (featuring Buck Rogers and The Skylark of Space). By 1930, Weisinger was active in some of the earliest SF fan clubs and fanzines, including The Planet. In 1931, Weisinger hosted a meeting of pioneer SF fan club "The Scienceers," which was attended by a young Julius Schwartz, who recalled that the two became "very friendly... [and] got along well together."[3] A year later, Weisinger, Schwartz and Allen Glasser joined fellow-future professional editor Forrest J. Ackerman in founding The Time Traveller, which they styled "Science Fiction's Only Fan Magazine". The claim was more than mere youthful bravado, according to SF historian Sam Moskowitz, who described the 'zine as the first devoted entirely to science fiction. Drawing on information they had gleaned from writing letters to the SF magazines and authors of the day, the young fans published interviews with, and short pieces by, established SF writers, and in the process gained increasing familiarity with the personalities and situations of the genre in that era. The first issue featured "a one-page biography of Edward 'Doc' Smith... [and] some news items."[3]

Early career

After high school, Weisinger attended New York University, where he worked as editor of the college's newspaper and magazine, but left before graduating. With Schwartz, he approached the editor of Amazing Stories (T. Connor Sloane) and "sold his first story": 'The Price of Peace'.[3] In late 1934, Weisinger suggested that he and Schwartz "ought to go into the agency business," noting (according to Schwartz) that the duo had

"...got to know a lot of writers and artists and so on... [Mort explained] 'When a writer writes a story he lives out of town, and he mails it to Amazing Stories. If it's rejected, it has to go all the way back to California. So he sends it to Wonder Stories. Then it goes back and forth, because they send it blind. They don't know what the editor wants. Now we talk to the editors, and he can find out if they want an interplanetary story of about six thousand words, or if they want this or that. Then we can relay this information to the writers. And of course we can become their agents and collect the usual fee of 10%.' "[3]

Schwartz concurred, and they formed the Solar Sales Service ("We always believed in alliteration," noted Schwartz[3]), the first literary agency to specialize in the related genres of SF, horror, and fantasy. Edmond Hamilton was the agency's first client, and Otto Binder soon followed.[3] Solar Sales eventually represented many prominent SF and fantasy writers, including John Russell Fearn, Alfred Bester, Stanley Weinbaum, H. P. Lovecraft, and Ray Bradbury. But while Schwartz continued the agency into the early 1940s, Weisinger moved on; he took a job with the Standard Magazine chain, publisher of a range of pulp magazines. Standard had acquired writer-publisher Hugo Gernsback's defunct Wonder Stories and added it to Standard series of "Thrilling" publications (Thrilling Detective, Thrilling Western, and others). Weisinger became the editor of Thrilling Wonder Stories,[4] and bought stories by Hamilton and others from his former partner Schwartz. Weisinger was soon editing a range of other pulps by Standard, including Startling Stories and Captain Future, and "was in charge of no fewer than 40 titles" by 1940.[4]

National Periodical Publications (DC Comics)

Army service

In March 1941, Weisinger moved from Standard Magazines to National Periodicals (later DC Comics) primarily as editor of the Superman and Batman titles.[4] Among his earliest jobs, however, was the task of "dream[ing] up some new characters" - these resulted in the line-up of More Fun Comics #73, and took the form of Aquaman, Green Arrow, Johnny Quick and Vigilante.[4] Weisinger's fledgling career was soon interrupted when he was conscripted in 1942,[5] and he served as a sergeant in Special Services. Stationed at Yale (and rooming with Broderick Crawford and William Holden), he wrote scripts for a U.S. Army "radio show called 'I Sustain the Wings' " in New York City.[4]

He met and married (Sept. 27, 1943) his wife, the former Thelma Rudnick. They would have two children, a daughter, Joyce, and son, Hendrie.

Superman innovations

Adventure296
Adventure Comics #296 (May 1962). Editor Weisinger's Superman and Superboy stories often featured outlandish situations. Cover art by Curt Swan, inks by George Klein.

Weisinger returned to his job at National after his discharge from military service in 1946, and resumed his editorship of the Superman comics, the Batman titles and others. His tenure was marked by the introduction of a variety of new concepts and supporting characters, including Supergirl, Krypto the Super Dog, the Phantom Zone, the bottle city of Kandor, the Legion of Super-Heroes, and a variety of types of kryptonite. Attempting to rationalize Superman's powers, it was under Weisinger's watch that the "concept that in a world circling a yellow sun [as opposed to Krypton's red sun] his [Superman's] powers are multiplied" came to be introduced to the Superman mythology.[4] Realising that "Batman was my favorite [character]," Weisinger realised that the crucial difference was that "Batman can get hurt."[4] In order to better allow the reader to identify with the invulnerable Man of Steel, Weisinger frequently featured stories in which "Superman lost his powers and had to survive on his natural wits."[4] Pitted against Superman's wits was Lois Lane, and under Weisinger's editorship stories in which she sought to prove that Superman was Clark Kent abounded. Weisinger "enjoyed surprising the readers," and to that end introduced a number of "live personalities... real people" into the comics, including Candid Camera's Alan Funt, This is Your Life's Ralph Edwards, Steve Allen, Ann Blyth and Pat Boone among others.[4] Weisinger was particularly "proud of having dreamed up the "imaginary story" gimmick to motivate otherwise impossible stories," (non-canonical 'what if...?' scenarios not bound to series or character continuity, timeframe or logic), and for "having conceived the idea of DC's first giant anthology - The Superman Annual."[4]

The Adventures of Superman

Weisinger "eventually gave up editorship of Batman and many of the other magazines and concentrated on the #1 superhero," both in the comics and elsewhere.[4] In the early 1950s, he was "called out to California by Whitney Ellsworth . . . to work as story editor for the Superman TV series."[4] Weisinger recalled in 1975 about this experience that

On the way out to the coast, we sat in a roomette on a train with a tape recorder and plotted about fifteen stories for the series. I met George Reeves, the actor who played Superman and was one helluva nice guy — very, very unaffected. The amazing thing was that when you met Reeves you said, 'My lord, it's Clark Kent!' It was like seeing Clark step out of the comic pages into three dimensions.[4]

Through Weisinger's previous "experience with television," Reeves landed "a guest star spot, "Big Red S" and all, on the I Love Lucy show."[4]

Weisinger's influences on up-and-coming writers in SF and comics also extended, by these means, to television. Jackson Gillis was shepherded from his work on The Adventures of Superman to Perry Mason and Columbo (alongside many, many other credits).[4] Weisinger also highlights David Chantler, William Woolfolk and Leigh Brackett as "examples of proteges and associates who have surpassed him in term of success."[4]

Superman editorship

Many of Weisinger's ideas came from talking to kids in his neighborhood, asking them what they wanted to see, and then attempting to riff on those ideas. Such talks inspired him to create the Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen spin-off titles "over a lot of opposition" from the management who "protested that the characters weren't strong enough."[4] Weisinger later bought a story from Jim Shooter while unaware of the writer's age,[6] and hiring him for a popular run on "The Legion of Super-Heroes" even after discovering that he was only 14 years old.

Weisinger encouraged a static picture book style of illustration in his stories, and was known for reusing previously published stories as new story ideas. A noted example of this is a 1950s story featuring Superman encountering an alien being he thought might have been his long-lost brother; this was reused in the early 1960s as a Superboy story introducing Mon-El.[7]

Over time, Weisinger found himself growing disenchanted, and even embarrassed to reveal his primary job, saying "When people asked me what I did for a living, I would suppress the fact that I was editing Superman. I'd tell people that I wrote for Collier's or The Saturday Evening Post."[4] He recalls that he attempted to get himself removed from his editorial position by "asking for bigger and bigger raises," but instead found his demands met - even to the extent that he was given "generous stock options" and "made a vice president of public relations for the company."[4] He did eventually leave, and bought himself a white Cadillac to "bolster my ego."[4]

Style and criticism

Weisinger was criticized by some for having a micromanaging attitude and a heavy-handed, overbearing treatment of his writers and artists. He was well known for his abusive treatment of the DC employees. Indeed, his son also confirms he was abusive to restaurant waiters as well.[8][9][10] Criticism has also been leveled at Weisinger for quashing creativity by dictating storylines. Jim Shooter, who wrote for years under his editorship, praised Weisinger's "rules" for writing comics but criticized his rigid adherence to them: ". . . Mort’s rules always worked, story-mechanics-wise. Easy, idiot-proof, safe. Trying things that explored the frontiers beyond the confines of Mort’s rules was tricky—fraught with opportunities to fail—but if you were daring, if you had the necessary depth of understanding and the skills, you could do wonderful things."[emphasis in original][11] Weisinger has commented, "People have always accused me of being an egomaniac as an editor because I always gave the writers my own plots. I did that for a reason. If I asked a writer to bring in his own plots, and he spent a weekend on four of them, and I didn't like any of the four, then he's wasted a whole weekend. . . . . The least I could do was to think of a plot for the writer and if he liked it — I'd never force it down his throat — we'd kick it around and evolve a story."[4]

One concept Weisinger brought to comics from the pulps was creating a story "around a pre-drawn cover," a concept taken up across the industry, most notably by colleague Julius Schwartz.[4] During Weisinger's reign, the Superman comics maintained a reasonably tight internal continuity, but related little to the rest of the DC Universe. Weisinger was succeeded in 1970 by his childhood friend and longtime colleague Julius Schwartz. Weisinger was later immortalized within the Superman comics "as a bust in Clark Kent's apartment."[4]

Articles and books

In addition to his SF agency and extensive editorial work for DC Comics, Weisinger found time - particularly after his retirement from DC - to write a considerable number of articles for a wide variety of magazines. Weisinger was reported, in 1975, as having "had articles in The Journal of the AMA, Reader's Digest, Collier's, The Saturday Evening Post... [and] Parade."[4] His articles ranged from one on the Comics Code for Better Homes and Gardens to an article entitled "How Ralph Edwards Fools 'Em" for which he "accompanied Edwards on several This is Your Life escapades to get the story of how the clever impresario suckered the celebrities whom he was to honor on his popular '50s show."[4]

Weisinger had a particular interest in Beauty contests, writing an article for Parade on "why certain finalists in the Miss America pageant can never win the crown," as well as a "best-selling novel" entitled The Contest (published in hardback by World, and in paperback by New American Library).[4] Weisinger had once been a "judge in a preliminary Miss America contest," through which he "learned the inside story," later travelling to Europe with the then-"world-famous host of the real-life contest," a friend of Weisinger's at the time who refused to talk to him again after reading the resulting novel.[4] For the author, however, The Contest netted a $125,000 movie option and "printings in several foreign languages."[4]

Weisinger's best known book was "a compendium of freebies available to anyone" entitled 1001 Valuable Things You Can Get For Free, first published in 1955 and which (as of 1975) had "gone through 41 paperback printings and sold over three million copies."[4] Weisinger's book was praised by Abbie Hoffman in Steal This Book, and earned its author a place in "Who's Who".[4]

Later life

Weisinger lived for much of his life in Great Neck, New York, and stayed there until his death from a heart attack. In 1985, he was posthumously named as one of the honorees by DC Comics in the company's 50th anniversary publication Fifty Who Made DC Great.[12]

Notes

  1. ^ "Social Security Death Index". Ssdi.rootsweb.com. 2010-07-15. Retrieved 2010-12-26.
  2. ^ "Biographies," Legion of Super-Heroes Archive, vol. 8 (DC Comics, 1998), ISBN 1-56389-430-0, p. 242.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Peel, John, "Julius Schwartz," in Comics Feature (NMP, July/Aug, 1984), pp. 32-41
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad Lillian III, Guy H., "Mort Weisinger: The Man Who Wouldn't Be Superman," in The Amazing World of DC Comics #7 (July 1975), pp. 2-8
  5. ^ https://aad.archives.gov/aad/record-detail.jsp?dt=893&mtch=1&cat=all&tf=F&q=Mortimer+Weisinger&bc=&rpp=10&pg=1&rid=3011168
  6. ^ Jim Shooter interview, Silver Age Sage (2008). Accessed Apr. 20, 2009.
  7. ^ Superboy #89 (1961)
  8. ^ Hendrie Weisinger Facebook quote
  9. ^ Curt Swan, quoted in Zeno, Eddy. Curt Swan: A Life in Comics (Vanguard, 2001): "I was getting terrible migraine headaches and had these verbal battles with Mort. So it was emotional, physical. It just drained me and I thought I'd better get out of here before I go whacko." Zeno notes, "The headaches went away after [Swan] gained Weisinger's respect by standing up to him."
  10. ^ Shooter, Jim, quoted in "The Silver Age Sage: Interview with Jim Shooter, part 2" by BDS, on Weisinger's treatment of his assistant editor E. Nelson Bridwell: "Boy, he tortured Nelson. He just was awful to Nelson." Retrieved July 16, 2008.
  11. ^ Vaughn, J. C. (June 2009). "Jim Shooter's First Day at Marvel Comics". Back Issue!. TwoMorrows Publishing (34): 14.
  12. ^ Marx, Barry, Cavalieri, Joey and Hill, Thomas (w), Petruccio, Steven (a), Marx, Barry (ed). "Mort Weisinger The Superman Legend Grows" Fifty Who Made DC Great: 23 (1985), DC Comics

References

  • Moskowitz, Sam. Seekers of Tomorrow: Masters of Modern Science Fiction. World Publishing, Cleveland, Ohio, 1996. Ballantine Books, New York, 1967; pp. 107–22.
  • Schwartz, Julius, with Brian M. Thomsen. Man of Two Worlds: My Life in Science Fiction and Comics. HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2000.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes Archive, Volume 8 (DC Comics, 1998, ISBN 1-56389-430-0), p. 242, "Biographies".
1941 in comics

Notable events of 1941 in comics. See also List of years in comics.

Air Wave

Air Wave is the name of three fictional superheroes in the DC Comics universe. The first two were active in the Golden Age of Comic Books (albeit the second Air Wave had one appearance). The third appears in comics as of the 21st century.

Arrowcar

The Arrowcar (or Arrow-Car) is a specially designed arrow-shaped automobile used by the DC Comics superhero Green Arrow and his sidekick Speedy. The Arrow-Car debuted in More Fun Comics #73 (November 1941), and was created by Mort Weisinger and George Papp.

Captain Future

Captain Future is a science fiction hero – a space-traveling scientist and adventurer – originally published in a namesake pulp magazine from 1940 to 1951. The character was created by editor Mort Weisinger and principally authored by Edmond Hamilton. There have subsequently been a number of adaptations and derivative works. Most significant was a 1978-79 Japanese anime (キャプテン・フューチャー), which was dubbed into several languages and proved very popular, particularly in Spanish, French, German and Arabic.

Controllers (DC Comics)

The Controllers are a fictional extraterrestrial race existing in the DC Universe. They first appear in Adventure Comics #357 (June 1967), and were created by Jim Shooter, Mort Weisinger, and Curt Swan.

Dan the Dyna-Mite

Dan the Dyna-Mite is a fictional character, a teen-aged superhero published by DC Comics. He was the young sidekick to the character TNT, and was created by Mort Weisinger and Hal Sharp in 1942. TNT and Dyna-Mite made their debut in World's Finest Comics #5, and starred in Star-Spangled Comics #7-23.

Dummy (DC Comics)

Dummy is the name of two fictional supervillains in DC Comics.

Glorith

Glorith of Baaldur is a fictional character appearing in stories published by DC Comics. Her primary foe is the 30th century team known as the Legion of Super-Heroes, and she was a major presence in Volume 4 of the Legion of Super-Heroes title -- during the "Five Years Later" era of Legion continuity. Originally a minor villain who made one appearance in the 1960s, Glorith became a central figure in DC's attempts to repair the continuity problems created when it removed the original Superboy from continuity following the Crisis on Infinite Earths miniseries.

Johnny Quick (Johnny Chambers)

Johnny Quick is a Golden Age DC Comics character with the power of superhuman speed. He was a superhero who appeared mostly in More Fun Comics during the Golden Age. In the 1980s Johnny Quick's adventures were reconnected into the reality of DC Comics' Earth-Two; this was done in the pages of the comic book the All-Star Squadron.

Rond Vidar

Rond Vidar is a fictional superhero published by DC Comics. He first appeared in Adventure Comics #349 (October 1966), and was created by Jim Shooter, Mort Weisinger and Curt Swan. An Earthling from the 30th century, he is the final member of the Green Lantern Corps—an intergalactic police force—who interacts with the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Sandy Hawkins

Sanderson "Sandy" Hawkins, formerly known as Sandy the Golden Boy, Sands, Sand and eventual successor of his mentor Wesley Dodds as Sandman, is a fictional character and a superhero in the DC Comics universe. Created by writer Mort Weisinger and artist Paul Norris, he first appeared in Adventure Comics #69. After being unutilized for several years, he was reintroduced by writers David S. Goyer and Geoff Johns in the comic JSA in the late 1990s and with a greatly expanded set of powers and responsibilities. He eventually became a new version of his former mentor, donning the identity and costume of Sandman.

Seven Soldiers of Victory

The Seven Soldiers of Victory (also known as Law's Legionnaires) is a team of fictional comic book superheroes in the DC Comics universe. They first appeared in Leading Comics #1 (Winter 1941), and were created by Mort Weisinger and Mort Meskin. The team was a short-lived assembly of some of the less famous superheroes in the DC Universe who have made occasional appearances since their Golden Age debut.

Starman (Ted Knight)

Starman (Theodore Henry "Ted" Knight) is a fictional superhero in the DC Comics Universe, and a member of the Justice Society of America. Created by writer Gardner Fox and artist Jack Burnley, he first appeared in Adventure Comics #61 (April 1941).

Strange Stories

Strange Stories was a pulp magazine which ran for thirteen issues from 1939 to 1941. It was edited by Mort Weisinger, who was not credited. Contributors included Robert Bloch, Eric Frank Russell, C. L. Moore, August Derleth, and Henry Kuttner. Strange Stories was a competitor to the established leader in weird fiction, Weird Tales. With the launch, also in 1939, of the well-received Unknown, Strange Stories was unable to compete. It ceased publication in 1941 when Weisinger left to edit Superman comic books.

Stuff the Chinatown Kid

Stuff, the Chinatown Kid is a DC Comics fictional character, and sidekick to the original Vigilante. He first appeared in Action Comics #45 (February 1942).

TNT (comics)

TNT is a DC Comics superhero from the 1940s. TNT and his side-kick Dan the Dyna-Mite were created by Mort Weisinger for DC Comics, and made their debut in Star-Spangled Comics #7 (April 1942)

The "human hand grenades" had a short lived career during the Golden Age of Comic Books, reappearing occasionally in reprint form during the seventies, returning in Super Friends # 12, and appearing from time to time in All-Star Squadron and its Post-Crisis sequel, Young All-Stars.

Tarantula (DC Comics)

The Tarantula is the name of two fictional comic book characters owned by DC Comics that exist in that company's DC Universe.

Tornado Twins

The Tornado Twins are superheroes in the DC Comics Universe. The twins are Don Allen and Dawn Allen, the children of Barry Allen (the second Flash) and Iris West-Allen. They first appeared in Adventure Comics #373 (October 1968).

Validus

Validus is a fictional DC Comics supervillain, an enemy of the Legion of Super-Heroes and a member of The Fatal Five.

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