Read Alex Grand’s Understanding Superhero Comic Books published by McFarland Books in 2023 with Foreword by Jim Steranko with editorial reviews by comic book professionals, Jim Shooter, Tom Palmer, Tom DeFalco, Danny Fingeroth, Alex Segura, Carl Potts, Guy Dorian Sr. and more.
In the meantime enjoy the show:
Alex Grand and co-host Jim Thompson interview Barbara Friedlander, 1960s Writer and Associate Editor of DC Comics where she discusses her humble beginnings at the subscription service, and working her way up as a Romance & Humor Comics freelancer and eventual associate editor working with figures such as Jack Miller, E Nelson Bridwell, Joe Orlando, Carmine Infantino, Jack Schiff, Mort Weisinger, Julius Schwartz, Jack Liebowitz, Irwin Donnenfeld and others, discussing the Kinney buyout of DC in 1967/68, and learning editing tips from Sheldon Mayer, and her writing stories for artists like Jay Scott Pike, Tony Abruzzo, Alex Toth and others.
Was the 1960s DC Bullpen like the TV show, MAD MEN?
Short Answer: Yes!
🎬 Edited & Produced by Alex Grand. Thumbnail Artwork, CBH Podcast ©2021 Comic
Images used in artwork ©Their Respective Copyright holders. Music ©Lost European
📜 Video chapters
00:00:00 Welcoming Barbara Friedlander, 60s Romance Comic Editor & Writer
00:00:23 Early years of Barbara Friedlander
00:01:15 Archie Comics: Katy Keene & Brenda Starr-Reporter
00:01:46 Millie the Model, Comic book series
00:02:22 Mad Mad Modes for Moderns, Tony Abruzzo
00:03:54 How long did you go to Hunter College
00:04:50 Clerical job, duties, Arthur Gutowitz
00:06:21 Gutowitz, Jack Holder’s Comic Anthology
00:07:52 1960s DC Bullpen like MAD MEN? | Irwin Donenfeld
00:09:12 While working at subscription service
00:10:52 Superman, Schuster and Siegel
00:12:36 E. Nelson Bridwell, Mort Weisinger, Bill Finger
00:13:18 Jack Miller, Joe Orlando, Inferior Five
00:18:32 Interaction with Jack Liebowitz & Irwin Donenfeld
00:22:24 What was the sensibility in relation to Marvel at that time?
00:24:00 About the picture of you drawn by Joe Orlando
00:26:17 Learning editing tips from Sheldon Mayer
00:28:23 What was your impression of Saul Harrison?
00:31:07 Julius Schwartz and Mort Weisinger
00:32:31 Jack Schiff
00:33:45 Ira Schnapp
00:35:11 Arnold Drake
00:37:38 What did you learn from Jack Miller?
00:39:51 Rescripting for Comics Code
00:40:44 Tony Abrazo
00:41:29 My pen names, filler material, Sol Harrison
00:44:18 Ross Andru and Mike Esposito – Up Your Nose and Out Your Ear
00:46:23 Carmine Infantino
00:49:34 Death of Jack Miller, Funeral
00:52:12 Working with Joe Orlando | Trip to Haiti
00:55:05 Why did the romance comics end in the early 70s
00:57:07 Kinney buyout of DC in 1967/68
01:00:15 Bob Kanigher, Bob Kane
01:02:54 Alex Toth’s “20 Miles to Heartbreak”
01:06:46 Did you met Alex Toth?
01:07:29 When you left DC?
01:07:41 Mad Mad Modes for Moderns
01:08:52 You can be beautiful
01:09:59 You are so authentic
01:11:07 Interest in older man theme
01:12:21 To You… from Carol Andrews
01:13:31 Scooter talk
01:15:48 Humor books at DC
01:17:43 Leave it to Binky, Comic book series
01:18:06 Swing with Scooter
01:21:25 Is there any character based on real-life?
01:22:54 Whose idea was it to have batman appear in Justice League
01:22:41 Why did you left DC?
01:24:50 Dealing with Antiques
01:26:39 Who are the people that help bring you back into circulation?
01:28:46 Roy Thomas, Mary Fleener
01:30:12 Jack Hayes
01:30:59 Books devoted to girls and horses in England
01:32:03 Wrapping up
#BarbaraFriedlander #DCComics #ComicBookHistorians #BullPen #MadMan
#RomanceComics #HumoComics #MarvelComics #ComicHistorian #CBHInterviews
Transcript (editing in progress):
Alex: Welcome back to the Comic Book Historians Podcast, with Alex Grand and Jim Thompson. Today we have a very special guest, Mrs. Barbara Friedlander, who was a romance comics editor, and writer of DC Comics back in the 1960s. Barbara, thanks so much for joining us today.
Friedlander: My pleasure. It really is.
Alex: Jim’s going to start with your early years. I’ll follow up with some romance stuff, he’ll go to some humor stuff, and Jim, go ahead and start it off.
Jim: What we like to do is start with your upbringing and your beginnings, and where you were born, your parents, and that kind of stuff. So, let’s start there.
Friedlander: I was born in 1945, in New York. I went to all New York schools, and I grew up with the city in my blood. I just love New York City… When my dad passed away, I went to Hunter College at night because I needed something to do, and I needed a job. So, I went up to DC and I got a clerical job.
From the beginning, they didn’t know what to do with me, honestly. Because I really…
Jim: Okay, can we back up? Just for a moment, before we get to the subscription job. Can we talk about your early – as a kid, were you reading comics?… A little bit about your comic background.
Friedlander: Yeah. I loved Archie. When dad used to bring home the newspaper, I loved Brenda Star. She was like my favorite, glamorous. Katy Keene, I loved. All those kinds of things that, where they didn’t fly; I loved it.
Jim: Now, did you read the romance stuff that (Joe) Simon and (Jack) Kirby were doing?
Friedlander: No. I didn’t. I don’t know why I didn’t, but it did not appeal to me. I was not that into that kind of thing yet.
Jim: But you were reading Millie the Model, and that kind of stuff.
Friedlander: Oh god, I loved Millie, yes. [chuckle] Yes… I loved her.
Jim: That’s what I wanted to hear.
Friedlander: I loved that stuff. That was just wonderful stuff, and they always had a happy ending. Millie was so smart and Chili was so mean. Yeah, I loved that.
Jim: Let’s talk about the fashion aspect of it for a second too. Because they had the pin-ups and things like that. And that became… Well your books weren’t doing pin-ups, necessarily. But they were doing those fashion designs pages that I loved so much.
Friedlander: I’m glad you did. Because I loved doing them. There was Mad Mad Mode for Moderns, and romance in fashion. And I did all the words myself to each fashion, but Tony Abruzzo, who was involved with fashion in his younger years, drew them for me.
I love Tony’s work. He was always on time. He was excellent, at whatever he did. His women were beautiful, his interpretations were great. So, I really like working with him.
Jim: Were they inspired, to some degree, by those early pin-up pages in the Katy Keene and that kind of stuff?
Friedlander: Probably, yes, but I consider myself sort of a girlie girl, I shouldn’t say that but back then, I was more interested in feminine things. And probably, that’s why I didn’t read superheroes. My cousins read them and when we went up to the country, we used to have sales of comic books, and mine were all the Katy Keene ones and Binkys, and stuff like that, and they sold their superheroes, on the road. Instead of a lemonade stand, [chuckle] we had that.
Jim: You’re at college, and how long did you go to Hunter College?
Friedlander: I went to Hunter College for about a year and a half, because I had started, basically, in the summer. I am trying to find my way. I took a writing course at Hunter, and so, I had to hand in stuff, from time to time. Nothing in that field really came easy to me, because I never thought I’d be in comic books, in any aspect, of the whole creative thing.
So, when I took my job in the clerical department, I felt that’s where I belonged. Nobody else did, but that’s where I belonged, for me.
Jim: Now, your direct superior, was that Arthur Gutowitz?
Friedlander: Arthur Gutowitz, was in the clerical.
He was the head. Everybody else was women around him. There was Irwin Donenfeld’s secretary. There was Gertha Gatell who was like the heart and soul of everything. She knew everyone and everything, and Frida Sacco I mean, they were all there.
Jim: You all were the same age or were you younger?
Friedlander: No, I was… That’s why they didn’t know what to make of me, because I was younger. I was like, I think, 19… Yes, I was 19.
Jim: Oh, that’s right. You were 19 when you started there.
Friedlander: Right. So, all I was interested in was getting a paycheck, going home, doing my homework, that kind of thing. And occasionally dating. That was my life at the time.
Jim: What were your job duties when you started there?
Friedlander: I took subscriptions. Arthur Gutowitz used to give me dictation, and I hated it because I didn’t know the grid method or any method. I did the scribble method. And I would say, “Can’t you talk slower?” to him because he would speed up. And I did a lot of filing. I mean, I was a file clerk, a glorified files clerk, in that respect.
Jim: I had read that Gutowitz said to you at one point that this wasn’t where you belonged, that you needed to go get married. Is that true?
Friedlander: It’s absolutely true. He was a lovely, lovely man. And he said to me, “Barbara, you could be doing so much more than filing these things. Why don’t you go where you can meet somebody and do stuff?” I was a little bit shell shocked at that time.
Of course, I wanted a boyfriend, and of course I wanted to get married. My mother kept telling me, “Better get married.” So, that was always in the background; that was background music in my life [chuckle]… Get married… As a matter of fact, I just wrote a story for… Now, I’m not going to be able to remember this… Jack Holder. Do you know Jack Holder?
Jim: No, I don’t.
Friedlander: He’s putting together a comic anthology, and he asked me to write a story on any subject that I wanted. So, I wrote about what it was like to be at DC during the age when women were still secretaries, and things of that nature. And that’s exactly what I did. I don’t know when it’s coming out but it’ll be out soon.
Jim: Oh, that should be interesting. I would like to read that.
Alex: Now, some fans kind of imagined that in the ‘60s, to be a woman working in comics… They throw the TV show Mad Men, as an example of what it may have been like. Have you seen that show? And would you say that’s correct?
Friedlander: One of my favorites. I binge watched it… Yes, that is so correct. It really is. Men… Well you probably heard this because I’ve told this story many times. Irwin Donenfeld was the Vice President, he did hiring and firing, mostly. When I became editor, I wanted to get more money, so I said, “Could I have a raise?”
He said, “Barbara, you live with your mother, you don’t have any expenses. [chuckle]” After a while, you’re so used to being talked down to, that you absolutely go along because I didn’t have anyone to support, or anything. And he wouldn’t give me the raise. He gave a raise in my rate for writing, but that didn’t amount to anything… I was shell shocked. I really was. And I knew he liked me so I don’t know why he did that. But yes…
Jim: While you were working in clerical and stuff, in terms of subscriptions, did you get to kind of know what people were interested in? Was there a discussion about the kinds of books that were being published and what was popular, and so forth?
Friedlander: Yes, and I dealt with a lot of loose change, coming out of those envelopes. Mostly, the Superman, Batman variety of books, that’s all they wanted. Nobody wanted anything else. It was very clear that… Also, an interesting thing is, mostly people from prison wanted Superman and Batman, and things of that nature. Which I’ve said before, in other interviews, but the first time I saw that, I was really shocked… You know, from institutions…
That I was really shocked, but I’m glad they were reading something. I really mean it. They obviously had to put together all their…
Jim: That’s fascinating.
Jim: Was in the military too or just the prison institutions?
Friedlander: Yes. Yes. People, regimented liked Superman and Batman very, very much. The kids who came around for tours of the place, of the bullpen and they were introduced to editors and writers, they were always boys and they always, always were fascinated by Superman and Batman, and creatures of that nature. They love that.
Jim: Speaking of Superman, I’ve read pieces written by you, where you talk about the things that you heard while you were working there in the early days. Stories about (Jerry) Siegel and (Joe) Shuster, or about how Bill Finger was treated, or different stories sort of gossipy, and you’ll say, “Well, someday I’ll tell everything I know about that…” You’re welcome to do that right now, if you’d like to.
Friedlander: Shuster and Siegel walked into this publishing company… Printing. Printing, not publishing… Printing company run by (Jack) Liebowitz and Harry Donenfeld, and they got a… It was during the depression, Siegel and Shuster had a great idea, and no money. And the printing… and that it wasn’t doing anything… They printed Superman, what I heard, that’s how it got started, and it took off like a rocket.
This was stories that people told me. Pat (Patrick) Miller told it to me. I think Bob (Robert) Haney might have told it to me. So, I began to believe that that’s the truth. Why would anybody make up a story like that? And I always saw National (Comics Publication) as a mom-and-pop store because they were a small outfit, they had half of the floor for all the creative people. And either you stepped on somebody’s toes or you stayed in your cubicle, your office. So, I believe my story is correct.
Alex: You also expressed some… There were definitely some people at National that you described as, basically evil.
Friedlander: [chuckle] Well you know who it was.
I saw it first-hand. I shared an office with Nelson Bridwell, E. Nelson Bridwell, and Jack Miller. I was the third person in that office. And when Mort (Weisinger) came in, Mort would torture poor Nelson… For no reason at all, he made him miserable. And the poor man was a sick man to begin with, Nelson. So, he had to take all of that because he loved the character so much. He loved Superman so much, he was like the be-all and end-all of who Superman was, what his weaknesses were… And what happened in the comic book when it first came out, he knew all the origins.
I don’t know why Mort did that, but Mort did that to everybody. He was not a nice person. I remember Bill Finger sitting outside in the waiting room while Mort kept him waiting. He just never… [chuckle] He never showed anybody courtesy. But he was never mean to me, because I really had nothing to do with him.
Jim: Was he disliked there because of his behavior? And why do you think they…
Jim: He was?
Friedlander: Yes. They put up with it because he was very good at what he did. And then I think they realized that Julie (Schwartz) could take it over, or somebody else should come take it over because I think people complained. They don’t complain in front of you, but they might have complained. It just made everybody uncomfortable in that office… You have to see face to face all the time. You would see the artists with these big panels coming out of his office and they were miserable. They really were miserable.
Alex: Yeah. We interviewed his son, and his son put it like… Well, for Mort Weisinger, if the person stood up for themselves then he would then back off after that. But if they didn’t, he kept pushing, and pushing and he tormenting. It was a weird…
Friedlander: Right… Yeah, now, that’s absolutely true. And if you didn’t have that strength to stand up to him, he would, just crushed like a bug.
Jim: Now, apart from him, was everybody else pretty congenial? Who else were difficult people? And this is really on those first years that you’re with, not once you’ve become creative.
Friedlander: During the times that deadlines had to be met, everybody was difficult. Because they all needed to get the work out. So, when a writer came in, he had to do his stuff. They would sit there with an editor, and discussed what they thought or what the editor may have wanted. And they had to get it back, because the artist took his time drawing it. I think, tempers were short around those times because of that.
I remember, Jack Miller used to write for the other side. And he could sit down and do his scripts so quickly and so accurately, it was amazing to me. And he had a background of being a playwright and he directed plays, so he was very focused. Very focused on what he had to do; knew how to hit all the right places. And he would hand in his script and he would go down the hall. Sometimes, he would come back and say, “That guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” But he wrote a lot of stuff.
I recently had lunch with his grandson. At the lunch the… Jack died when Peter was a baby. And so, I had the information that he wanted to know about his grandpa because he heard about it and he told me had gone to see one of the big spectacular movies at DC, and there was his grandpa’s name in the credits.
I think Jack was just… I never knew this. [chuckle] I knew he was writing stuff, but I never he had created stuff. He was modest. He didn’t really tell me… I’m in there, I’m creating something for a book. But I was with him when he and Nelson, and Joe Orlando started the Inferior Five. And that was a wonderful thing to see, how they put that whole thing together, how they created the characters, and Joe’s drawings for them, wonderful. Really wonderful.
Do you remember Inferior Five?
Jim: It’s one of my passwords. I love it so much, but…
Maybe we don’t have to say that.
Friedlander: I can’t believe you said that…
Alex: I’ll put that out for you, Jim.
Friedlander: I should’ve…
Jim: Yes, [chuckle] I love the Inferior Five.
Friedlander: Well, I was there when the baby was being birthed. And it was wonderful to see that talent all coming together… It was like a moment you don’t want to ever forget, because everybody had light bulbs above their heads. [chuckle]
Alex: Wow, that’s awesome.
Jim: We’re going to talk about Orlando a lot because we’re going to get to Scooter, and those first dozen issues or so, because that’s also a real favorite… Just a couple more questions and then we’re going to move to when you make the transition.
In terms of Liebowitz and Donenfeld, as just a person in the subscriptions and clerical, did you have regular interactions with them?
Friedlander: Jack Liebowitz, you saw coming and going. [chuckle] He didn’t really… He wasn’t an interactive guy with anybody, really, that I can remember… I think, Miss Mandelle was his secretary, and she was always on edge when she had to go into his office. I have no idea why, but she always was. Maybe because she was an old-fashioned lady, and this was her boss.
Alex: About him, I think, he’s known as being very cold and calculative, right? And maybe that makes some people nervous, I don’t know.
Friedlander: Yes… I once met him… I went out to dinner… I was dating, I went out to dinner, and this guy took me to a really expensive restaurant, and there was Mr. Liebowitz and his wife… I hope that was his wife…
No, it was his wife…
And I saw them there, and I didn’t say anything, of course. And I doubt if he knew me from his main course. I swear, he didn’t. I don’t think he was aware of the people that were working for him. I think he does…
Jim: Oh, that’s interesting.
Friedlander: If you pardon the expression, I think he was lucky with (Joe) Simon and Siegel… No, Shuster and Siegel, sorry. He really stepped in shit with that, and I think, his life was blessed.
Alex: Yeah, for sure.
Friedlander: He had custom made suits, beautiful.
Alex: Yep, and he lived for 100 years, or something like that. I mean, he was fine all the way to the end. Yes.
Jim: And then what about Donenfeld?
Friedlander: Well, Irwin Donenfeld, was very hands on. He was there a lot. He was in the halls. He was yelling at people, “Get this done!” He was very hands on during… I think he was going to marry somebody, a second or third wife, and he invited everybody to his townhouse, which was done beautifully. He introduced me to his daughter, and I can’t remember her name now. But we used to go out to lunch, occasionally. She was studying law, and she was a lovely girl. You would never know who her father was [chuckle]. I don’t think she was ever interested in anything to do with the comics because she was never… She really wanted to do something different, get out of that whole limelight situation, and she did. She really did.
Alex: And I think the listeners should know that Irwin Donenfeld is the son of Harry Donenfeld who was the guy that help create DC Comics, with (Malcolm) Wheeler-Nicholson and those guys. And Irwin was the son, and you’re saying he was a hands-on guy after his dad stepped out of the picture. That’s cool.
Friedlander: You saw him in his shirt sleeves. I mean he, it seemed like he was… When there were meetings, creative meetings or whatever, everybody piled into his office. That sort of thing. So, I think he was more aware of what was going on than Mr. Liebowitz.
Jim: Just one or two more questions. One, what was the sensibility, in relation to Marvel, at that time? I mean, you were in subscriptions, was there an awareness that they were breathing down your necks heavily?
Friedlander: When you felt that there was a chill in the air, because of Marvel doing so well and DC lost a couple of really good artists and writers, yes, they became afraid. They knew for the first time they had competition. And their competition had a backbone, and had all kinds of neurotic problems in their characters. In other words, they became three dimensional characters. Of course, they had superpowers, but they had to grow Superman into something else. Or else, he was just going to be taken over by all the people. Spider-Man, and all those other people.
And yes, there was a lot of tension. There was also a tremendous amount of attention, within a few years of my being there, they were negotiating to go public, and Warner Bros was going to take them over. Before that, they were Kinney National (Service Inc.) now they were Warner Bros. And when people heard that, they were scared because they didn’t know who was going to stay there, who was going to leave. They were scared, yes.
Jim: Now, as we transition to you moving to creative, and writing and editing… I saw a picture, a drawing by Joe Orlando, of you saying congratulations to you, and it had…
Friedlander: I have it right here. [chuckle]
Jim: And it had… He was painting you, and you’re basically Aphrodite, and you’re mostly naked and his tongue’s hanging out. And there’s this scan of the room, and it’s a bunch of men, and they’re all like looking at you. There’s one woman over in the corner, and…
Friedlander: That’s Gertha… That woman.
Jim: And so, the sensibility of that, it’s so striking today, that would not be received very well. Were you the cute girl in the room that they ogled at, like it looks like in the picture? Or was that meant to be complementary?
Friedlander: If they ogled me, I was so dumb, I wasn’t aware of it. But I was the oddball in the room.
I always felt like I was the odd man, odd woman. And Joe Orlando did not treat me that way. Joe was a really lovely guy, and oddly enough, he was married to a friend of my sister. We had gone to high school together. So, when I found that out, we became a little bit closer because he was just a lovely person. They were all lovely persons, most of them, especially the creative… They were all creative. Come on, they were all creative.
Alex: Right. So, you took that more as almost like a satire, and a compliment… or good nature…
Friedlander: I was so happy.
Alex: You’re happy, yeah.
Friedlander: Oh, I loved it. Today, my daughter looks at it, and she says, “Aren’t you embarrassed?”
I say, “No.” Because I know the nature of the beast. Why should I, you know? I love it. I’m looking at it over there, hanging up.
Alex: That’s awesome. And also, you were also kind of being promoted, I mean, it was all just kind of… Some good vibes going on, it sounds like. That’s probably one of the things you’re encountering as you moved up, right? Something like that.
Friedlander: Yes. But I will tell you, do you know who Sheldon Mayer is?
Alex: Yeah, sure.
Friedlander: Irwin sent me up to Sheldon Mayer, to learn comic books, from him.
Alex: And editing, and things. Yeah.
Friedlander: Because he wanted… He should have said, “Barbara, I had better things for you to do. I want you to do this.” But he just didn’t do that, what he did was like telling me, “Go with your mother.” And my mother and I got on the train, and I had to drag my mother kicking and screaming, “Why are we doing this?… Why aren’t you married?” She would say. And I spent the weekend with Sheldon and he showed me his…
I didn’t mention Sugar and Spike, but I loved that, Sugar and Spike. That was wonderful.
And he gave me lots of tips. He taught me how to prime a story; all kinds of stuff. And I was grateful for that lesson. I really was. After I got over the punishment of the train ride, I really learned something. But I learned kind of backwards… It hits me later. First, I have to really think about it… But yes, I enjoyed it. My mother spent the time with his wife.
Alex: Yeah, and Sheldon Mayer was actually putting a lot of people under his wing, teaching them how to write and edit, going back to the 1940s. So, that’s pretty cool, that you’re one of those people that learned from him. That’s pretty cool.
Friedlander: Well, it is cool. But this was… I was dumb. I mean dumb, in the respect that I wasn’t aware where that was going to lead me. I really had to sit down and learn the recipe, and then realize what I was going to bake afterwards, but I didn’t. I don’t know why I didn’t.
Alex: You encountered a lot of people. This is DC in the 1960s, and a lot of people have studied these different characters including yourself. Just kind of go through some people… Sol Harrison, what was your impression of him?
Friedlander: Sol was delightful. I love Sol. He was like having an uncle in that place. He had ideas that were coming out of his ears. And he just was a tremendous go getter. He wasn’t afraid to experiment, and he wasn’t afraid to… What’s the word? He was just creative, and I think he’s the one who came up with the idea for Teen Beam. And that was something that I had to learn on the job, because I’d never interviewed anybody, and I’d never written publicity stuff, so I had to learn all of that on the job.
Thank goodness, Jack helped me a lot. Because I don’t think I was aware… When the first one came out it had to be not distributed because it was called Team Beat, and there was already a Team Beat. So, the second one came out. I think that had Herman’s Hermits on the cover, and I interviewed them. I’ve never interviewed anybody in my life. But I interviewed them, and it becomes easier as you do it.
But I was all wound up when I got there. Now, I look at the picture of me… Sol’s family was on… Sol’s son was a photographer, so he was there. I think Joe did the illustrations when there had to be illustrations. It was just a matter of getting it out and distributed, and they killed it after the two issues.
I always breathe a sigh of relief when they do that. Because I knew, I had to keep doing all these other stuffs. But I did receive all these wonderful stuff from agents and publicity people, so it wasn’t all bad. I used to have a Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely-Hearts Club Band, the original, from them.
Alex: Oh, cool. Yeah.
Friedlander: Yeah, it just… I’m sorry, it ended and I wish I had known what I was doing when I was doing it. [chuckle]
Alex: When you were there… So, now, you mentioned briefly, Julie Schwartz in context of Mort Weisinger. Was Julie Schwartz, first of all, a nicer editor than Mort? Did they have a difference in styles in how they would approach things?
Friedlander: I think Julie was a more… He recognized that people could do stuff. I think he respected the fact that they could write, and do the drawing. He respected all of that stuff. And so, it was easier for him to work with people, because he didn’t have to eat them alive. He brought his own lunch; didn’t have to eat them. I think he might have had more of a backbone…
Alex: You also mentioned that you saw him write some things for Reader’s Digest, is that correct?
Friedlander: That wasn’t him. I made a mistake. That was Julie… No, Mort. Mort.
Alex: Oh, it’s Mort that wrote for… Yeah, that’s right, and that I knew about. Okay, so Julie Schwartz did not do that then. Okay.
Friedlander: No, no, no. That’s a mistake. It’s because, I used to get their names mixed up because to me, Julie Schwartz looked more like a Mort Weisinger [chuckle], and Mort Weisinger looked more like a Julie Schwartz.
Alex: Yeah. That’s right. It’s all those years they spent together, maybe.
Alex: Now, Jack Schiff, what was your impression of Jack Schiff. It sounds like you’ve mentioned him before.
Friedlander: Jack was lovely. He was on the other side of the bullpen, and Jack was sick at the time that I knew him. He was very strong and very powerful but he was not feeling himself. And he and Sol kind of had a little head battle going.
Alex: Ah, okay.
Friedlander: Because Sol came up with ideas, he wasn’t afraid to voice them. And I think Jack had ideas but he wasn’t as forthcoming.
Alex: Yeah, because I know that Jack, in the ‘60s get some flack because I guess he got moved over like Strange Adventures and people say, “Okay, he ruined it.” But in the ‘40s when I read a lot of his dialog, it’s actually really good. He was really talented.
Friedlander: Yeah, he was talented. He was, absolutely talented. They were all talented. I got news for you; they were all good. It’s just that some of them had to be super good… So, there’s the difference.
Alex: Yeah… And then, you also mentioned, and a lot of people don’t know much about him, but Ira Schnapp. He was the letterer that did a lot of the fonts for the titles. But you had some encounters with him, is that right?
Friedlander: I thought Ira Schnapp was… I can’t say adorable. But he was.
But he was. He was just… He was so lovely, and so professional. He had done the lettering for posters of silent movies. He goes back a long, long way. And I don’t know where Jack and Harry Donenfeld found him, but I have a feeling maybe he was working in the shop. Because they brought people over from their original shop, and I think he was one of them. Because he was ancient then, but he was… He would sit down and if you went in, he would tell you stories, if you wanted to hear them, of the movie posters and things like that nature.
Alex: Oh wow, that’s awesome.
Friedlander: I wish I remembered some of them. But he was just a professional guy, and he was happy to have this job. A lot of people, they began to fire because they didn’t know what to do either, to tell you the truth.
So, they fired several people that I liked very much, in that bullpen, but Ira’s place was secure.
Alex: Arnold Drake, were you friends with him?
Friedlander: Yes, I was.
Alex: I love his Doom Patrol and a lot of his older stuff from the ‘50s. So, tell us about Arnold Drake a little.
Friedlander: Well, you know he wrote the movie What Happened to Teddy Bear? (Who Killed Teddy Bear)
Friedlander: Okay. And his brother wrote Frank Sinatra’s signature song. He was very proud of that.
Alex: I didn’t know that part. Yeah, that’s cool.
Friedlander: It Was a Very Good Year; I think that was the title.
Friedlander: Erwin had gotten married, and he had a daughter. And he was thrilled to have this daughter. He lived in the city and he was so creative, I think he did Walt Disney books… I’m not even sure… Looney Toons? That’s not Walt Disney… He just was always, always doing something. He was a big guy, and he was growing this horrible thing on his face. And he could write up a storm. He was just wonderful.
He would come in and Bob Haney would come in and they would sit in this tiny closet, which was called the Writers’ Room, the Freelance Writers’ Room and they would knock out stuff together. I think Haney and Erwin had a lot of people, with the editors. They did. Those were two people that might have had a lot of problems because they were big on ideas, and Haney would come in because… He’d come in and knock out stories. And then he would go back upstate to where he was living.
I think he used to argue with a lot of people. I’m trying to think who he had riffs with. It might have been Mort… Murray…
Alex: Murray Boltinoff?
Friedlander: Although Murray wasn’t that argumentative… and (George) Kashdan… But those were not vindictive, nasty…
Friedlander: They weren’t. They weren’t. They might have been quirky, but they were not going out of their way to make anyone miserable. They really wanted to get their books out. That’s what they wanted to do.
Alex: Now, Jack Miller, you mentioned him before, and obviously he was an influence on you as you’ve mentioned that before. First tell us, you talked about story structure and writing, and banging out a good story, what did you learn from Jack that was important for you.
Friedlander: Jack taught me that, you can’t go on talking forever, you’ve got to get it done in six pages for a certain script. And he would ask me to plot it for him, so that I would learn how to plot a story in six pages. That’s not easy. But you do it. In everything that you did there, you had to learn how to do it, and then you better keep it up. You better keep up that formula.
Alex: Yeah, you got to keep doing that. Yeah, over and over. Yeah.
Friedlander: Yeah, the formula. And I had asked Jack if I could have [chuckle] more pages. Because he had certain books and I had certain books. My books were Heart Throbs, and Young Girls Romances or was it, Young Romances? So those are my two books. And his in other books came my continuing dramas, which I’m very proud of.
What he did for me was he didn’t say, “No you can’t write that.” He’ll say, “Remember you’re writing this for young readers, and we can’t go too far afield. Nobody is getting pregnant. Nobody is getting raped…”
Alex: Right. And the Comics Code. The Comics Code would kind of dilute what you could do, right?
Friedlander: Oh, absolutely dilute it. Absolutely… Actually, I like the pretty stories because I think the world then was very nasty. The Vietnam War was raging, women wanted their rights, there was a lot of stuff going on. And people just wanted… I felt, wanted something lovely to look at. That’s why I love Scott and I love Tony so much.
Alex: Because a lot of these romance books at DC were actually started at other companies, like years before like at Crestwood (Publications).
Friedlander: Simon and Kirby.
Alex: Yeah, the Simon and Kirby, the Crestwood, Quality (Comics).
And so, there’d be reprints but then you would have to actually re-script it to fit the code. Is that correct?
Friedlander: Yes… Irwin gave me that job. He came in with these really old boards, and he showed me, he said, “I want you to rewrite the story, and indicate where the skirts have to be raised. [chuckle] Because they were ancient. They were the old ones, I’m sure of that.
Alex: I see. So, it’s also to make it more fashionable for the current time too then, you’re saying.
Friedlander: They just recycled. That’s exactly what they were doing. When I was doing humor, they asked me to recycle stuff too. I was the great recycler. [chuckle]
Alex: So, you mentioned Tony Abruzzo, and Jay Scott Pike. And then, John Rosenberger from Archie, also. Right? You worked with.
Friedlander: I worked with him, but Jack mostly used John, and he used Gil (Kane), and I think he used Gene.
Alex: Gene Colan, yeah.
Friedlander: Yeah. I was going for a certain look at the time, so I was more interested in the look, rather than giving the guy the job kind of thing. And that was not the way to help anyone or do anything, so they resented me a lot. But Jack used them. Jack used them a lot.
Alex: That’s funny. As the title officially, Associated Editor, and you were assigning artists like you said, but also, you’re producing some filler material. Correct?
Friedlander: Yes. That’s right. What I spoke to Jim, about the two fashion pages… I also did…
Alex: Right… And you also had pen names, Jill Taylor, Barbara Miles. Is that right?
Friedlander: Well, Barbara Miles was there before. She was Advice to the Lovelorn. Jill Taylor was sort of like a beauty thing. And this is something that Sol Harrison set up. He just was able to think of these things. He said, “Barbara, I’m sending you the Coty Cosmetics, and I want to put them in the book.” It was a freebie; it wasn’t to advertise anything. And I went all the way over to 11th Avenue, they had some kind of a crazy factory office building there. This was in 1960s, so there was… It was Hell’s Kitchen, where I was going, which didn’t bother me at all.
I went there a few times, and then I realized, how is Sol going to get the same color as the makeup, and the lipsticks, and the… But it happened. We went with that for a few issues, pushing Coty Cosmetics and showing the different things. I remember that, yes.
When I was going on a vacation, to London, he set up a meeting for me with The London Times, I think. Because it was around Valentines’ Day. I’d never known if they ever wrote the article or not because I never saw it, but they interviewed me. [chuckle] They sent a reporter and we spoke about romance books, and several other topics, and I don’t know what came of it. But yep… that was a Sol Harrison.
I was also supposed to interview… Oh, god… She was married to Roald Dahl. What’s his name?… Well her… Because Sol had a son who had brain damage, and she had just had hideous strokes, and she had brain damage and had to learn everything.
Alex: Oh, no.
Jim: Patricia Neal.
Friedlander: Patricia Neal. Thank you. And so, I was going to interview her for something, and I couldn’t because she just was not well enough at the time… But yeah, Sol was a big influence.
Alex: Big influence. So, now, tell us also, you had some working time with Dick Giordano, and the Vince Colletta Studio. Is that correct?
Friedlander: Andrew (James) and (Stephen) Esposito called me. I had already finished my stuff at DC, and I think I was pregnant at the time. And they asked me if I would write for them, Thelma of the Apes. They described Thelma as a naked girl who was brough up by Gorillas.
And that was the premise of the story… Well I wrote the origin story [chuckle] of that.
And then the name of the book was Up Your Nose and Out Your Ear. And I had to write the characters… Two stories, the characters on how they got to be Up Your Nose and it took place in ancient Roman times. So, I did that.
That was fun. That was really fun. Because I…
Alex: Yeah, so that was the Up Your Nose… And then you also wrote what, Cosa Nostril? Or something like that? For their magazine?
Friedlander: Casa Nostril was the name of the group [chuckle] back then. Casa Nostril was the name of the group, a play on Up Your Nose and Out Your Ear, your nostril, and how they all have blown themselves up because they all had that secret salute.
But yeah, I did that. And they had, as everything, had trouble with distribution.
Alex: I see.
Friedlander: So, it was clever art.
Alex: And that’s why it basically, didn’t do as well, because of lack of distribution, basically.
Friedlander: I think so. I think they were very much wanting to compete with MAD, which was a… And I don’t think they actually could, not with all the stuff MAD had.
Alex: Yeah, right. They’re just too much. They’re very talented.
I’ve read a lot of interviews of people that were DC in the ‘60s, and there was one, that of Carmine (Infantino) that I read, and I just want to ask this to get your side of it. Because he mentions you in one part…
Friedlander: What did he say? [chuckles]
Alex: Yeah, exactly, “What did he say? You tell me what that guy…”
Friedlander: What did he say?
Alex: Okay. But basically, he was working on Batman, this is before he was publisher and all that. He said he was working in Jack Miller’s office. He mentioned that you and Jack were having a romance, that Jack had to steal art to keep up with his drinking and his romantic life. And that Jack hated that Carmine was there cramping his style. Is any of this true? What’s your view of this?
Friedlander: Now, Jack did not drink. What Jack did with his money and his time is Jack’s business. I was not having an affair with him.
Alex: Okay, there you go.
Friedlander: Because Jack was married with two children, and I was friendly with his daughter too. But Carmine, yes, he did come into the office and yes, he was doing Batman. And he actually had this… He’s a very tall man with a bald head.
Alex: [chuckle] True.
Friedlander: While I was there… Gee, that’s so nice that he said that about me…. Okay… And he sort of swag…
Alex: And it’s there, yeah. And I was like, “Really? Okay.”
Friedlander: He’s not the only one who had said that so it’s… I was doing a Comic Con some place. I introduced myself to someone, and that’s the greeting I got.
Alex: I see. And that’s basically not true, right? Maybe, it sounds like, from what you’re saying… If I’m correct about it, let me know… Is that Jack Miller was influential, you guys did a lot of co-writing, and writing and editing together…
Friedlander: Three screen treatments together.
Alex: And then three screen treatments, and then people looked at that and probably made assumptions that weren’t true. Is that basically it?
Friedlander: Everybody is entitled to their assumptions. [chuckle]
Jim: Alex, I just want to add that I’ve read things that Barbara said, about Carmine. And they were all flattering although some of them were honest in that she talked very strongly about his art and how great he was, which we all agree on.
Friedlander: Flawless, and you can’t take that away.
Jim: But that he took on too many hats and he was overwhelmed by… He wanted to have his hand in everything as he became art director, it got a little bit out of control. And that was the only thing that I’ve ever read that was negative that she said about him.
Friedlander: Yeah. Well, I will say that too because he was doing romance books too. And the editor turned out to be Joe Orlando, although he took over the romance books.
Alex: Right. Exactly… After Jack died, basically, right? And Jack died of cancer in 1970, right?
Friedlander: Yes, around 1970. Yes. Because my husband and I visited him in the hospital in New Jersey, where he was dying. We attended his funeral, and there were a lot of people who attended the funeral. It was a strange funeral.
I don’t feel like talking about it now, but I will, one day. I haven’t done… It’s written some place about Jack’s funeral because it was absurd.
Alex: Yeah. And what I had read about it is, it was just wasn’t organized very well and things like that.
Friedlander: Now, that’s not the funny part… I’m going to tell you.
Jim: Okay. Thank you.
Friedlander: Okay. Jack’s funeral in New Jersey; Helen, his wife, I think he was a veteran or something, I’m not sure but she got a rabbi to do the service. And Jack was not a religious man at all, so that was one thing against the funeral. The other thing was that the person who was delivering the eulogy and everything else was a Kohen, which means he was not allowed to be in the room with the dead body, until his parents passed away, which is nuts. So, his funeral was piped in.
Now, if Jack had been sitting there, he would have been hysterical. Because that’s the worst way to say goodbye to somebody. With this guy’s accent, and “I’m sorry, I can’t be in the room with you.” He wasn’t even allowed to go to the cemetery because it was not… Whatever…
Alex: Wow… So, yeah, it’s kind of like not compatible where he was at either.
Jim: So, it was coming through a speaker?… It was coming through a speaker, or just he was in the next room yelling loudly?
Friedlander: No. It came through a speaker… Listen, this was a high-class place. They had speakers.
Alex: [chuckle] They had speakers. That’s good.
Jim: So, it was like God coming down and talking, with a peculiar voice.
Friedlander: Right. Well, you can imagine the comments that people had, because it was. It was so off the wall.
Alex: I see. And because he wasn’t religious, it just made no sense, basically.
Friedlander: Okay. So, in the end, your wife wants to do this for you, but you don’t have some idiot talking over some microphone.
Alex: Yeah. That makes sense.
Jim: That’s amazing.
Friedlander: He had accomplished a lot in his life so… I don’t know…
Alex: Right. No, that makes sense. He didn’t get the good farewell.
Now, tell us about, how was working with Joe Orlando as the romance editor after Jack was gone? Were there differences in their styles…
Friedlander: Not really.
Alex: Not really?
Friedlander: The only difference… Not really… Yes, they were two different people with two different points of view, and two different ways of doing things. But Orlando was very nice to me, but I didn’t feel comfortable because everything had to be approved by Carmine. And I didn’t think that… Carmine could draw up a storm. But I don’t think he was a writer. And I don’t think… Whatever. He did keep my continuing dramas going, until the whole thing died. That he did… In 1970 something.
Alex: We’re going to wrap up the romance part. You had a funny trip about Joe Orlando’s trip to Haiti.
Friedlander: This was for when he was working for MAD Magazine, and MAD Magazine was in its heyday, I think. Around that time, or a little bit after… Long story short, all of the artists and editors, they had one subscription coming from Haiti. And the excuse to go to Haiti was that they should go to this kid’s house and make sure he signed up again for his subscription, or they would give him a free subscription, I don’t know exactly.
So, they all got on the plane, they’ve gotten to a taxi and whatever, and they were stopped by the Tonton Macoute or something like that, which was the secret service. Then Joe, and others realized that this was a real dictatorship, and the guy had in his trunk, all kinds of things to get rid of Papa Doc Duvalier who was the dictator there. And so, they had to get another cab…
They got rid of all the pamphlets, and the guy was taken off. Now, you can imagine what happened to that guy.
They all decided it wasn’t worth it, and they left. I mean it was a scary, scary thing.
Alex: That sounds really scary. And this was around the time when Joe Orlando and Carmine went to the Philippines and stuff too, right? To find artists or so?
Friedlander: I think this was earlier when Orlando was at the MAD Magazine, and he was doing more work for MAD.
Alex: I got you. Yeah, yeah. Okay. So, that’s cool. It’s just a different… Actually, for a different company, even.
Ok… You’ve talked about this before, and I’ve talked about this in other venues, is the end of the romance comics in the early ‘70s, and the Comics Code being some part of it in that you couldn’t be edgy enough to compete with other media… Tell us why did the romance comics kind of end towards the early ‘70s.
Friedlander: My opinion is, they didn’t make sense to real people anymore. The Vietnam War was there, we were separated in Korea… It was ugly. The world was ugly at that time, it was not a nice place to be. And my god, girls were getting pregnant, and movie stars were having children without being married. All of these came into play. And I don’t think that those girls that read those books, really wanted to read the fiction of it. I think they wanted the hardcore, real stuff. And that’s what killed it. I’m quite sure.
I worked with Ken Wheaton and his group. Do you know Ken?
Friedlander: Okay. I did… When did I meet them?… I met them at a ComiCon, where I meet everybody. And they asked me to do a romance book for them, which I did. I don’t know what’s going to come out of it, but I wrote four stories for them, and I hope that they get it published. I don’t really know. I just hope they do because I think it now makes sense to see something light and feminine, and pretty. I really do. I think we can stand it now when we couldn’t stand it before.
Alex: One more question about, when Kinney bought National in ’67, ’68… And you were there for that, which is interesting.
Friedlander: Yes, I was.
Jim: That corporate shake up, and you were mentioning people were kind of scared and stuff.
Friedlander: They were because they didn’t know where they were going to land.
Alex: Uh-hmm. And there was always this rumor, and it might be true too that there was some Mafia connections with Kinney. Did you ever hear anything about that at the time?
Friedlander: Honestly, no
Alex: No, okay.
Friedlander: Like I can’t remember. But it’s very possible.
Alex: Yeah. Yeah and then it’s funny …
Friedlander: Anything is possible.
Alex: Because Weisinger’s son, he made this remark that because there is like Italian Mafia as part of that Kinney operation, that that in some way, Mort looked at Carmine’s rise during that, as like an Italian thing. He made that implication to his son, and I just thought that was a… Who knows, right? It’s just all kind of conjecture.
Friedlander: I spoke to the guy at Heritage Auctions, who promoted Carmine. He told me he negotiated Carmine’s contract. And he was also Italian, but I don’t… I just don’t think… I don’t know. I’m not saying no to anything anymore.
Alex: Right. Sure, who knows. But it doesn’t sound like that was common talk in the office, at any rate. Right?
Friedlander: No. Editors and writers, and people like that were… One man and his secretary, from Warner’s came over, and he was dressed beautifully. [chuckle] I remember these dopey things… As compared to all the other editors, except for Jack who was a complete Anglophile…
He was. This guy scared a lot of people because he really was like an executive; what you would expect an executive to look at, and he gave dictation like somebody who knew everything. And I think that little intervention there, sort of scared a lot of people because they didn’t know how they had to act anymore. They were just thrown for a loop.
Now, I left before they moved to 909 Third Avenue, so I don’t know, who or what went with them.
Friedlander: But I do know that they were paring down people. They were getting rid of this one and that one.
Alex: I see. So, it’s kind of a scary thing, which is kind of interesting. I’ve never actually heard from anyone that was there, that fear that was going on.
So, that’s cool to hear that. Because I hear that in the ‘90s, with all the Marvel stuff, but in the ‘60s with DC, you never hear that anywhere… Yeah, and so, then the two more people that I’m just curious about as far as… Because DC in the ‘60s… You were there. It’s just so fascinating.
Two Bobs. Bob Kanigher, or Robert Kanigher. [overlap talk] What was your impression of him?
Friedlander: He was… Let me just tell you again, they don’t know what to do with me, the guys. So, around me a lot of the men sort of clammed up. They didn’t want to talk that much but he, Jack told me, he was a character to begin with. That’s all I can say. He was a little… He would lose his temper. He would do things like that. He was the war books? Was he the one?
Jim: Yeah… Yeah.
Friedlander: I know Jack wrote some of those books so… I mean stories for them. And who’s the other person?
Alex: And then Bob Kane, did you ever have any interaction with Bob Kane?
Friedlander: I love Bob Kane. Bob Kane was a tall terrific guy. He didn’t take anything from anybody because he didn’t have to be there on a regular basis. So, when he came in, it was getting his scripts in and working with the editors. He and Erwin Drake were really close, when he came in, so they stuck together.
As a matter of fact, that little closet, the writers’ room, they gave that room to… They got rid of it, and gave it to the secretary of the guy that came over… So, people really knew, “Wow. We’re not…” They changed a lot.
Alex: Would you say Bob Kane, when he’d walk in, he was just kind of like just this tall charming guy? Is that what was going on with Bob Kane? Like, is that the aura he would give off?
Friedlander: As I’ve said, many times… Had the mouth of the Joker. He really did.
He must have drawn it from himself and the few… When he was there, he really… He was a lucky guy; he had a contract. And the poor guys who created stuff didn’t have contracts. So, he was protected, his intellectual property was protected. I don’t know who else had such a contract but that’s a tremendous phase of law now, is that…
Alex: Yeah. Oh yeah, for sure and he got in on that really early.
Jim: You talk about your serial things. My favorite of everything you wrote, probably ever… Although, I love the Scooter stuff, is 20 Miles to Heartbreak… Which is… Alex, I don’t know if you’ve read this. This was Alex Toth, this four-parter, that she did. That’s just… The art is so perfect, even with… I don’t love the Coletta inks on it and that’s too bad, but the story itself is daring.
Did you meet… Sum it up. Give a little bit of a recap on what it’s about because it should’ve been controversial, in my mind, at the time, and I don’t know if it was.
Friedlander: I don’t really think it was. I think they wanted something edgy, and I gave them something edgy. And nobody… I remember one scene, which I saw that the artwork for it, recently, where a girl is walking in the town and they’re all giving her dirty looks. Like all these ladies with little hats on. And it just was a story that teaches you, how not to be, and how to be.
Jim: We should talk about, that it involves a relationship between a… There’s an upper-class white family, and the two sisters Melanie Winters, and Monica Winters. And one has been declared a black sheep, and basically, run out of town. And Melanie is being groomed to marry a rich guy and go off and keep up the status. But she’s in love with her mother’s husband, and has a crush on him, which is weird. But then she meets this, I believe he’s Mexican. He’s Latino of some kind. And there’s also a maid in there that is treated horribly by the matron of the family.
Friedlander: Of course, there always was…
Jim: So, it’s racism all over it. And there’s this relationship, and then the girl gets injured, and the Mexican romance interest is put on trial and is about to get railroaded into jail. But ultimately, the stepfather’s brother goes soft, as the attorney, and he manages to get off. Then that attorney goes, and turns out, is in love with Monica. And Melanie goes and leaves…
Friedlander: You really like this stuff…
Jim: Well it’s riveting because it is in four parts and you talk about… You did serialized stories that went longer than that.
Friedlander: Oh, yeah. [chuckle] I was appealing to people who really want to get their money’s worth, and want to be surprised, and astounded. That’s what I was going for.
Jim: I read it, and I thought… And I hesitate even to ask you this, but did you get along well with your mom? Because it’s so mean. I mean the mother is awful in this.
Friedlander: Listen, every daughter and mother fight. Okay? And there are some real meanies out there. Yep.
Alex: That’s a good answer. [chuckle]
Jim: She is left without redemption at the end. The mom is, it loses everybody, and is left in the house.
Friedlander: Naturally, what do you expect? That’s a real Bette Davis ending.
Jim: It certainly is.
Alex: There you go.
Jim: [overlap talk] Did you meet, did you know Alex Toth?
Friedlander: Know of him, but I didn’t assign that to anyone. I think, I just handed in the script, and it was either Carmine or Orlando who handed it out. Because then, I had no say in anything.
Alex: Yes. Okay, it was a freelance writing assignment.
Friedlander: Yes. Yes, it was.
Jim: So, were you excited when you saw the actual pencils on it when it came back?
Friedlander: I never saw the actual pencils. I wasn’t there to see them.
Jim: Oh, but you saw the issues, I hope.
Friedlander: Oh, yeah. I did.
Alex: What year did you leave DC exactly?
Friedlander: Around, late 1969, ’70.
Alex: Yeah, pretty much right at 1970 or so, okay.
Jim: I want to talk about the text things that you worked on, on the romance books, a little bit under the alias. You had Mad Modes for Moderns…
Friedlander: Mad Mad Mode for Moderns.
Jim: And that was basically… So, for the readers, or the listeners. Those were design pictures of different attire and things, and then you had a text commentary on it. How did that go about? Did you just receive… You were editor, so did you assign what they were supposed to draw? How did it work?
Friedlander: I knew Tony was going to do it for me. And what I did was cut up magazines, and took pictures of… I showed him an indication of what I wanted, and then he did what he wanted in relationship to the dialogue. The explanations of what this was, and how your boyfriend’s going to love this, and how you’d be so chic, and whatever. That kind of thing.
Jim: And then you did You Can Be Beautiful.
Friedlander: As Jill Taylor.
Jim: And those were totally text. Talk about those for a minute. Like what was the concept with those.
Friedlander: Well, my whole thing was I was trying to give the romance books a more feminine kind of appeal. So, this was advice on putting on makeup, on hairstyles, what you should do if you have no lashes. Things like that. It appealed to what a girl needs to do to make herself attractive. And then, I would always say, “But you always are attractive, no matter what you do, because you are you” kind of thing.
Really, I wanted to speak to the girls and tell them that they should have more stamina, and a backbone. Things I’d never did, couldn’t do. It’s easy to write them than to do them…
Jim: It seemed like you were almost single handedly trying to build a girl audience for the books in that it’s so authentic, what you’re doing compared to… Everybody else is kind of like middle-aged guy writing. And you’re talking about music, and you’re talking about clothes, and you’re talking about cool stuff. You’re so much cooler than anything else in the books.
Friedlander: [chuckle] Well thank you… You’re right. You hit it on the head. Not me, but I really wanted at the time to relate to the books. I wanted to be a young woman who had just fallen in love, and then got dumped because she was the no good whatever. And that was a basic thing, getting dumped, because somebody saw you kissing somebody, and “you must be a real tramp” kind of thing. That was a theme in a lot of the stories. I mean you have several themes, and you cannot change them.
Alex: Yeah. They’re kind of the same stories. Yeah.
Jim: That brings up another theme I wanted to ask you about, which was the interest in older man theme. I read that you said something like, “Well yeah, because they’re hot…” or something. I mean you implied that you liked older men too.
Friedlander: I did. I did. I do. I do…
I’m married to an older man. I really wanted to put in… That was Three Girls… Not Three Girls… Reach for Happiness, I think, that was that story.
Friedlander: But I’m not sure, though. One of the girls falls in love with, correct me if I’m wrong, but the father of another girl. Is that right?
Jim: Yeah, I think. I think that is right. And you got it in the Toth story too. She has a crush on her mom’s husband.
Friedlander: Right. I used that a couple of times, I did, I have to admit it. But listen, that does happen. It did happen. I’m thinking of the Midwest. It had happened someplace. I’m sure it happened there, and every other place.
Jim: Did you also do To You… From Carol Andrews… that column.
Friedlander: I didn’t do that column, that I can remember. Jack may have done that column because he was Roberts, Julia Roberts, [chuckle] he wants to be Julia Roberts back then. And we would get the letters from people, young ladies who were really in trouble. It was sad, and you couldn’t do anything about that. I mean you just could say go to your preacher, go to your advisor, your school advisor and you really couldn’t get into their lives. It was not done.
But Jack, he would sit there make up the letters, sometimes, because you didn’t get one that you could actually print. They’d send you, “Can I wear a red dress and blue pink shoes?” You had to do it so that it was not destructive, or it was generic and sweet.
Jim: Then this is a good segue into talking about the humor stuff, but you also did a text column in the Scooter book, with Swing With Scooter.
Friedlander: Hello Pussycats, that one?
Jim: Yeah, well… and I think just the Scooter. But, yeah, the one where it’s Scooter talking.
Friedlander: Yes. I did. [chuckle] You have to enlighten me because I haven’t really looked at that for a long time.
Jim: It’s very music focused, and it’s talking about Sonny and Cher. It’s talking about The Lovin’ Spoonful.
Friedlander: Okay… Right. Right. And how I got that information was from the publicity departments of all their records. So, I didn’t have to do research. I just had to make phone calls for that because they were so happy to send out information so they could get their people published any place.
Jim: Oh, that’s really interesting. Because you’re mentioning Nancy Sinatra, and you’re talking about Elvis and everything. And you seem to have inside information.
Friedlander: I did. They told me what to write. They sent it to me. They definitely… Listen, I could have gone on and on, and on.
Jim: And you did to some degree, what was interesting was, you were ever plugging new clubs that are opening up in New York, like the Jaguar or something. And it’s like, this is for kids who aren’t going to be able to go to these clubs, but you’re taking about what’s opening.
What was that about?
Friedlander: But you see girl, people… Whoever, people want to know what’s going on in the city. They want to know what’s going on in LA. They want to know… I mean, now, they really want to know, and they go crazy. But they wanted to know, just as much then, as they do now.
They gave me all that information; it wasn’t like I was going out. The only thing I really had to write was the interview I did. But this other stuff was just paraphrasing a lot of the stuff that was said. But I did it in my voice, which was different.
Jim: Yes, that’s clear. All right let’s talk about the humor books at DC, and Orlando was a big part of that. Did you work on any of them besides Scooter?
Friedlander: Can you name a title? I didn’t do Maniacs if that’s what you mean.
Jim: I was going to get to Maniacs.
Friedlander: No, I didn’t. I was gone, I think, when Maniacs came out. But I’m not sure.
Jim: And you never worked on Binky or Debbie, or any of those…?
Friedlander: I’ll tell you what I used to do for Irwin. He would bring me old stuff. I told you this.
Friedlander: Romance stuff, and Binky, and crap like that. Excuse me. And I would do what I did with the other stuff. And I never knew what would happen to it. So, it’s very possible that what I rewrote was something that I had done for Irwin. But that was a ridiculous thing. He did that because he wanted very much to sell stuff, and he didn’t have to pay, really an artist, to redo anything. They did it all in the bullpen, the changing of the skirts, and the hairstyles even.
Jim: Your name pops out a lot in the data bases and things, for things that I’ve seen you publicly say, “As far as I know, I’ve never written any of that.”
Friedlander: Right. But in retrospect, I might have because I did do rewrites on old stuff. And I’m not sure if he would’ve put out a book that he had to pay for. He had the distribution so he could put it any place. Now, you can’t do that anymore. Now, it’ll cost you money to rent a space. But then, it was golden for him.
Jim: Now, when they brought back Leave it to Binky, you had read that stuff when you were a kid. Right? Were you interested in wanting to do that or…?
Friedlander: I’m a bit. If Irwin told me to go see anything then I was interested in doing that too. I was there. I was a kid, and I did it.
Jim: Sure… All right so let’s talk about Swing With Scooter. Now, is that your favorite thing you did when you were at DC?
Friedlander: Actually, I my favorite thing was doing soap operas because I love soap operas [chuckle]. But yes, it was the first thing that I really created that was somewhat of a success. Because romance books didn’t get very high sales because they appeal to one particular audience and Scooter was loved immediately. Everybody said that he was a take-off on Archie but he wasn’t.
Friedlander: He came from England.
I was dating a guy who had interviewed The Beatles. I mean it wasn’t in a room by himself, he worked for Newsweek. And he had met the plane, and so he was there. That really inspired me, and Joe Orlando drew Scooter to look like one of The Beatles, Paul. I didn’t ask him to do that but that’s what he did.
Jim: Is it a co-creation by you, Orlando, and Miller? Or who…?
Friedlander: Jack said to me, “You do this. You write the first story.” And I did, but it’s not a comfortable fit for me, writing that sort of stuff. I can do it because I did it for Andrew and Esposito. But it wasn’t the best comfort I’ve had in my life. [chuckle]
Jim: A lot of them are credited to both of you. And looking at it, was that typical, or was that like Lennon and McCartney, kind of “we’re going to do this together”?
Friedlander: It was typical.
Jim: It was typical?
Jim: Okay. Up until, I think, issue 14 or something like that, Orlando is doing the art, and the two of you are listed… or one or both of you are listed as the credits. And then the book takes a radical shift.
Friedlander: [overlap talk] Yes.
Jim: And it loses… I mean he’s still British but you wouldn’t know it. There’s not any emphasis on that. Almost every cover, up until then, has him playing the guitar… Suddenly, he does seem like Archie.
Friedlander: I was well gone by then.
Jim: That’s what I thought.
Friedlander: I think, who drew it is, Scarpella…? What’s his name? (Henry Scarpelli)
Jim: Stan Goldberg does some stuff too. I mean it really becomes Archie.
Friedlander: Yeah, it did. But I don’t think… I think Carmine was in production or whatever he was. And I don’t think he cared that much for it, so he let it go in another direction. I wasn’t there anymore, so I couldn’t say this is not what we’ve created, where are the other characters? … Couldn’t do that.
Jim: Because on the first issue, in I think it may even be the first page, you introduce a large cast of characters…
Friedlander: Yes. I did.
Jim: And you give them all very specific characteristics and personalities.
Friedlander: That’s true.
Jim: Are you one of the characters? Or is there one that you really seem like, that was you?
Friedlander: That was… I was not any of those characters.
I’d rather be Brenda Starr, if you really want to know. [chuckle]… No, I wasn’t.
One of them is my cousin. [chuckle] Malibu.
Jim: There you go. That’s what it was. So, somebody was based on real life.
Friedlander: Yeah. No… They were based on people that I knew. And Malibu was just that kind of a character. I love the name Malibu, so…
Jim: Yeah, it was fun, and then it wasn’t. And that was after you left.
Friedlander: Well, I’m not going to take any kind of credit, but all I can say is, you can only do what they want you to do. You didn’t have license to create something they weren’t going to publish so you don’t waste the time on it.
And as I said, I was so green. I didn’t realize I could take it to other places if I wanted to, if I had an idea. I didn’t do that.
Jim: Now, whose idea was it to integrate it with the DC Universe, and to have Batman appear in an issue, or the Justice League.
Friedlander: God, it probably was Carmine’s idea.
Jim: Sounds like it, doesn’t it?
Friedlander: Yeah, it sounds… And he would interject his opinion, and then his opinion at that time may have been golden, so they listened to it. But I don’t think they were happy, after a while. As I said before, I think he did too much. I don’t think you can oversee all of that. I think you’d have to say, “You do this. You’re good at that, and you, stick with the heroes”, kind of thing.
Jim: So, did all of this become less fun for you after Miller died? And is that why you left or…?
Friedlander: No, I left because everybody who told me to get married, I followed their advice. [chuckle] I met somebody. I met my first husband, and I had three beautiful children with him. It’s exactly what I wanted to do in my life. But not being a woman of the woman’s movement, I didn’t realize I could do both.
Alex: Do you do you have regrets about that, or not?
Friedlander: I can’t have regrets because I can’t change it. And I was so happy to be doing something that I really loved. All the time that I was going back and forth, doing freelancing, I just felt like I was intervening in something and they would find me out, or whatever.
So, I was happy to have that life. I really was. I just didn’t realize; I should have done other things as well. But I did. I did.
Jim: Well let’s talk about that a little bit. I know you were…Were you an antique dealer for a while? You were dealing with antiques.
Friedlander: Yes. I started doing it because I was working. When my kids were going to school. I worked with my friend downtown in New York City, and she and her mom had an antique place. And I just loved it, so I started doing shows with a friend. Then when I moved up to Connecticut, I rented spaces, big spaces and that’s where I was. I loved it. There were so much there…
Jim: How long did you do that for?
Friedlander: Oh, a good 15 years.
Jim: Oh, wow.
Friedlander: A long time. Recently, I was helping a friend out in New Canaan, at her antique store, so I… Now, everything is dead of course, unfortunately, so that shop had to close because there’s no business. But she’s on line now.
Jim: For all of that period, did you really close the comics aspect of your life off? Did people, did you talk about it? Did you have any connections with people?
Friedlander: No. No, I did not because I just put it in the back of my mind. And as I’ve said in lots of interviews, “I had to Google myself to find out who I was, and I did. And then it became interesting because then I realized that I had a past that… And I could contribute something to people because I was there when it was happening. I always say, “I’m a relic”, you know, a relic.
Jim: So, who are the people that help bring you back out into circulation because we owe them all a big thank you because we enjoyed you being back.
Friedlander: You could thank Google. Then, I had no comics here, no books, nothing except for that picture that Joe Orlando did for me, the caricature. And when I hung it up, my daughter said “You’re really going to hang that thing up?”
I said, “Joanna, this is just the beginning.” And so, I went online, and I found Mohegan Sun, and I got in touch with the guy who runs it; who was a lovely guy. And I did a lookbook. I put together a lookbook and I emailed it to him. And he said, “Yes I’ll give you a table.” I had no idea I was getting a table, so I was ready to leave after the second… I was on a panel with Paul, Pau Kupperberg.
Jim: Kupperberg, yeah.
Friedlander: Yeah. And people afterwards just asked me questions. And I realized, because my children were there all three of them, and they looked at me like, “You’re my mother, and you did that and you didn’t tell me?” And I said, “Do you remember I took you to DC when they were at Rockefeller Center to see the comic books, and Sol was then the head of it? Do you remember that at all?”
They said no, but they were little kids and I wanted just to show my offspring to the people that were there. And there weren’t too many real people [chuckle] left. But that’s how I did it. Then I got I tried to get on other, do other cons, but the romance books are not exactly the hottest commodity, and people don’t want to hear about that.
I found a guy named John Cimino…
Jim: From Roy Thomas.
Alex: Yeah, we know him.
Friedlander: Roy Thomas’s friend, and I did one in I think Massachusetts, and another one in Massachusetts, and I was going do the Mohegan Sun again, but of course, there’s nothing… But I really want to, because I want women to know that they can… Girls to know that they can be good and there’s so many people now. That of the females in the group… I watched the interview you did with Fleayer, is that her name?
Jim: Yeah, Mary Fleener.
Alex: Mary Fleener, yeah.
Friedlander: God, she’s so talented. And I want people to be able to try doing stuff. Even if they don’t succeed, they can say I tried, and I liked it. I want them to do that. I don’t want them to be in a box someplace.
Jim: There is a lot of female scholarship on romance comics now. We have some friends who specialize in that. They should definitely talk to you, and I’ll make a point of that.
Friedlander: That would be wonderful. Thank you, Jim. That would be lovely.
Jim: But it’s a real movement. That’s a really interesting study now, at a postgrad level. A lot of work being done.
Friedlander: I got in touch with, somebody gave me Jacq Hayes Do you know Jacq Hayes?
Alex: Yeah, I know the name.
Friedlander: Yeah. Someone gave me that lead, and I wrote to her. She wrote questions back to me. I answered those questions. And of course, I’ve done Alter Ego, and a couple of other things, so I’m very happy to do.
I’m really wanting so much for that romance thing to come out, with Ken Wheaton. I really, really do. I think there’s a time…
Alex: You want that to be released, yeah.
Friedlander: I think there’s a time and a place for it, and there’s a loveliness about something that doesn’t have to be hard all the time.
Jim: Well you know, it’s funny that… I don’t think we ever had this same romance, and women and girls’ books as they had in England, where it was much more of a pronounced movement, I think than it ever was here.
Friedlander: Really? I didn’t even know that.
Jim: Oh yeah, there were a tremendous number of girls’ books. And they were just books devoted to girls and horses. It was that level of… Because girls love horses.
Jim: And you would have a lot of those… They had one that was all young girls with gothic stories that had a hint of evil to them.
Friedlander: Yeah, yeah, that I’ve seen. I think Paul does… Does Paul do stuff like that?
Jim: I think he does, there’s some association.
Friedlander: I’ve seen the gothic ones at the shows, and I wish them well. I would love to see all of that come back.
Alex: Well this has been a great episode of the Comic Book Historians Podcast with Alex Grand and Jim Thompson. Thank you so much, Barbara.
Friedlander: My pleasure.
Alex: You’re beautiful, talented and you’re very forthright, honest and so skilled. And thank you so much for talking with us today.
Friedlander: My pleasure. Read comic books. Enjoy yourselves. Bye.
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