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 interviews Danny Fingeroth, former editor and writer of Marvel Comics for close to two decades. Danny takes us into his early life, being hired in comics under Larry Lieber, then working with various editors, Archie Goodwin, Louise Simonson, Jim Shooter, Tom DeFalco, and Sol Brodsky working on Captain Britain for Marvel UK, Marvel Reprints, Dazzler, Uncanny X-Men, Micronauts and the Amazing Spider-Man in the early 80s. His initial days as editor of the Spider-Man line of comics in 1983, writing Dazzler, editing writing other titles like Marvel Saga with Pete Sanderson, Star Wars, his hiatus as staff in Marvel comics to freelance. The cultural change switching from Jim Shooter to Tom DeFalco as Marvel’s Editor in Chief 1987 and returning as staff 1989 in full force working on Alpha Flight, Amazing Spider-Man, The New Warriors and Moon Knight working with artists like Ron Frenz, Erik Larsen, Mark Bagley, etc. How the 1980s Marvel Creator Incentive Program caused the Image Revolution? Also talks about his Darkhawk series and his final days at Marvel as Tom DeFalco was removed as editor in chief, and other changes that took place that caused him to leave the company. His time with Byron Preiss in new comics media, Whirl Girl for Showtime, his publications for TwoMorrows WriteNow! and Stan Lee Universe, his scholarly comics work-Superman on the Couch, Disguised as Clark Kent, Rough Guide to Graphic novels, his time promoting Will Eisner awareness, his coordination of Wizard World Convention Panels and his upcoming book, A Marvelous Life, The Amazing Story of Stan Lee.
🎬 Edited & Produced by Alex Grand, ©2021 Comic Book Historians
📜 Video chapters
00:00:00 Welcoming Danny Fingeroth
00:00:53 Early life
00:03:44 Family background
00:06:00 Early reading
00:10:16 Writing letters
00:11:36 Doing comics for a living
00:13:40 Lost interest in the comics, the early 70s
00:16:15 Suny Binghamton’s film program
00:20:31 Hired by Larry Leiber | Atlas Seaboard
00:22:09 British Department
00:24:52 David Skin, Marvel to England
00:25:39 Archie Goodwin’s assistant editor Star Wars
00:26:07 Carmine Infantino
00:27:13 Larry Leiber, Louise Simonson, Jim Shooter, Saul Brodsky
00:29:05 Jim Shooter and Saul Brodsky
00:31:36 Stan Lee
00:32:50 British to editing the American reprints
00:34:31 Lee Buscema’s Silver Surfer reprint
00:36:01 Decision on new covers
00:37:37 Xanadu #1 | Louise Jones, Joel silver
00:40:06 Stan Brakhage’s background, David Caselkov
00:41:09 Major friendships | Mark Gruenwald
00:44:39 Editing new books | Man-Thing, King Conan, Dazzler
00:46:41 Co-writing Dazzler | Frank Springer
00:47:58 Bill Sienkiewicz
00:49:54 What If, Herald of Galactus
00:50:48 X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills, Chris Claremont
00:52:21 The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, Book by Mark Gruenwald and Peter Sanderson
00:54:08 Spider-Man with Tom DeFalco ~1983
00:56:57 Editing Spider-Man
01:00:47 Editing the Marvel Tales reprints
01:04:42 Ron Frenz
01:05:31 Howard The Duck movie adaptation comic | Steve Gerber, Bill Mantlo
01:08:16 Editing Marvel Saga books ~1986
01:11:52 Writing Psi-Force, Mark Texeira | New universe 1986-87
01:14:23 Wrote in Marvel style?
01:15:52 Why New Universe Stories not last?
01:20:00 Tom DeFalco Editor in Chief in ~1987
01:23:20 1980s Marvel creator incentive program, Image Revolution
01:25:01 New Warriors, Spider-Man, Moon Knight ~1990-95
01:31:54 Editing Amazing Spider-Man, Erik Larsen
01:32:44 Mark Bagley, Round Robin story
01:35:40 Creation of Carnage
01:37:04 Writing Darkhawk | Disagree with their editorial decisions?
01:40:32 Darkhawk character
01:43:15 Situation of Marvel while leaving | Byron Preiss
01:53:29 Editor in chief at Virtual Comics | Digital Comics
01:55:45 Using the digital form, Freelancing Competition
01:57:37 Leaving Virtual Comics | Visionary Media
02:00:49 Whirl Girl for Showtime
02:05:34 Superman stories at DC
02:07:47 TwoMorrows WriteNow! Stan Lee Universe
02:13:30 Stan Lee Universe ~2011
02:18:03 Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko: there’s a synergy
02:20:06 Superman on the Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us About Ourselves and Our Society, Book by Danny Fingeroth and Stan Lee
02:25:12 Hulk’s anger vs Batman’s anger
02:28:59 Disguised As Clark Kent, Book by Danny Fingeroth
02:34:20 Rough Guide to Graphic Novels, Novel by Danny Fingeroth
02:37:58 A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee
02:44:15 Jewish identity
02:46:10 The invention of Stan Lee | Brand identity
02:50:21 Your Stan Lee book & how you differentiate yours?
02:53:33 Wizard World | Director of the Danny Fingeroth panels
02:55:05 What was the single greatest panel, Wizard panel you did?
02:59:05 Jules Feiffer
03:07:37 Teaching comics
03:10:41 Will Eisner Week
03:13:31 Wrapping Up
#DannyFingeroth #MarvelComics #DannyFingerothInterview #StanLee
#ComicBookHistorians #CBHInterviews #ComicHistorianInterviews #CBHPodcast
Transcript (editing in progress):
Alex: Hello again from the Comic Book Historians podcast. I’m Alex Grand with my co-host Jim Thompson. Today we have a special guest, Danny Fingeroth. Danny Fingeroth spent nearly two decades as a writer and editor for Marvel comics, an expert in comics, writing, editing in history. He has spoken about comics and their creators at venues including the Smithsonian Institution, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Columbia University. Danny has taught comics writings at multiple universities and was a longtime group editor of Marvel Spider-Man line and has written many comics including the Deadly Foes of Spider-Man Limited series and the entire 50 issue run of DarkHawk and was a consultant to the Fox kids Spider-Man animated series. So that’s … So Danny, those words would probably sound pretty familiar to you. We’re really excited to have you here. Jim’s going to start off with kind of the early days before your comics career. Jim, take it away.
Jim: Okay. Hi Danny.
Danny: Hi guys.
Jim: Let’s start with when and where were you born?
Danny: I was born in New York, New York, and I was born in the 50s. Let’s leave it vague like that but I’m a prime era baby boomer.
Jim: Did you play with Howard Chaykin when you were a baby?
Danny: No. Howard lived in a faraway land called Brooklyn. I was, if you can tell by my urbane demeanor, a suave, sophisticated Manhattan native.
Jim: I joke about that, but it seems like everyone we interview is born in New York. That seems to be the common denominator in, not everyone, but almost everyone that we’ve spoken with on this. Why do you think that is?
Danny: I think … There’s a lot of historical reasons. In my case, for me to take a chance on looking for a job at Marvel Comics meant I did not have to fly cross country or Hitchhike from another country, I just had to get on the subway. I was risking a subway token in terms of my curiosity and my interest in possibly a working in comics. I think there’s a local … The two major mainstream comic companies and even much of the underground world started in and until recently was in and around New York City. So if you’re a local kid and you love comics and you’re looking for what you … Either you’re obsessed with it from an early age and, or you’re trying to figure out what you’re going to do as a grownup for a living and for a career. It’s here, there’s a mentoring network, there’s the publishers. This is where the earliest comic conventions, and I guess this probably even an aspect that especially the Marvel stories literally took place in New York.
Jim: Yeah, they’re all in New York, yeah.
Danny: It requires … New York has this … I’m not sure if you guys have ever lived in New York, but it’s a funny thing to live in a place that’s both real and mythical simultaneously so that there’s the real New York of crowded subways and dog shit and pollution and crazy drivers and the Metropolitan Opera and the Metropolitan Museum and all those.
Jim: The lows and the highs, yes.
Danny: So there’s all the lows and the highs and. You could probably spend several months just watching movies that are about some dream world of New York. So to grow up in a place that’s the object of so many people’s fantasies. If you go to any city, if you go anywhere in the world or anywhere in America, you will find expatriate New Yorkers who for whatever reason got the hell out. So as many people are dying to get into New York, that’s as many people dying to get out of New York. But it’s, yes, I will quote the Grateful Dead, New York’s got the ways and means.
Alex: So basically just comes out to the location of where the Marvel was and also that you were born and lived just close to there.
Alex: But then there’s also the culture, as well.
Jim: That makes sense. So tell us a little bit about your family growing up, your parents.
Danny: Wow, this is real. I didn’t know we were going to get this in depth.
Alex: And most importantly, which comics did you read as a kid?
Jim: We’ll get to that for sure.
Danny: I was born and raised in pre gentrification Manhattan. The New York that everybody sees in movies and TV. The glamorous New York always existed but there was the New York of crime and pollution and decay that I … I’m not claiming that I grew up impoverished because I didn’t, but that was sort of … None of my suburban relatives were jealous that I was growing up in Manhattan. We were all like, oh, it’s too bad they never made it to the suburbs. My parents were from … I guess it’s relevant, my parents were really from a similar background to a lot of the comic book creators, which was first generation American born children of Eastern European Jewish immigrants. That’s what I have in common with a Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and Howard Chicken and so on. That was probably subconsciously something that attracted me to the comics and then when I became interested in doing them professionally and learning more about comics history …
Danny: My parents and aunts and uncles grew up in plays and made their way through the same streets with Will Eisner and that whole generation. So that’s my background. My father was, again, similar, sort of like being a famous comic book editor means that you’re famous to like one 10th of 1% of the population unless you’re Stan Lee. My father was a well known canter. He led services at one of the larger Catskills hotels called the Nevele, which was sort of a step in the same league as Grossinger and The Concord, if, you know your Jewish New York area history, and also was in the banquet catering business, and also had a law degree. So kind of like Eisner’s family … My mother was a speech therapist in the New York school system. They never, as far as my reading comics, I think they were glad I was reading something, they never forbid me to read comics.
Danny: I had a friend who even though he was among the poorer kids in this school that I went to through eighth grade, his parents owned a candy store on the Bronx, which meant he got the comics before anybody. So I was … Even though he was technically not as well to do as some of my classmates, he was the only one I was really jealous of. I was like, oh man, he gets the comics, and he gets them for free. But ironically he had a comic book thrown out. So he got the comics early but then his mother would-
Alex: Get rid of them early.
Danny: Yeah. But somewhere in there he got to read them.
Jim: Were you an early reader?
Danny: Yeah, I was one of those kids who in first grade when people were struggling with Dick and Jane, I would just be like, just read the frigging thing. It’s run, start, run, what is so difficult?
Jim: That’s a common factor in everybody we interviewed too. All the comic people all seem to be early readers.
Danny: Yeah, and comics were a big part of that. Comics, it’s almost a cliche, but I guess it’s true, comics did use large vocabulary, certainly larger than a lot of the books you will be reading in kindergarten, first, second, even third grade. It’s funny because even though they were … It’s so interesting, those comics were clearly aimed at children and yet some of them dealt with very sophisticated stories and themes that even … Even in the pre Marvel era you could see the comics had all this smart stuff lurking under the surface, the EC comic certainly. So that was my background. I read comics and early, my earliest memory is my mom reading me a Popeye Comic.
Danny: Probably because Popeye cartoons were popular when I was a kid, so that must’ve been the transition. Then my cousin Steve was a-
Alex: Back in 1960 or something, was that 1960?
Danny: Yes, would have been more like ’58.
Alex: ’58, okay.
Danny: ’58, ’59. I had an older cousin who was a comics reader, he used to give them to me. I can’t remember literally my first comic, I have this vague memory of being Popeye fan and then I just remember, I wouldn’t go … Every Sunday we’d go to visit relatives in the suburbs and I would not go without like a big stack of comics to them with me. I was reading them early and I got into the superheroes very, very early. Something about that … I remember reading Sad Sack and Popeye and Little Lulu so that, it’s stuff but it’s super heroes that really … I’m from an era when every kid read comics for a year or two or read them casually, whether it was Archie or Casper, the Friendly Ghost or Superman. But there were two or three other kids, I was in a class of like 50 kids in this school I was in, we were all in the same … We kind of progressed together through school. In that group, there were two or three other kids who were into comics more than casually, who, one of them was the one who said, after I’ve been reading for a few years, reading comics for a few years said, “There’s this new thing called the Fantastic Four you should check out.” So that was my grape vine. I grew up on the upper east side of Manhattan, on the wrong side of Lexington Avenue, people who know Manhattan will know what I mean. There was literally, I’m so old, there was literally a brewery a block away from my house making Rupert Knickerbocker beer.
Danny: If you can imagine your movie image of the glamour of Manhattan and suddenly there’s like a factory making beer down the block as if we were in some town in Ohio or something. No offense, Ohio listeners. There were a couple of … There were a new stand where I bought so many comics that when I went away to summer camp, even though I would leave my mother a detailed list of what comics to get me, because God forbid I would miss an issue of anything, the guy at the news stand already knew what I wanted. I had a credit line with him, sometimes I owed them as much as like 60 cents.
Alex: That’s pretty cool.
Danny: He did not send the leg breakers out obviously. you know. Then there were also some secondhand magazine shops that sold comics in the neighborhood and that was always … I remember there’s one in the Bronx, because I had a lot of Bronx roots because that’s where my parents were from and they worked and my grandparents lived. I remember buying Fantastic Four number two as a back issue and I paid 5 cents for it because it was an old comic. You weren’t going to pay full price for an old comic book. So I pretty much lived and breathed those comics and I was the perfect age for Marvel when it came out. When Marvel started, if you look through your comic history you’ll see there are a lot of people born somewhere between 1951 and 1955 who ended up in the business. I think that was, if you were like eight, nine, 10, 11 years old and you forget you got your first dose of Marvel Comics, of the first marvel comics, then it really was transformative.
Jim: Did you write any letters?
Danny: Yes, but what I did was, and I look back now, I felt so as if I knew Stan and Jack and Steve, that I would write these long, rambling, comprehensive letters like what I thought of every single thing you did this month. And of course, you know, once you’re on the inside, you go, well, nobody’s printing like a 10 page letter. If you write a reasonably intelligent and witty 50 page letter, 50 word letter, you have a much better chance to getting printed. So I did write letters. I think I did get some of those postcards thanking me from Stan and the gang.
Alex: Oh, that’s cool.
Danny: I never joined the Merry Marvel Marching Society, I have to admit. I just compared, you could be a Superman of America for a dime, or join the MMMS Society for a buck and I just couldn’t. I could never justify that, which might be indicative of the fact that I never really got involved in organized fandoms. So I wasn’t one of those kids who had a fanzine and correspond to … I had this obsession with the comics and a certain point it became just with Marvel comics.
Alex: So that’s Ben and Jack stuff really sucked you in.
Danny: Totally, totally. I was who they were looking for.
Alex: The target audience as they say.
Jim: And how old were you when you thought for the first time I might want to do this for a living?
Danny: Probably pretty young, I’d say, because accompanied by my fascination with and obsession with comics, I was obsessed with drawing. I drew all the time, superheroes, baseball players, were the two main topics. I’d draw The Marvel and DC heroes, I’d make up my own characters. I was a big New York Yankees Fan, so I’d be drawing a Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.
Alex: Oh, nice.
Danny: So I think I figured out obviously that somebody was drawing these things. So I think from pretty early on. I do know, I remember when I’m 12 or 13, here I am living in Manhattan so that means I’m in walking distance probably of like the top 10 greatest art schools in the world. But I wanted to take the famous artists course, the mail order correspondence course, the one with Norman Rockwell and Albert Dorne. So I took the course and I took the test and shockingly I passed it and I can’t … I don’t know if anybody ever didn’t pass it. So the sales man came to our apartment. My parents were actually … They said, “Think about it for a few days, if you still want it, we’ll pay for it.” In that way, I wasn’t as obsessed, as obviously some future professionals, I was a kid and few days later my attention had drifted and I didn’t get the course. So I was pretty good for a 12 year old.
Danny: I had a friend who was really good, who I think could have been professional but chose to become both a dentist and a lawyer, so-
Alex: There you go. Secure, that’s good secure work.
Danny: Yeah, it is really. Obviously I’m a writer, an editor and word person, but I don’t think any … You have to be a real special kind of kid to love comics and not want to be Jack Kirby. So that was the fantasy I had that maybe one day I could do what Jack or guys like that did. I ended up … That was as a kid my comic book fantasy. Then I lost interest in the comics that were coming out in the early seventies. I look back on it now and I go, wow, there’s a lot of great stuff, but I think it was a combination of the typical becoming interested in girls and music and school and movies and a hundred other things.
Jim: Was that around the time that Kirby left marvel or did you stay around for-
Danny: When Kirby left Marvel is around the time my Marvel interest waned. I did follow, I look at my collection and I do have most of the fourth world stuff that Kirby did. In there I started developing a certain amount of interest in the undergrounds but I was never immersed in the underground. I’m certainly familiar with them, and later on I became a huge Harvey Peacock Fan. It’s kind of the underground, it’s almost been a more a matter of me catching up. I think at that point in my life my attention shifted. We’re talking about late high school, my attentions shifted to literature, movies, and always a great fondness for the medium of comics. Anytime I saw an article about comics or a news item I was interested in it. But when I look back on the comics, and again, I think it was just my becoming a later adolescent and developing other interests, but I think it was when a certain level of innovation ended and a level of professionalism came in.
Danny: So I can look at that professionalism now and I can say, boy, these were some really talented people doing these stories. But the explosive excitement where every issue of Fantastic Four and every issue of Spiderman in every issue of Tales of Suspense would have 10 new cool things and 10 risks that to me were new, maybe they were knocked off from a TV show or a movie or a Shakespeare play or something that I wasn’t familiar with, but when it shifted from explosive new things every issue to, oh, here’s a very well done, competent, professional, comic, that’s when my interest started waning.
Alex: The magic is less at that point.
Danny: Yeah. And of course there was that old cliche, this cliche, because it’s true that the golden age of anything is 12.
Jim: Ales and I were talking about that earlier.
Alex: Yeah, outgrowing it.
Danny: What was your education? Did you go from high school straight to college?
Alex: I went from high school. I went to a Bronx Science and then I went … I ended up in Suny Binghamton where they had a very unique film program. It was … It had a lot of things in common with comics and Marvel comics but it was an avant garde. It was a film program run by Avant Garde film artists, people who most people haven’t heard of, the most famous, he didn’t teach there, but the kind of film making done by a guy named Stan Brakhage.
Danny: Sure. Of course.
Jim: I went to a USC Grad School, and taught film for Duke for 15 years.
Danny: Okay. So Ken Jacobs was one of my teachers, if you know Ken’s work.
Jim: Yeah, of course.
Danny: Larry Gottaim was another teacher, Dan Barnett, Saul Levine, these were people in the Brakhage … Obviously we’re all unique and different and had their own visions, but it was non narrative film, which was the very opposite in the sense of Marvel Comic because Marvel Comic is … Among the things that marvel does well is it tells a story with a beginning, middle, a traditionally structured narrative story. But of course I was the narrative guy in this non narrative program, which I didn’t take any abuse for people, respected it. So I had this kind of fine arts school education in this esoteric area of film.
Jim: Were you doing production or was it more critical studies?
Danny: I was doing more production, which again was that sort of avant garde ideal. If you remember a book, this will really date me and whoever knows what I’m talking about, this book by a guy named Lenny Lipton, who is also the co-writer of puff the magic dragon, the song. But Lenny Lipton wrote a book called independent filmmaking, and the introduction is by Stan Brakhage. There’s a photo in it of Brakhage with a Bolex slung over his shoulder as if he was a gunfighter in a 50s western. So that sort of loaned, bold genius with a camera was the vision that became, that sort of replaced Jack Kirby in my imagination. So that was my education. Actually we-
Jim: So when did you finish the film program?
Danny: I finished, boy, you want to know my age? I finished in ’76. I sort of had a toe hold in that world. I had a shared show at a place called The Collective for Living Cinema, which was in Tribeca. That’s where I showed my senior thesis film. I did some PA work on movies in New York. I didn’t want to go to graduate school, at least not yet. I really didn’t want to move to Hollywood, especially given my anti Hollywood aesthetic education. This is where being from New York comes in handy or determines your fate or something because like a lot of kids after college, I’m going home to live with my mom. My father passed away when I was in high school, but my mom happened to live on the upper east side of Manhattan. So it was like, okay, well here I am in the media capital of the world, I have a really cool fine arts education, but it’s one that certainly is not going to make me rich tomorrow, what am going to do?
Alex: It didn’t feel practical at the time.
Danny: It didn’t feel practical. It’s not like something that I would do for love and maybe apply for a grant or something. But then the most well known, the fact is Stan Brakhage even being say the most well known filmmaker still had to have a day job teaching and spent a lot of his time barnstorming different colleges and museums, I think largely because he had a lot of children that he had his support.
Alex: Right. Exactly.
Danny: So we benefited because we got to see Stan Brakhage and all these other filmmakers in person, but I think given their druthers, that was probably not their ideal way, how to spend their time. So I’m back in New York and what am I going to do? Well, it might be fun to work at Marvel Comics.
Jim: Let’s go back, and I’m going to hand you over to Alex in a second, let’s go back. You’re already a comics professional to some degree at this point, because you’ve worked in some of these for-
Danny: Says it again, no, no, no. I think I hear you jump.
Alex: Did you … I had read that you’d worked at Atlas Seaboard, is that correct?
Danny: This is totally incorrect. This is the pain of my existence. I should’ve talked to you guys about this before. My first boss was Larry Leiber. Larry Lieber hired me, but he was back at Marvel.
Jim: Was he working in the British department at that point?
Danny: Yes. Larry had been the editor at Atlas Seaboard during that company’s brief existence, and Larry was my first boss. So somewhere, I think it was Jerry Bails who somehow inferred from that, that I had worked for Larry at Atlas Seaboard. The problem is that’s now in Jerry’s who’s who and is therefore in Wikipedia. But Jerry has died and his wife I don’t think has any interest in updating his web.
Alex: And correcting it.
Danny: And correcting it. So yes, it makes me seem older than I am, which I don’t like, and it’s not true. I came to the back to New York in 76 I worked a bunch of odd jobs in the local movie industry. Then I knew somebody who knew somebody who got me in on an informational tour to Marvel where I thought it might be fun to work and then I … Then I had interview with Larry who had come back from Seaboard. So I started there in ’77.
Alex: That was totally after Atlas for sure then.
Danny: Yeah, yeah, atlas ended in ’75 and Larry got in the British department. So that’s … I got to get somebody, if one of you guys wants to go and correct that, I would-
Alex: On Wikipedia, there you go.
Danny: Because I’m not allowed, but I’m sure somebody will go. But it says I’m Jerry Vale this age, blah, blah blah. So it can’t be right.
Jim: That’s great news for us, we’ve now served a purpose because everybody listening to this is going to know that’s not right because I saw that you had worked with Lieber on the British Comics, and I wondered if he got you the job because of your past at Atlas. Now it all makes sense. And it also, I couldn’t reconcile your education with working there. So this makes sense.
Danny: What happened was I went up to Marvel, like I said, I had a distant connection that got me up there for an informational tour. While I was there I ran into a guy I went to high school with who was working there and he helped me, like a year later, get the entry level job as Larry’s assistant in the British department. So that was how I started. That was my, my beginning as a comics professional.
Jim: Was that a natural place to go, the British Department? Because again, we’ve talked to, I think it was Tom, was Tom Orzechowski and some others where it seems like that’s where they hit off their first. Was that a normal first step?
Danny: Yeah, I think there were a few, yes, because there was very little new … There was a lot of new material in the sense that they were new covers and new splash pages because we split the stories up into chapters so there were new splash pages, new covers, and there was a lot of … For artists there was touch up work and exhibit tone so you could kind of learn the ropes. There was a little new material, Captain Britain was being put out.
Jim: Oh, that Black Knight series and Hulk was great.
Alex: Those are fun series.
Danny: That was actually done in England. That Hulk series was done. A lot of stuff happened in the British department in a short period of time. So basically I came in there and ’77, Larry was the editor, I was the assistant editor slash production manager, and then we had a small bullpen that consisted of Irv Watanabe who was a letterer, sat in there and did his work and did a lot of work for us, Duffy Volland. There were people who either used the room just as freelancers, they used it to work in. But Howard Bender, who is an artist, his name you may know, was a staff production artists working in the British department, a guy named, David Cohen, who at the time was Saul Brodsky’s son-in-law, went out to Hollywood to become a musician. So a lot of different people kind of came to the British department.
Danny: So if you were like a new artists looking to get some practical experience, then yeah, come dothis splash page, this recap slash page. So a lot of people went to the British Department, and I think Tony Isabella, was the editor, Scott Edelman. Then it was sort of a natural funnel into the mainstream editorial department. If you know your history, in the mid, late seventies, the editorial department was in constant flux. So what happened was a guy named David Skin who had been the, at that point, I think he was the British publisher of Mad, and I guess he’d probably done a bunch of other stuff too. He approached Marvel about, my impression is, I wasn’t in those meetings of course, but somehow making the British product more authentic, which made sense. Like instead of the British Comics being put out by a bunch of guys in the Bronx and Brooklyn and Queens, maybe they should be put up by actual English people.
Danny: So this convinced Marvel to move the operation to England. At that point Larry was doing the penciling and also the writing on the Hulk newspaper Strip. He segued into that and I became kind of an all around assistant. They invented this general assistant for me. So I was the liaison with England. I was helping them get the reprint material so that they could do the books and I was also the assistant editor on Star Wars because England was using the Star Wars material at twice the rate that the US was. I became Archie Goodwin’s assistant on Star Wars. And I worked … So early on I got … So I worked with Carmine Infantino in a lot of new covers.
Alex: Late seventies, yes.
Danny: Right. So the Star Wars which was … I think he was among the first of my childhood idols that I got to work with.
Alex: That’s pretty cool.
Danny: And I learned how weird it was. I worked with guys who I knew, but I couldn’t say that they were legendary in my mind as names, but to me Carmine was always a star, from the Flash and the Strains and Batman. I always say you know you’re a professional … Actually Carmine was very good at hitting deadlines. He was the ultimate professional. There’s that weird moment when you’re on the phone and you’re talking, and it’s like, “Hello childhood idol, I can’t believe I’m speaking to you. It was my dream my entire life that one day I might actually get to know you and work with you, now where are the frigging pages?”
Alex: Exactly, because he had to kind of answer to you in some way.
Danny: Yeah, that’s a totally surreal moment. You go, oh well this is definitely … We’re not in Kansas anymore.
Alex: How was Larry Lieber as a boss?
Danny: Oh, Larry was great. Actually Larry is somebody I’m still very friendly with currently. I see him every few weeks. So we have lunch, he’s, Larry. I’d say that he … I guess everybody has a unique series of people who mentor them and train them, but I may be one of the few people who was kind of, who learned a lot of what I know about comics from Larry, Louise Simonson and Jim Shooter. Then I learned a lot from a lot of other people. Those were the three who either by default or by choice, said that I’m going to teach you how to do comic. Larry, his brother is who he is so there’s always sort of that in the background but Larry on his own is incredibly smart and creative and talented.
Alex: Versatile. He can write and draw, that’s pretty good. And Archie Goodwin and Jim Shooter, so was there-
Danny: And Louise Simonson.
Alex: And Louise Simonson.
Danny: I worked with Louise Simonson, formerly Louise Jones because she … What happened was I worked in the British department then the British department went to England and I had this combination, utility player. That’s when I, if you remember, I ran a line like half a dozen reprint books.
Jim: I’ve got questions about those for sure.
Danny: I worked, I was a shared assistant between Saul Brodsky and Jim shooter, which was interesting because let’s just say they weren’t best friends.
Alex: Oh really?
Danny: Yeah, that was sort of interesting to be in the middle of. Then about a year later, Louise, she was Louise Jones then, came over from Warren and I was assigned as her assistant and luckily we got along very well. So she took over, this was an incredible workload, The X Men titles, the Cone End titles, The Star Wars titles. I think we were doing like 12 books a month. Micronauts, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica.
Alex: A lot.
Danny: And of course the Dazzler.
Jim: Let’s not get too far ahead because I got questions about those for sure.
Danny: It’s going to be like a six hour interview by the time we’re done.
Jim: No, no, we’re going to move it fast.
Alex: Was a Jim Shooter’s style of communication versus Saul Brodsky, that’s interesting that you mentioned that was there … What was like a disagreement between them and difference in style between those two guys, because Jim shooter wrote Saul Brodsky’s obituary when he died, so that’s interesting.
Jim: Well, Jim was the editor in chief, so I guess, look, this is … How do I … They were different personalities and they were different phases in their careers, you know what I mean? Saul, even though I’m older now than Saul was then, Saul I think had nothing to prove. He had a nice job that he was good at, people liked him. I think he was just … I think he would have been content to just play out however many years he was going to work until he retired. He had gone out on his own with Star Wars, as I see the history now. So I guess he came back, he had an executive position with numerous responsibilities but he wasn’t … It seemed very much like it was a job to him, which was fine. He was a very nice guy. People liked him. I think Shooter was a young, ambitious guy who had a different vision for Marvel and comics and what life was about.
Jim: So it was just kind of a clash of two people or two different periods in their life. Then of course Saul had … Saul got suddenly ill and died, I’m probably over simplifying it, but Saul had … When Saul was in the army, his platoon had been one of those groups of soldiers they put in the desert and said, “We’re going to set off this nuclear device here. You’ll be fine. You just stand here. We’re going to go into this bunker, you guys stand out here and you’ll be fine.” He and I think a number of other people he served with all have this kind of cancer that very quickly came on very quickly spread because he was, Saul I was 64. He wasn’t even that old when he died. I think it came on very quickly so that I think everybody was sort of shocked. That was, again, I have no scientific-
Alex: But that makes sense.
Danny: This was sort of the scuttlebutt of how and why Saul suddenly got so ill and passed away. So I think he and Jim were just, they had different world views and different things they wanted out of life and so that just ended up I think in a … Again, I never saw them have an argument but my understanding was that they were-
Alex: Not on the same page.
Danny: Yeah, exactly.
Jim: Was Stan around at all? I know he wasn’t running things per se, but was he in the offices? Did you see him?
Danny: Stan was in the office a couple of days a week. I don’t have, and it’s funny especially because I wrote this … I’m writing his biography of him. I’ve been wracking my brain for what’s my first memory of meeting Stan and I can’t remember it. He was just there. He had to … He was certainly there enough when I started out but no cover … If he was in the office, no cover left the office without him seeing it and approving it before it went to the printers. So I know that certainly there were times say if Larry was out sick or on vacation where I’d have to go to Stan and get the British department covers approved by him. But I can’t, it’s killing me, but I can’t remember, and I should probably just make up something so I have a story to tell. But yeah, he was definitely a presence. He was there. There would be like large editorial or company wide meetings where he would say a few words.
Danny: I think he was hands on with the various editors in chief. Then I think by 19 … I think he was traveling a great deal to the west coast, and then by 1980 he moved completely out there.
Alex: Yeah, I think he went Hollywood.
Jim: All right. So you, after you left the … You were moved over from the British stuff to editing the American reprints, the amazing adventures, which was the X Men, Tales-
Danny: It was simultaneous, but go on.
Jim: Tales to Astonish, submarine and Marvel super action Avengers, and the Silver Surfer fantasy masterpieces, but not Marvel Tales. Was that under a different system or why was that not one of them?
Danny: My understanding of the whole reason for me getting those books or those books existing at all, was that marvel had promised it’s advertises that they would be in a certain number of comics every month, X million comics every month. I think in order to fulfill that commitment they had to rush these reprint titles out.
Jim: Oh, that’s fascinating. I’ve never heard that before.
Danny: So I guess whoever had Marvel Tales, and also I think maybe Marvel’s greatest comics also … I think that the idea was not, oh, this one person just supervises reprints, the idea was we need this reprint, Danny has a light work load, I’ll go, Danny is now editing these. I said, I guess to Shooter, I said, “Can I put my name in as reprint editor?” And he said, “Fine.” So that’s how that ended up happening. Then the thing that I had to do with most of those was delete a certain amount of material because I think these were 20 or 22 page stories we had to fit into 17 page formats or 18 page formats.
Alex: Oh, so some panels were missing actually.
Danny: Oh yeah. If you go through, I think the purists, they don’t like those, for that reason.
Jim: Was that hard for you to take an issue of Lee Buscema’s Silver Surfer and say, I’m going to lose this page and this page?
Danny: I think in that case it was the opposite in that we split them into, maybe split them into two. I think we didn’t do that. I think those worked okay. Some of them I don’t remember. I remember being more an issue with the Avengers and with the sub mariner. Here’s the thing, I was not from fandom. I was a fan and a passionate lover of comics as a kid, but I didn’t fetishize in that way. I do now but when I was like in my early 20s coming into the business, I even did … Here’s something I did that will really bring down the wrath of your listeners on me. In one of the summer reprints, might’ve been the surfer, but I think it was an Avengers reprint, there were like … There was some scene where there were a couple of a small time hoodlums robbing a truck or something and I had the production department white out, whatever they called each other, I had them white out their names and put in the names of two of my friends.
Alex: You’re an editor, why not?
Danny: And who’s going to …I can’t imagine that anybody would notice or care.
Alex: That’s funny.
Danny: Now of course I go, oh my God, how could someone … It actually, now I’d be horrified if somebody accused me of doing that, but then it was like, this will be cute. I’ll put my friends.
Alex: It is cute actually.
Jim: Would you be the one that would decide that it needed a new cover or cover changes but especially getting like say Gil Kane to do a cover instead rather than use the original or where did that come from?
Danny: I’d say most of the time, I guess since I answered to Shooter on those I’d say … I remember we split up the X Men stories. So then I would try to get somebody, say John Byrne did one or two covers, Carmine did some Splash pages, not because his work looked anything like from 1963 but because Carmine had a contract that guaranteed him X amount of work and to help him make the contract we … A lot of stuff was done just because somebody needed work or was contractually obligated to get … There’s a lot of creative decisions, especially back then that had more to do with fulfilling contracts and commitments. So yeah, so the X men stuff I remember we definitely split that up into two parts because those stories were so long and then we had … Then we could put like the origin, the X Men origin five pages from the 60s in the back.
Danny: So that would be I guess me and I guess it would have to be approved by Jim who I was answering to at the time as far as getting the covers. I think from then the surfer, I think we’ve put out that fantasy masterpieces as a full size comic. So there was … We didn’t ever have to cut the surfer. We left out the tales of the watcher stories that have been in the back of the originals.
Jim: That’s right. I think that’s exactly right.
Danny: So I think at least in the case of the other ones I did it was only the Amazing Adventures or the X Men reprints? yes right?. Again, if we split a story into the same thing we get a new Splash page on.
Jim: So was was marvel super special, the Xanadu one, your first assignment where you were editing all new material and yes, I’m bringing that up.
Danny: Wow. That’s a good question. All new. I edited the articles. Louise edited … That was … What a saga that Xanadu was, because that was … I got a lot of Xanadu stories. I guess that was probably among the first things, because I was in charge of all the articles in that. I made as many beginner mistakes as anybody else makes as a beginner in terms of the articles. I think they ultimately were approved by the Xanadu people. You really have studied my career, it is frightening.
Jim: That’s what we do.
Alex: That’s how we function.
Danny: I know. So are you going to ask me questions about like my ex girlfriends and ex wives?
Jim: I do that for my day job as a divorce lawyer, so I don’t bring those up.
Danny: My favorite Xanadu story is, as a movie, it was not one of the great movies ever made, but when you’re working on a project, you have to convince yourself that it is.
Alex: You’ve got to get into it.
Danny: You become emotionally invested in it. So I remember we had done the comic, which was … Louise literally finished editing the comic and like leaves the next day to get married to Walt and leave on their honeymoon.
Danny: We had a hundred people helping finish it and then we tried some new … The idea was we were going to do it as a pencil’s only job, and they’d reproduce on the pencils but the problem was the technology didn’t really exist to do that yet. I remember, so, Joel silver, this is before he was Joel Silver, this is just Joel Silver, was the producer of Xanadu and he … We’d finished the comic, everything had gone to press, I don’t think it had come out yet, but he came in and he took everybody who had worked on it to this a private screening room in midtown, a couple of blocks from Marvel’s offices. We’re all pumped, because again, we all, oh boy, we bet it’ll be great. It’s got Jim Kelly and Olivia Newton John, and it’s got all these great … And music actually was good. If you ever listen to the soundtrack, it’s not a bad soundtrack. So we’re all pumped, and then the movie plays and really the only …
Danny: The closest metaphor I can bring to you as the audience and the producers watching springtime for Hitler on opening night, that’s kind of … You could’ve seen it through our faces just looking at the screen and going, oh my God.
Jim: And you’re coming from a Stan Brakhage’s background. This is hilarious.
Danny: Actually … The lights went up and we all said something for light to Joel Silver and got the hell out of there fast as we could. When you say from Stan Brakhage’s background, my friend David Caselkov of who was active in Fandom, and actually was one of the writers of that famous article about Master Race, that he wrote with Jon Benson or Oliver Lieberman.
Jim: Oh, sure.
Danny: So David, I went to college at David and he studied the same program, and he actually worked … helped them get hired working in production of the British Department for about a year when I was in the British Department. David ran into Ken Jacob I think in Soho at a magazine store and he showed Ken the Xanadu magazine, and Ken said, I hope jokingly, he said, “If I could, I’d go back and lower his grades.”
Alex: That’s funny.
Jim: That’s great.
Danny: I believe it was a joke because I’ve been in touch with Ken since then. He hasn’t mentioned Xanadu.
Jim: When you were there during those early years at Marvel, did you make any major friendships? Were you friends, did you become friends with Archie Goodwin or with any of these people?
Danny: I’d say my closest friend-
Alex: Mark Gruenwald, was Mark Gruenwald a friend of yours?
Danny: Wow, I have say you guys are good interviewers because I’ve never been asked questions like this. I had close friends from like so called real life, people I’d gone to high school and summer camp with. I’d say the people I was closest with at Marvel, I got to back this up because it’s-
Alex: It’s hard to answer. It’s a complex question.
Danny: It’s a complex question because work friends are difficult, and although obviously there are people at Marvel who’ve met and even gotten married … I had a lot of friends of various levels over the years, a lot of whom I’ve actually reconnected with on social media. I’d say at different times, people I was close with would include a Bob Budiansky, Eileen Norton, Scott Edelman, Howard Mackie, Neil Young. But there’s all sorts of different … Grunewald certainly. The reason that you’re getting such a tongue tied answer from me really goes to the topic question of-
Alex: Yeah, you don’t want to insult anybody.
Danny: No, no, no, no. Well, no, not even that. People I don’t want to talk about I’m just not mentioning. But it’s the idea that you work at a place like Marvel Comics and it’s your first job that ends up lasting close to 20 years. You’re growing up in public. So it’s this really weird fishbowl thing where you have this combination of these public and private persona. There’s a couple of people. I’d say right now the closest friends I have from my years in comics, and of course now that I’m saying this we’ll probably have some big falling out or something, but Tom Defalco, JM Dematteis, Eric Finne. I’m sure I’m leaving out some people who will be offended but it’s it’s a tricky thing especially if you’re somebody’s editor or they’re your editor or they can determine whether you get work or get promoted or …
Danny: So boy, oh, boy, human relationships are complicated enough but when you add in this factor of also being involved with people’s careers and incomes and egos and creative talents and self image. Sorry, I know you’re expecting me to say like blah, blah, blah was a great guy and blah, blah, blah. There was groups of guys I went to lunch with, there were some people that I hung out with, but I would say maybe because I am a native New Yorker and didn’t write for a lot, because although there were a lot of native New Yorkers in the business, in my generation there were a lot of people from-
Alex: Out of town.
Danny: So I think for those people, comics for better or worse became their social life as well as their professional life. I was always a little wary about that. I just felt like it … For me I was a little cautious about becoming too friendly with people at work and I had a group of friends from my other lives.
Alex: Outside of it.
Danny: So there’s a lot of people I like, a lot of people I hung out with, a lot of people I went to movies and lunches with, but I was careful about making my social life and my work life entirely intermeshed.
Alex: You didn’t want it incestuous.
Danny: Comics is incestuous enough. One day you’re somebody’s … One morning, you’re somebody’s editor and that same afternoon they’re your editor.
Alex: Like a religious compound in a way.
Danny: Hahaha. I guess there’s a reason that phrases like true believers came to existence.
Alex: That’s true. That’s all ties together. That’s interesting.
Jim: So you started editing new books, not just like a special but around the time of the Man-Thing relaunch you were doing that when Chris Claremont was writing it.
Danny: What happened was I became Louise’s assistant, and so she, I guess she was the editor maybe of record but it was part … Marvel, especially under Shooter but in general, had a farm system almost, that was the best metaphor. I think we called it that. So if you were someone’s assistant then they would delegate a couple of titles to you to edit, ones either that were considered marginal so if you screwed them up who cared or, and, or that had a strong creative team that were on a pretty set course so again there was a limit to how much you could mess it up. I think under Louise’s supervision I edited Man Thing, and I think King Conan eventually.
Jim: And that was with Bruce Jones writing it, right?
Danny: That was with Bruce Jones writing it. So that was just Marvel, again, coming from Shooter who had a lot of good ideas, the idea was we are … We have figured out the best way to do 22 page superhero comics at least in 1980, whatever. This is what we consider the state of the art, and so now let’s codify it and teach people how to do it, and so they did that. So I started with, with those comics and I was also writing the Dazzler at the same time, and I was editing the Dazzler. I was editing the Dazzler and then I had a big, it was a big editorial crisis. There was a big editorial crisis and Tom was unhappy with the editorial decision that I made. Heres of course this is of course the irony of life again but of comics too, is that … I mentioned to you the two of, two people I consider some of my closest friends are DeFalco and DeMatteis, they’re guys who have every right not to talk to me because I really butchered some of their stories as an editor.
Alex: I see. So there’s more conflict there.
Danny: Yeah, but they’re actual grownups who were able to separate. And of course I think I got better as an editor.
Jim: But you were listed in the credits as co-writing Dazzler’s issue six and then went onto to write it. Was it actual co writing or did you take it over?
Danny: Was what?
Jim: Did you take it over in the middle of an issue or were you actually working with Tom in co-writing it?
Danny: Tom is, there’s a reason Tom is considered a top professional, that’s because he’s a top professional. So Tom had outlined three or four issues in advance. So his outlines really for many artists would have been enough to do a plot, but I took those out lines and then with Shooter who took over as editor, expanded them into more detailed plots, which Frank then, Frank Springer then penciled. So I expanded on … I think the credits are correct. I think there’s something like story, however the credits are, we try to be accurate. So Tom accounted for the basic story but I flushed it out into more detail and wrote the dialogue.
Jim: What was a Frank Springer like to work with?
Alex: He had a lot of experience by that point.
Danny: Frank, whatever.
Jim: Do you think he was a good match on the book? Were you happy that he was the artist?
Danny: I didn’t have any … Whatever. I’m sorry. I just assume not talk about that. Frank professionally did his job.
Jim: You did about 20 issues of that, and then you left and immediately they bring in Bill Sienkiewicz to do covers, and they’re like some of my favorite covers of that time. Did you ever feel like, gee, why didn’t I get those?
Danny: Actually Bill had done a lot of covers while I was writing it.
Jim: He did do a few.
Danny: He did a whole bunch. No that was … Jim Shooter became obsessed with Dazzler for whatever reason I’ll fully understand.
Alex: So I was wondering that. So you’re not sure what that reason is?
Danny: I think he wanted to prove, this is probably something better to ask him, but in retrospect I think he probably wanted to prove that he was skilled enough as an editor and writer to take even an idea like Dazzler that a lot of people made fun of and make it succeed.
Alex: And maybe make a movie.
Danny: Make it credible as a mainstream Marvel comic. I think it could have succeeded but I think the emphasis on the cheesecake aspect of the comics and of the characters undermined that intention. Because I wrote it and I approached it as if it was Iron Man or as if it was Thor, as a serious Marvel Comic. But it is sometimes hard when you have a character whose breasts are twice as big as her head and wearing a glowing disco costumes necessarily be taken as seriously as she might be. I think that the Dazzler Galactus trilogy was actually very good.
Alex: Yeah, I liked it.
Danny: I think we did surprise people with a number of those comics and really did pull off that impossible task of doing serious 80 style superhero comics with the Dazzler who even though-
Alex: 70s Disco character
Danny: Even though she never officially had the disco in front of her name, everybody knew she was a disco Dazzler.
Alex: Disco Dazzler yeah.
Jim: Then besides Dazzler you did some, in the early, pretty early days, you did some What Ifs beginning with Dazzler becoming the Herald of Galactus, were those fun books to do?
Danny: Loved doing What If. What If, I guess even though I wasn’t the a star scholar in Yeshiva, I think there’s something about that kind of history and detail passing that you’d go back into a story and you’d try to find the moment where, oh, if this had happened differently, you’d have a whole different set of reality. Then later on in the, I guess in the 90s I did a lot of What ifs for Craig Anderson. Those were a immense fun, again, because you could, as long as you could justify what you were doing as being true to the personalities of the various characters you could do a lot of stuff and just play with the characters in the ways that you really couldn’t in the more mainstream shared universe.
Jim: I have two more questions and then I’m going to give you over to Alex for Spiderman. My first question is, the graphic novel X Men, the God Loves, Man Kills, were you the chief editor or assistant editor? What was your role?
Danny: I was the assistant in that. That was all Louise and Chris and Brent. I might have put the numbers on top of the pages, I can’t say I put it all up.
Jim: What was your reaction to that? That always seemed like such a major book to come out in terms of those early days of playing with the graphic form that way.
Danny: Yeah, it was really impressive. I knew Brent’s work from Ka-Zar and of course Chris was Chris. I don’t know if I have anything profound to add about that, but it was this interesting period where the term graphic novel was becoming popular through Will Eisner and through Art Spiegelman and Maus and so you have this thing called the graphic novel and then Marvel in a way that you can blame them tried to co-opt that label of graphic novel. And really most of what we did was just like really long superhero comics. But some of them were quite good and had really talented people at the top of their game, and I think that’s what God loves, Man Kill. It’s a great title, God Loves, Man Kills.
Alex: That’s great book.
Danny: That’s up there with some of the great film titles of Hollywood history.
Jim: It easily could be one of those. It’s a great title.
Danny: So as I said I was literally the assistant on that, I didn’t have a whole lot to do with it.
Jim: And then you were doing writing work on the official handbook along with Grunewald and Peter Sanderson and a few others, out of all of them, who was the guy that knew everything already in terms of the history? Was it was the Sanderson? Gruenwald?
Danny: Both of them. I don’t think it was a contest. I think it was … They were … There was a reason they did that book. I wrote maybe half a dozen entries if that many for the book, I was very much involved with the Marvel saga.
Alex: I love that story.
Danny: Thank you. That was the handbook. Again, there were a few, there were characters that I was either writing or editing or just had an interest in. Again, I named Ka-Zar’s parents after my own parents, because nobody had ever given them names.
Alex: That’s awesome. I like how you put in your friends and families in these.
Jim: That’s great information.
Danny: You do stuff like that, and it didn’t contradict anything, just nobody ever given … That was not as egregious as my, as my horrible sin of putting my friends’ names and the Avengers reprint.
Alex: As far as replacing, but it’s fun.
Danny: I remember there was one night a bunch of us were out having dinner and we were kind of riffing on various handbook, how different characters in history and fiction would be described in the Marvel universe handbook. I remember I got a big laugh when I said something like Jesus could bench press.
Alex: 10 tons. 10 tons I would estimate.
Jim: He is stronger.
Danny: He had the ability to transmute.
Alex: like molecule man basically?
Danny: Pretty much, which is actually I think of how Shooter played him later on in the Secret Wars.
Alex: That’s funny. That’s a funny comparison. I never thought of equating them.
Jim: And then after this is done, Spiderman takes over your life to some degree, and I’m going to hand you off to Alex primarily for this part.
Alex Grand: That was around 1982ish. You started editing Spider-Man with Tom DeFalco, is that right?
Danny Fingeroth: 1983, early ’83.
Alex Grand: ’83. Early ’83. Okay.
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah, I was working for Louise for a little over three years. I was editing some comics with her, I think, I don’t remember. I think at that point I had handed off the British liaison work to somebody else, a lot of these things. This is a long time ago. Yeah, but in the early ’83, Tom had come on staff as an editor. He had been a freelance writer and he come on staff as an editor and I think again, Jim Shooter was modeling the Marvel editorial staff to a large degree on the DC editorial staff of the 40s, 50s, 60s. So that’s-
Alex Grand: With separate compartments?
Danny Fingeroth: Separate departments and even more so than DC. It had that if a character had more than one title, he or she would have those titles supervised by one editor, which made total sense. I mean, and it’s amazing it took so long for…
Alex Grand: To do that.
Danny Fingeroth: To figure that out because he’s have, because I remember there was a period there will be safe. You have… If you have three Spider-Man books, it was amazing, spectacular and Marvel team up, there’d be three different editors working on those titles and so it was hard to coordinate even if everybody had the best of intentions, you just forget or things-
Alex Grand: Yeah, sure.
Danny Fingeroth: So I think when Shooter brought Tom on as an editor, that was part of a process of creating groups or families of titles that would be under one editor for each. So Tom became the editor of all the Spider-Man titles and then he was promoted to be Jim’s executive editor and I was promoted from assistant to full editor on the Spider-Man books. For the first day, I try to manage two different periods.
Alex Grand: Right and so you were kind of like the more wise anger to Superman, you were that to Spider-Man basically in a way.
Danny Fingeroth: I guess, without some of the…
Jim Thompson: Without spider dog.
Danny Fingeroth: Without some of more well known quirks that…
Alex Grand: Lion’s head. Yeah.
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah. So that’s right. Exactly. So, that and of course, so I would supervise Spider-Man’s main titles, but of course being Spider-Man like Wolverine or later the Punisher or whoever, people always wanted to guest all the character. So it was always a matter of say in theory would have to get my approval.
Alex Grand: Okay.
Danny Fingeroth: Which couldn’t be withheld unreasonably. That was always, especially in the 90s during the big comic book-
Alex Grand: Yeah, X-Men and Spider Man. Yeah.
Danny Fingeroth: It was already there. It was always a question, like is there… what’s too much? Is having Wolverine in five books this month going to dilute the character or does it not matter or does it just?-
Alex Grand: Right.
Danny Fingeroth: These were ongoing philosophical
Alex Grand: Questions, yeah.
Danny Fingeroth: And sales questions that different times at different answers.
Alex Grand: So when you started editing Spider-Man, were you thinking, “Okay, so Tom did it this way, I’m going to do it like that for awhile”. Then you transition into your own style, or did you just come in kind of with your own idea of how you were going to run the character?
Danny Fingeroth: Well, Tom had done a great job. I mean, I think there are like handful of people walking on the planet who really understand who Spider-Man and Peter Parker are, and I think Tom is one of those people. Well, yeah, he was plus all his books were on or ahead of schedule and I was terrified. I mean, I sort of luckily there’s a lot I didn’t know. I didn’t even know that I didn’t know. I just wanted to keep the books going and to say there’s no such thing as walking into somebody else’s editorial line and just keeping it going, because a lot of what keeps it going is the chemistry between the editor and the creative personnel. Once that chemistry changes, everything else changes and the… You can go in saying, “I’m not going to change anything” and you don’t have a choice about if things change, because so much of editing is personal chemistry.
Danny Fingeroth: There are as I’ve often said, so I’ll say it again. I mean, there are people who think I’m the best editor they ever had and there’re people think I’m the worst editor they ever had. Well, I’m the same guy. So there’s got to be something about the relationship between-
Alex Grand: The team, it’s relative.
Danny Fingeroth: Me and that creative team that makes one person think I’m great, another think that I’m horrible. So that comes into play and so people, there’s so many intangibles involved. I think what I felt my responsibility was to the character.
Alex Grand: Yeah.
Danny Fingeroth: I think I felt… I mean, obviously it was Jim Shooter who was writing my razor views, but my responsibility was to take my understanding of who Peter Parker was and what made him tick and what would be the best stories to make him relatable to the audience and who would be the best people to do that and also that’s because when I came on, I think team up didn’t have a regular writer. Every freelance writer and artists on a comic has their own career and their own agenda and their own family and their own idea of what’s right and what’s appropriate and what they will accept in terms of suggestion and supervision. It’s so much about chemistry that I know it seemed like a simple question, like what was your intention? My intention was to make good comic books and to keep my job.
Alex Grand: Yeah. Right and then-
Danny Fingeroth: And hopefully those two things will require the same thing.
Alex Grand: The same work. Doesn’t matter amount of work, the same work. So then as far as the… was there a feeling like, “Okay, I want to update Peter Parker for this new audience” or was it more like kind of continuum or was it a little more organic and just kind of putting out Peter Parker story? Because the context is probably different from the 60s and the 80s. Right?
Danny Fingeroth: Right. Well, I always tried to do, I mean, was saying to myself when it seemed to me, and I think it was true that say in the early mid 80s, I think even then, I think the bulk of people reading comics, especially Spider-Man were kids, you know?
Alex Grand: Yeah.
Danny Fingeroth: So I tried to say to myself, if I was 10 or 12 now, what would I be looking for in a story and what would make me come back the next issue?
Alex Grand: Yeah.
Danny Fingeroth: What was it that made me as a kid keep coming back? What was it that made me stop when I stopped and how do I work with the creative teams to do that? That was… It wasn’t, and that required understanding a lot of things. Who Peter Parker was, what a Marvel comic is, what a reader expects from a Marvel comic despite of mankind. So there’s all these things going through your mind. I didn’t have a grand vision of I must impose my wonderful self on Spider-Man. I wanted to keep these comics going and keep them good and keep them selling.
Alex Grand: So was editing the Marvel Tales reprints with the classic 60s, Stan Lee, Steve Ditko Spider-Man, did that serve as kind of a professional review of Spider-Man’s personality of Peter Parker’s personality to get into the more current stuff?
Danny Fingeroth: That happened more for me in the British Department when I was going through all those old comics with the fine tooth comb and actually having to even split them up into chapters. Maybe I think the Marvel Tales was partly that and I think I was looking to my template more to what Tom had done with Roger Stern and Bill Mantlo and John Romita Jr. and Al Milgrom.
Alex Grand: Okay, and more research stuff. Yeah.
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah. I think I took that… Look, everything that Marvel Comics does and ever will do is informed by the first 50 issues of Spider-Man and the first 100 issues of Fantastic Four. Those are the Bible and the template and the handbook and the guidebook. Even if you’ve never read those comics, that’s just… I mean, you’d go to the movies and when the movie’s work, that’s what they do.
Alex Grand: Yeah.
Danny Fingeroth: So in that sense, I have that imprint, that stuff imprinted in my DNA and so I was always looking. But I was also aware that that stuff to most modern 12 year olds would read as dated and square. So I tried and this was what Shooter and Gruenwald and DeFalco were great at was, they reverse engineered the great Marvel Comics and the great DC comics and the great literature. They figured out what a good English teacher that he’s at or a good literary critic or movie critic figures out is, “Heres why we love this thing” or “Here’s what’s appealing about this. You know, here’s why hamlet is still relevant and heres why Tom Sawyer is still relevant to-”
Alex Grand: Yeah, reverse engineered. It makes sense.
Danny Fingeroth: They reveal something even if it’s something minor, but they give you some insight into, dare I say the human condition.
Alex Grand: Yeah. Right.
Danny Fingeroth: Even the silliest story gives you some insight and then there’s got to be a lot of cool who high action as Tom would call it and I mean, obviously it’s a superhero comic book. So there’s got to be punching and hitting and action and an adventure, but there’s got to be something. So what those guys were really good at and what I tried to take away from them and I think I learned a lot and try to pass on when I teach or lecture is, what makes these tick? What is it that underneath all the surface glitz makes people love Peter Parker, whether he’s in the comic or whether he’s in a cartoon or whether he’s played by Toby Maguire or who’s the kid playing him in the current movie? Tom…
Alex Grand: Tom Holland.
Danny Fingeroth: Tom Holland. I mean, what is it that… Here’s the thing, I noticed this in the first week I was in comics, right? Comics or superhero fantasies are at a certain level about man making right and then achieving noble goals through violence and I know a lot of people don’t like that as a message, including a lot of my friends and people I’ve known my whole life and yet, when I told them I was working in Marvel Comics or working on Spider-Man, almost uniformly everyone, “Oh, that’s really cool”. Even the-
Alex Grand: Yeah, because Spider-Man doesn’t come off like that. Spider-Man’s seems to be always on the defense. Right?
Danny Fingeroth: Right and people have a warm fuzzy feeling about Marvel Comics in general. You just find this even before the phenomenon of the movies and TV shows, even when it was a more esoteric kind of thing. I mean, it was just cool. Nobody really, most people just thought it was a cool thing and interesting and off beat and where is, say somebody might find like the death wish movies about a guy who goes out and shoots everybody and-
Alex Grand: Yeah, that’s clearly different-
Danny Fingeroth: And clearly, yeah. Yet the message in many ways is the same. If you have the power to affect justice as you see it then-
Alex Grand: Yeah, to correct social things.
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah, then you’re the hero, or at least. I don’t remember what the question was.
Alex Grand: Did you… How do you feel Ron Frenz when he did Spidey? Did you feel like he kind of summed up that Ditko vibe and then… How do you feel he did on the character?
Danny Fingeroth: Ron is Ron. I mean, Ron has a lot of influencers that he displays proudly, but I think he synthesizes them into his own this thing division and point of view and get stalled, dare I say. I mean there’s-
Alex Grand: Yeah.
Danny Fingeroth: Ron is the greatest. Ron is the ultimate Marvel Comics artist and in a really good way, you know.
Alex Grand: Yeah, for sure.
Danny Fingeroth: He gets the characters. He’s a thinking artist, very often in pretty much when he and Tom worked together, they pretty much co-plot the stories. I mean, they talk out the characters. Yeah, Ron, I can’t say enough great things about him.
Alex Grand: Yeah, he’s good. So now tell us about writing the Howard The Duck movie adaptation comic.
Danny Fingeroth: There was a pure money grab. I don’t know, it was… I mean, there was… I needed work, there was an assignment. I still have never seen the movie.
Alex Grand: ha, that’s the last thing i expected to hear.
Danny Fingeroth: Well, you write these things, they give you a version of the script and a lot of production skills and then they go. So I mean, it was…
Alex Grand: Did you put your own take on Howard in there or bend it to the comics in any way?
Danny Fingeroth: No, I just pretty much went by the script-
Alex Grand: By the script in the picture. Okay.
Danny Fingeroth: I think it was the first movie adaptation I’d ever…
Alex Grand: That you worked on. Okay.
Danny Fingeroth: I mean, I’ve worked… I’d been involved with doing a lot of the research for the Xanadu Super Special, but that was more for the articles.
Jim Thompson: You had done dragon slayer too.
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah. I didn’t write that. I was just-
Jim Thompson: No, but I mean, you got to edit. I’m sorry about that.
Danny Fingeroth: These things, these are just… I did some of the articles-
Alex Grand: From a writing perspective, how did you feel about Howard The Duck as far as Steve Gerber’s version versus Bill Mantlo’s? How did you feel about those two versions? Or did you read them?
Danny Fingeroth: It seemed to me… Look, I guess there are people that say they should have stopped Spider-Man after Ditko left, you know?
Alex Grand: Yeah, right.
Danny Fingeroth: Obviously history is proven those people wrong. I think, but I don’t know. I do think maybe there was no point in doing Howard The Duck after Gerber left. I mean, Bill was a professional and he had a pretty good sense of humor and those stories were fine. But there was something about that character and Steve Gerber and Gene Colan and Tom Palmer. There was something about, and the time, the fact that when it came out, that made it a special thing. So yeah, and I don’t think that’s particularly radical opinion, but yeah. But it’s also, this is where, and I have not read, I know that Steve did a couple of mini series in the 90s, I think or the early 2000s that I did not read.
Alex Grand: Right, like Foolkiller, which is pretty good.
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah. But I think he did like a documentary series-
Jim Thompson: And yet it worked again. I mean, I think it was as side guy thing and it worked-
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah.
Jim Thompson: That time that he first did it.
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah. I mean, again, he was whatever age he was. He lived in New York. It’s a depth of New York’s decay and even Cleveland where Howard ended up was sort of at the nadir. It was really a lot of what Steve did reflected it’s times, which was really this era when government and society almost seem to have given up on America’s cities and Howard really voiced a lot of the…
Alex Grand: angst
Danny Fingeroth: The angst and insanity of urban-
Alex Grand: Urban life.
Danny Fingeroth: Urban life and Steve was living in Times Square, at one Times Square was as it’s meanest and most of the praise. Yes, I think all that filtered through his consciousness. I worked with him years later on Cloak and Dagger, which I thought he did some brilliant work on.
Alex Grand: Cool.
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah, that was in the 90s.
Alex Grand: So now you edited the Marvel Saga books in 1986. Did you… Would you refer to Gruenwald or Sanderson, saying hey like basically kind of getting reminded on continuity when you were working on that book? Tell us about that and I actually grew up on Marvel Saga personally. I was in school reading Marvel Saga thinking, “Oh my gosh, this has been going on all this time? My Gut”.
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah. Well, this is… In Marvel Saga, I was a freelancer at the time and I needed some work to do. I wasn’t doing as much writing as I needed to do. So I took this on as a freelance editing job and Peter… and it sort of came with Peter Sanderson as the writer. That was part of the deal. I didn’t have… So yes, obviously Peter was-
Alex Grand: Yeah. Peter, yeah.
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah, I think we’d go to Gruenwald or Shooter or whoever or even to say George Olszewski’s guides or the universe handbook. It was funny. I loved working on it. I was, it appealed to the scholar historian in me to sort of put this stuff in chronological order.
Alex Grand: Nice.
Danny Fingeroth: I think in retrospect or even I think I knew that at the time, this was the classic conflict between art and comics. When Shooter gave me the assignment, I said, “This a mini series on ongoing series” and I fully thought he’d say, “Well, make it a 12 issue limited series”. But he then he said it’s ongoing. Well, Peter and I were both freelancers, so therefore we’re going to keep the thing going as long as we can. I mean, it’s even though in both of our heart of hearts, you’d have to ask Peter, but I think we both thought, “Well, this would probably be better to have a finite beginning and end. So we know that we have to fit all the Marvel history in X number of pages”. But it didn’t, so I think we may have given a little more space to stories that maybe we’re sentimentally were attached to.
Danny Fingeroth: I mean, we probably didn’t need to give as much space to Thug Thatcher as we did. Although again, I did get to make up that Thug Thatcher’s given name was felonious, which I think Walt Simonson… I think because I was hanging around the office and Walt would often come in and I told him I was joking with him that, “Oh yeah, we’re doing Thug Thatcher” and I gave him a name, felonious. I think that’s what inspired Walt’s even brings Thug Thatcher back in his Thor run despite-
Alex Grand: That’s funny.
Danny Fingeroth: Sitting around and joking about the character.
Alex Grand: Really good descriptive names. Yeah.
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah. It’s just the thing and I was looking on Thelonious monk, of course.
Alex Grand: Yeah.
Danny Fingeroth: It was… So Peter and I had a lot of fun. I got to… So when I got to a very good friends with Peter, who’s just an amazing person, we extend… this is one of course, the funny things about working in comics, all together it’s the classic thing. You’re sitting in a diner, when you’re working in comic especially as a freelancer, you get to know where the diner is of they won’t throw you out after an hour. You need to know where you can sit for three hours and actually… But you find yourself sitting in a restaurant plotting, talking about plotting to kill people or blow stuff up or destroy the world and you get funny looks from the tables around you.
Danny Fingeroth: So Peter and I would have these long conversations about, would Loki do this and when he and Loki was trapped as a tree and he was able to, I forget it, feel… There’s some story where Loki made a tree cry, we would like to debate all these things and we would, I mean, luckily while we up here and liked having an ongoing series to work on, we certainly went out looking to pad it out. So how, does this where the Crimson Beetle or whatever the character’s name was one of ant man’s earliest villains, but he is kind of silly by 1980s standards. So how do we deal with a character like that. This was a lot of fun and Peter, if you know always had a good time just kind of… There were worse things and getting paid to like iron out the wrinkles in Marvel history.
Alex Grand: Yeah, that sounds like fun. That sounds like fun work. So then before Jim Shooter left to be replaced by Tom DeFalco as Editor in Chief, you worked on some 1986, 1987 new universe title, the descriptor and-
Danny Fingeroth: I was a writer of Psi-Force
Alex Grand: Yeah, the writer of Psi-Force. So how was that?
Danny Fingeroth: Difficult. It was fun working with Mark Texeira who was great.
Alex Grand: As an artist. Yeah.
Danny Fingeroth: He really even then just brought a wonderful visual power and drama to Psi-Force that there were numerous reasons where they would be different rewrites or a revision. But it was good. I enjoyed it because although it wasn’t the new universe, it could still be taken seriously. Say Dazzler, I think had a hard time being taken seriously no matter how much gravitas we tried to instill with, but Psi-Force was fun. It was a good sort of hybrid in a way, almost of Spider-Man and Darkhawk , which are later got to do. It was… I mean, I was already in my 30s at that point, so I wasn’t a teenager, but I felt immature enough to still be in touch with my teenage.
Alex Grand: Teenage side, yeah.
Danny Fingeroth: So it was, yeah, it was fun. I know there were… I had some issues with editorial decisions, but I was glad to have the work and-
Alex Grand: I see.
Danny Fingeroth: And I liked those characters and let’s say, Tex really made it a pleasure and I did an issue, I think with Bob Hall who’s become a good friend. You may be submitting your project from him and me somewhere down the line.
Alex Grand: Cool. Yeah. I like Bob Hall.
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah, Bob, I thought it was, again, I don’t know if I have any rollicking stories. But it felt like it was good solid. It was a new universe, but we tried to give it the best of Marvel, which was ankle laced adventures of teenagers who were also who despite all their problems and all they’re being hunted, right were still having fun. Because I think that’s the essence. I think if you drill down in Marvel overall, I mean starting with Spider-Man, but going out to almost all the characters is at some level it’s fun to be this character, at some level you’re still the person web swinging across New York or flying across country or lifting a mountain. I mean, at some point that’s fun.
Alex Grand: Yeah. Living vicariously through the writing, for sure.
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah. No matter what else may be going on and who that you are in love with, who hates you or who you’re indebted to that is dying or who’s trying to kill you, it’s still fun to be a Marvel character and I think I tried to maintain all those kind of Marvel touchstones in Psi-Force.
Alex Grand: Yeah. Well, what was… So when you were doing this, was this written in like Marvel style of plotting then dialoguing or was it like you wrote the whole script out?
Danny Fingeroth: Most of the comics I wrote at Marvel were done Marvel style.
Alex Grand: Marvel style, okay.
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah. But, I mean that had evolved like that, I guess that got its name with Stan and Jack did where either they’d have a very brief plot conference or a half page description or Jack would plot it himself and Stan would then change the story with his dialogue. By the time I got there, it had evolved to where writers would write a reasonably detailed description, just not the dialogue and not so you’d have what you’d call almost the story synopsis. You’d say the story, it opens with this on the splash page and it was almost, we tried to write the plots almost as if she was sitting telling the story to a friend. You sort of imagine that the artist was that friend you’re sitting across a diner table from and saying this happens and that happens. So I think there were and then it got, say certain writers would write tons of detail other than write less, but it was rarely page one, something happens to Sue Storm. Page two, the Fantastic Four, look for page three the 15 they fight Doctor Doom. I mean, it was never that…
Alex Grand: That exact.
Danny Fingeroth: So it was Marvel style or Marvel method plot first, but that plots almost always had a certain level of detail to them. Just not all the dialogue.
Alex Grand: Right, and now what was your impression of the new universe stories and why did it not last?
Danny Fingeroth: Man oh man. That’s a tough one. I mean, I think in retrospect, which I guess is the only way you can really-
Alex Grand: Right, analyze it.
Danny Fingeroth: It seemed odd then and it seems… Right, I get the idea that to celebrate Marvel’s 25th anniversary, you would want to come up with something that in the Marvel tradition is new and status quo shattering.
Alex Grand: Right.
Danny Fingeroth: But the fact is you can’t do that on demand or on command and so it did and does seem, although I understand the reasoning behind it that it would celebrate Marvel’s 25th anniversary by doing something not involved with any of Marvel’s characters.
Alex Grand: Right.
Danny Fingeroth: Marvel’s well known characters. Because I think if you read the stories, it’s like a lot of things to get pilloried and history. I mean certainly to jump ahead of a decade or so or a couple of decades, the idea that the Clone Saga stories are now being repackaged in a hundred different formats, including omnibuses, you could’ve knocked me over with a feather at the time, or we can talk about that more later or next time.
Danny Fingeroth: So I think there were many good people working on those books, including Archie Goodwin and Tom DeFalco and Mark Texeira and the list goes on. John Romita Jr., Shooter himself. The star brand books were very clever and very innovative. I think got off on the wrong track. I think there was no… I don’t… There was no one character that caught people’s imaginations.
Alex Grand: It was kind of dystopian, right? I mean, it was kind of a dystopian.
Danny Fingeroth: It ended up that way for numerous reasons. It didn’t, I mean, look the fact even the most quarter horse realistic in a superhero comic, knowing what we know of human nature. Yes, if people that’s sort of the Watchmen fallacy and so the people took the brilliance of Watchmen and took it as kind of the…
Alex Grand: There you go.
Danny Fingeroth: As not just an outlier, but it’s like an example as a template. So it’s like, yes, if people got super powers, they probably would act like the people in Watchmen. People are selfish, even the most idealistic people often act at a selfish motives or they screw up, they hurt other people or blow stuff up inadvertently. So I guess when the new universe started heading in that direction and the rule, at least in the beginning, of course, that ended up being violated after Jim was gone. The idea was no aliens, no magic, no sub secret on the mode of races.
Alex Grand: So there’s some limits?
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah. Ah?
Alex Grand: There were limits on what you would do.
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah, limits and so I think it was heading in that sort of this topic and then they ended up doing that stuff with The Draft and The War. I was gone from the book by that point. Again, I get why they did that. I never thought that was a great idea and sort of, I think it’s fulfilled certain emotional catharsis needed by people because of various things going on at Marvel that you would able to plot and figure out. Yeah, but I think say if Star Brand or Cypher, if any of them had caught on in a big way, but it’s sort of… I mean, the same thing happened with the New Universe. Not the universe, with the Marvel…
Jim Thompson: Ultimate?
Danny Fingeroth: The Ultimate Marvel Universe where I think everybody thought and it made perfect sense that that would become the mainstream comic book Marvel Universe but it didn’t. I think there’s something so powerful about those characters that say, Jack and Steve came up with and Larry came up with that it looked… I mean, it’s kind of a mind boggling even beyond that, that Super-Man, Batman, Wonder Woman are still-
Alex Grand: The central characters. Yeah.
Danny Fingeroth: Right. I mean, if you said to a kid in 1947, Super-Man, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash Green Lantern, they know what you are… I mean, that’s kind of wild that those characters, despite the thousands of other characters of both companies to come up with that the ones that came from that first primal explosion of creativity at both those companies are still, have outlasted in the public consciousness any other character just I think because they were first.
Alex Grand: Yeah, that’s true. Now when DeFalco became Editor in Chief in ’87, did you feel like, “Okay, I’m familiar with his style”. Was it a pretty smooth transition from Jim Shooter’s and did their managerial style? Were they different?
Danny Fingeroth: Sorry. Yes, they were. Luckily for me, I had gone freelance in late ’84. I had… I felt I was ancient. I was 30 years old. I couldn’t imagine being older than that and I really felt I needed to take some risks in my life. So I went freelance. But I had a standing offer from both Shooter and DeFalco that anytime I want to come back on staff, I could.
Alex Grand: That’s pretty cool.
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah, it’s poking out of the sharp stick, you know and so I eventually did that a couple of years into Tom’s reign. Being a freelancer has its ups and downs as perhaps you know. The kind of in a sense you’re never on duty, in a sense you’re always on duty.
Alex Grand: Right.
Danny Fingeroth: If your kid needs you to do something, then you can go do it. But you might be up till four in the morning making up for lost time that whatever that cool thing you did with your kid was. So yeah, Shooter for whatever reasons have become very hands on as an editor in DC. Again, you’ve read or your listeners can read the various articles about things going on and there’s a lot of conflict at Marvel between Jim and the editors, between Jim and the executive. You can read his blog, he got his own point of view on the story. I was actually freelancing at that point, so I was not in the office day to day. There’s a lot of stuff that I think that I’m to this day not really aware of, but DeFalco was brought in. I think Tom thought that if they did fire Jim, they would fire him too because he was Jim’s right hand man.
Alex Grand: I see.
Danny Fingeroth: But they didn’t. They brought him in as chief. Yeah, I think there was a great kind of things. Look, Tom was a terrific manager. He understood the characters, he knew the company and I think he also knew that people needed more freedom than they’d had, that they needed the freedom to experiment and make mistakes. I mean, say Tom is as big as Spider-Man, traditionalist as you can get and yet it was under his reign that Todd McFarlane came in with that radically different look and the different look for the webbing. So I think Tom understood that sometimes you can, even if you know your rights, you still have to let people do what they’re going to do in order to keep morale up and to just sort of keep the creative electricity going. So I think that was a big kind of reaction to the very regimented way things has been said and Tom, had set a very different style.
Danny Fingeroth: I think again, Tom I think is one of the great geniuses of the comics industry of recent years and I think he had… Yeah, he was and again, not that I’ve agreed with every decision Tom may regarding me or regarding his reign. But overall he was-
Alex Grand: Morale was good.
Danny Fingeroth: Pretty… More than good overall.
Alex Grand: Yeah. Right.
Danny Fingeroth: He was a guy who you really wanted to please and do stuff for because, again, he’s human. But, I mean, you always felt that what he was doing was for the sake of the characters and the ultimate health of the medium and the company and the characters.
Jim Thompson: I have a question. Could he have stopped the… Could he have done anything that would’ve stopped the migration of the top artists there over to image? Or was that just an inevitable?
Danny Fingeroth: That was inevitable. I think that… I think again, history and the marketplace came together where that generation of creators looked at history. They looked at comics history, they looked at Siegel and Shuster, they looked at Jack Kirby, they looked at their childhood idols and the guys who built a business and they even looked at their immediate predecessors, right? Then Marvel gave them the means and really fall of to DC and Jim Shooter at Marvel pushed for these royalty programs. So these guys now had a lot of money, but they were smart enough to figure out, “We’re hot now, but we’re not always going to be hot.”
Alex Grand: Yeah.
Danny Fingeroth: “We need to build something that’s ours”. So no, I think…
Alex Grand: So those incentive plans in the 80s actually was part of… was one of these ingredients that actually causes him as revolution-
Danny Fingeroth: No, it’s totally financed.
Alex Grand: That’s interesting.
Danny Fingeroth: Totally financed it. Yeah. I mean that because the generation before that had bought cool stuff for themselves and their families. They did which you can’t fault them for. It was very nice. Now they bought nice homes and they bought stuff for the parents and the kids and their wives and the image guys did that too, but they and look, I think it was largely McFarlane and to some degree Ron. But that’s my kind of view it as an outsider, but nobody was and Todd McFarlane was not working for anybody. Todd McFarlane was a born entrepenur and very smart and yeah, no, there was… I think they had just seen too much of history and seeing people who are riding high one day who the next year or calling up some 12 year old begging for work and they didn’t want to be guys doing that.
Alex Grand: Right. No, that’s right. So now let’s talk a little bit about in 1990, a lot of things start off in Marvel. You really kind of get ingrained back into Marvel pretty deep at this point. You’re editing New Warriors, Spider-Man, Moon Knight from ’92, well ’90 to ’95 but Spidey started in ’91 and these were kind of street level vigilante type characters. Is that a particular knack you have for that type of content? Do you like that more than cosmic stories for example?
Danny Fingeroth: It’s funny because you guys know all about comics. This is a funny question and I will basically, I had that standing offer from Shooter and from DeFalco, “If you want to come back. So we’ll be glad to have you back”. So I had been freelancing for I think five years and for various personal things going on in my life as well as financial reasons, made sense for me to have a day job again. So I came back, so I said, “Tom, well let’s come back” and the books that were available then were Moonlight, Alpha Flight, Cloak and Dagger.
Alex Grand: Right.
Danny Fingeroth: I think Carl Potts, I think maybe was promoted to be the epic comics.
Alex Grand: Okay.
Danny Fingeroth: The epic comics. So I took over his books and then New Warriors was a book they wanted to start and they might’ve been, they probably wanted two others that I’m forgetting and a bunch of graphic novels. So that was in mid ’89 actually. I guess a lot of those titles didn’t hit the stands. So and it’s funny because when I went freelance in the late ’84, I said to myself, “I’m taking a chance here. I feel I have to. But even if I do go back on staff, now that they’ve instituted editors royalties, I’ll never see those Spider-Man books again. That’ll just never happen. There’s absolutely no way”. So I came back and I got sort of these low selling quirky books-
Alex Grand: Like Alpha Flight.
Danny Fingeroth: Alpha Flight, Moon Knight, Cloak and Dagger, New Warriors, which New Warriors was a joke. Before I put Fabian and Bagley on it, the concept of New Warriors was like Dazzler for the 90s.
Alex Grand: Really? So when they premiered in those two Thor issues, they were kind of a joke kind of team?
Danny Fingeroth: There was an in-house gag ad for New Warriors and the tagline was, “Marvel Comics, if you didn’t buy them, we couldn’t print them.” That was specifically referring to the New Warriors. I had this line of titles that I became, I thought all those books needed changes and I thought there was nothing to lose and I had just gone through a divorce, so I was pissed off in general. So I really became the nightmare over there in editor and pretty much impose my personality and all those books because I thought they really all needed a shot in the arm-
Alex Grand: Nice. Okay.
Danny Fingeroth: And you know what, that’s how you’re an editor. That’s what you do. You do that. That thing about you hire the best people and let them go, total bullshit. So anyway, I mean, it’s like vendor playing God in that future Rami episode. We get… It’s like if you do your job right, nobody will know you’ve done anything. I mean, again, I’m being facetious to make a point, but in this case, I just said these books aren’t selling much. They’re all on the verge of cancellation. I need… Let’s shake them up. That was funny. You asked me that about the Spider-Man books. So I took it away these exact opposite approach with those books.
Alex Grand: Right.
Danny Fingeroth: Because I just felt, “Who gives a shit what happens to Cloak and Dagger, Moon Knight and Alpha Flight?” I mean, even if I totally fuck up royalty, who’s going to know?
Alex Grand: Right and that’s actually kind of right.
Danny Fingeroth: Which was the best attitude to go in. That’s what it was.
Alex Grand: Yeah, it is.
Danny Fingeroth: So I came up with… I looked at Moon Knight and I said, “Wow, this guy, he’s a Jew who would do anything for money”. Wow, that’s pretty intense. He’s like, he’s got 11 different origins, even though the people who invented them, and I believe Doug meant well by making him Jewish and doing all he did with them. So I don’t impute any ill will on the people who worked on it before. But I’m looking at him and I’m going, “Here’s a Jew who would do anything for money and I have this deep Jewish background. What the fuck do I do with this series?” That’s when I said about the trial of Marc Spector. Somehow there’s got to be a reckoning, even if he’s like the world’s nicest mercenary. Somewhere he killed somebody, somewhere he killed an innocent, somewhere bad shit happened.
Danny Fingeroth: So that’s where I came up with the trial of Marc Spector and-
Alex Grand: I like it.
Danny Fingeroth: I don’t know if Chuck liked it or not, but he played along and he did it, did a good job on it and-
Alex Grand: Yeah. Is that a manifestation of Jewish guilt?
Danny Fingeroth: I guess I may. It was probably some autobiographical by me through Chuck, you know. It really disturbed me. I mean, look, this often happens. How many times have we seen like comics trying or even movies too trying to kind of do something progressive and inclusive and it ends up just reinforcing the worst cliches about whatever ethnic or racial group or religious group they are dealing with?
Alex Grand: Sure. No, that’s true. Yeah.
Danny Fingeroth: Alpha Flight I knew what to do with. Again, that’s maybe a thing they should have canceled after burn listed. Anyway, so the Cloak and Dagger, that’s where I put Gerber on Cloak and Dagger and I ended up putting Fabian and Bagley on New Warriors and they turned out to be this team that… I’d worked with Bagley before on some other projects. So I knew he and I did that what if together, what if Spider-Man’s living costume had-
Alex Grand: Yeah, I like that. I love that. Yeah.
Danny Fingeroth: Me too. Thank you. He was the artist on… What was that outer space commandos thing that I was editing? Because I inherited that from Carl also. Strike Force Morituri
Alex Grand: Wow. Okay.
Danny Fingeroth: He was the artist instructor of Strike Force Morituri and it’s funny,. So I think that-
Alex Grand: No, that’s okay.
Danny Fingeroth: I think we’ve lost a lot… One thing in any efficiency we gained with the Internet, one thing we’ve lost is talk in a long telephone calls like this, you know?-
Alex Grand: Yeah.
Danny Fingeroth: Which we are having. I mean, part of your job as an editor at Marvel and I’m sure everywhere with spend long conversations with artists and writers are needed such kind of thing. You play whatever and very often you get to know their family. Say you’d call and you got their wife and their kid and you have a long time with them. I mean, I knew Bagley pretty well. He became a good friend. Fabian, I knew from the office and Fabian was very ambitious and very talented in million ideas, which I guess the good and bad news, Fabian was that you had to try to figure out which are the good ideas and which are the bed ideas. But yeah-
Alex Grand: I love the work you did on the New Warriors. I mean, I read every issue as that came out. I couldn’t wait for the next month and I love that.
Danny Fingeroth: Those guys are great to work with. But I would say, and I mean in a good way that Fabian and I had a lot of shouting matches over plots where he’d want to do some crazy thing and I go, “That’s great”, or I’d want or he think what I did would want to do, would be much too conservative or careful and I think what he would want to do would be to reckless and made no sense in the… Well, yeah, but it worked out. It was with those, especially those first 25 issues were just wonderful, so thank you. Yeah, I’m very proud of those. So that was, again, I’m not sure I have answered your question, but that was-
Alex Grand: No, yeah. But yeah.
Danny Fingeroth: Again, I felt like New Warriors is another book you had nothing to lose. If it… Everybody expected it to fail. So if it failed, no one to be surprised and if it was a success, A. Everybody will be pleasantly surprised by it. B. It looks good on your resume too.
Alex Grand: Yeah. But those first 20 to the first 26 issues were magic though. I do feel that way.
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah.
Alex Grand: Now in 1991, then you started editing Spider-Man, amazing Spider-Man.
Danny Fingeroth: Again, all right. Well, is that a question or just an observation?
Alex Grand: Yeah, and so question. Yeah. Then also, so the artists that was first on, well that was on when you kind of got reassigned back to Spider-Man was Erik Larson. How was working with him? How were those pages?
Danny Fingeroth: Eric is great. Eric… Yeah, Eric is again, professional, imaginative. One thing I found about the image guys including Todd, Eric specially, was that they didn’t seem to take things personally which I really sort of they were careful to not burn bridges, which was very interesting. They went out to compete with Marvel, but except for Todd, they’ve all been back working for Marvel. Because, again, they were adult enough to know that they didn’t want to a need to burn bridges. So Eric, yeah. Eric, I mean, he was good. He was fast. He was imaginative. Work was full of energy.
Jim Thompson: He knew how to write?
Danny Fingeroth: He knew how to write. Exactly. He-
Alex Grand: So then when he left to co-create Image Comics, were you the one that recommended Mark Bagley to come on to Spider-Man after that?
Danny Fingeroth: I think Bagley would’ve killed me if I hadn’t hired him to Spider-Man. I think there were those death threats from Bagley that were highly, “I’m just kidding Mark”, but not that much. Yeah. Well, Bagley had… I’d seen his Spider-Man, I think he-
Alex Grand: Right, and you done New Warriors that already by then?
Danny Fingeroth: I’d done New Warriors. On Spider-Man he and I had done the what if, I think he’d done some inventory or some fill-ins Spidey stories for Salicrup. Yeah, it was and I think we talked about it a lot. I knew that he wanted it and he was a workhorse. Not only was he good, but he could draw a lot of pages.
Alex Grand: Yeah, and he was doing, because he was doing Spidey in New Warriors at the same time for some of that and you guys even did a crossover between the two books as far as New Warriors and Spidey. So how is coordinating that?
Danny Fingeroth: Well, it’s easy because it was all coming out of my office.
Alex Grand: Was that your idea to cross them over?
Danny Fingeroth: You mean the Round Robin story?
Alex Grand: Yeah.
Danny Fingeroth: That was a story that I had come up with for Moon Knight. I think I was even, maybe I even pitched it as a mini series that I would write. I forget, and again, it’s all kind of vague.
Alex Grand: Yeah.
Danny Fingeroth: But at certain point, we were doing the biweeklies every Sunday. I was having a biweeklies and I think David needed a break. So I gave that to the… I gave my outline to Al Milgrom to write who’s also a terrific writer, beside being great penciller and inker. So we did that and yeah, that was all. It’s always fun to do it in your own office. I mean, you may have noticed that when I wrote Dark Hawk, I had Spider-Man the guest starring quite a bit in.
Alex Grand: Yeah. I love that. I mean, you had Dark Hawk and Moon Knight all kind of hanging out together, these guys.
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah. Well, and also we did that mini series a few years later, the Spider-Man friends and enemies.
Alex Grand: Yeah.
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah. That stuff was all… When I came back on staff, I found one reason I’d go on freelance in ’84 was I had sort of gotten the book coming out regularly and I thought they were good, but in a way I had found people I trusted and could let them go. So I was a little bored. So aside from wanting to kind of establish my own voice more as a writer, but also a little both side I found ways when I came back on staff in ’89 to make it more interesting for myself. Hard to describe exactly what that I mean, because obviously I couldn’t as I had said, I thought I said to Cecily before. Yes, there were some books that I impose my will and I just thought this is what we’re doing, but I couldn’t and didn’t want to do that with, especially with the Spidey books if I didn’t have to. I mean, that became much… that became complicated as the spider line grew to like 18 monthly titles.
Danny Fingeroth: But I found ways to keep it more interesting for myself and so coming back to Spidey, I think I understood better who the character was. I understood the history of the character in depth. One thing I’d done a lot of with the Marvel Saga and with just writing a lot of different characters was really immersing myself in the history in a way that I may be hadn’t before and writing all of those what if. So, again, I’ve lost track of the question.
Alex Grand: But you’re creating great context, which we love.
Danny Fingeroth: All right. So-
Alex Grand: So then when you were now another thing, the creation of Carnage, right? The whole Carnage saga. Was that character directed by you to them or did that come from the more writing? How did carnage come about?
Danny Fingeroth: The idea for it started when Salicrup was still editing the Spider-Man books. Again, I’m sure I probably once knew more of the detail. Like obviously Kasady was incredibly popular.
Alex Grand: Right.
Danny Fingeroth: So to do something that was a a riff on venom but wasn’t exactly the same character became Carnage. So I don’t know if it was David or Jim or a combination of the two of them, but somehow the idea became of what if we put, what if we gave a venom like suit to the joker? I guess it was essentially to the character who was that level of crazy. Who was that chaotic in his destructive and realistic in his view of life. So that was mostly in place by the time I took the books back over. That was David and I guess Eric and of course Mark really did the finishing. Mark Bagley did the finishing touches on the visual-
Alex Grand: I see. So David was already toying with the idea of this character before and then Eric had kind of fleshing out a little bit of it and then Mark kind of finalized that. I see what you’re saying.
Danny Fingeroth: Right, and the name actually was Eric Fine, who was my assistant at the time, came up with the name of Carnage.
Alex Grand: Of Cletus Kasady? Oh, of the actual Carnage character. Yeah.
Danny Fingeroth: Of Cletus Kasady was in place, but the name Carnage and obviously I approved it and David Michelinie approved it.
Alex Grand: So Danny, last time we were talking, we were on more toward the end of your Spider-Man editing time, and you were writing Darkhawk, and one of the things, a lingering question I had from before was, you were editing Spider-Man, but also writing Darkhawk, and Darkhawk was under a different editor, is that right?
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah. The policy at Marvel in those days was not only could staff people, not only were they allowed to do freelance work, but they were encouraged to do freelance work. So I was writing Darkhawk and, let’s see, the first editor I think had been maybe Greg Wright, and then it had been Howard Mackie, and then Nelson Yomtov]. So yeah, it was … The theory was that you couldn’t be your own editor, so somebody else on the staff would have to edit. Anyway, so that’s how that worked.
Alex Grand: I know that’s different from the ’70s, when people like Marv Wolfman could edit and write, like Dracula for example. So was it weird for you to have your own editor, but then you also edited other books? Did you ever disagree with their editorial decisions?
Danny Fingeroth: It was a surreal kind of thing, because it was that classic comics industry, incestuous kind of thing where you’d be editing somebody, and somebody else would be editing … I guess when it was just a cross … If the person you were editing was at the same corporate structure, level as you were, it was generally not a big deal. I guess when it got weird would be when say you’d be editing somebody much higher or much lower than you in the structure. And to his credit, say Tom DeFalco never pulled rank. Tom was in many ways the perfect freelancer. Not only would tom not be a prima donna and not say, “I won’t do this or I won’t do that,” but he was such a perfectionist that he’d often do his own rewrites before you even got to edit the thing. He was concerned for the quality of the story and so on.
Danny Fingeroth: But it’s obviously, there are potential pitfalls when the person who has the power to evaluate your job performance is suddenly, not suddenly, but is also someone working for you as a freelancer. And in the history of comics, this is pretty much starting with Martin Goodman hiring half of his relatives to be on staff, including Stan. I mean, I guess that whole thing of people having multiple and possibly conflicting relationships is pretty much a comic industry tradition. So it could be weird, but I’d say most of the time it worked out. I won’t say there were never glitches or never … I mean, that was certainly a lesson to me when I went freelance for that period in the late ’80s, when I saw that … I took a calculated risk. I decided I wanted to do this, and I learned that just because someone is your friend and your lunch buddy and whatever doesn’t necessarily guarantee that they’re going to give you work.
Danny Fingeroth: That was a eye opening lesson in reality for me. Although by the same token I think there were also maybe assignments I got because I was somebody’s buddy or somebody they’d known a long time. Probably similar to going into business with relatives, because comics, especially in the ’80s and ’90s, was very incestuous, in the best possible way.
Alex Grand: I like that. Incest, in a good way. The most positive form of incest.
Danny Fingeroth: There you go. That’s right.
Jim Thompson: As a southerner, I just want to speak up and say yes.
Alex Grand: Jim knows about that. Did you have fun building the Darkhawk character?
Danny Fingeroth: That was a hell of a lot of fun. The character came from a skeletal outline in here that Tom DeFalco wrote. It was maybe three or four double spaced type pages. So the basic framework was there, but there was tons of stuff that needed to be filled in, and I remember developing a lot of it with Greg Wright, who then I think maybe he went freelance, and then it went to Howard. Yeah, it was a lot of fun, because I knew that the mandate was Spider-Man for the ’90s. So he was a teenage kid, and he even went to Midtown High, which was still in Queens at that time, if you know your New York geography. Farfield’s is nowhere near Midtown.
Danny Fingeroth: I was able to bring changes on the basic outline. I think in the original outline, if you know your Darkhawk, I don’t want to get too deep in the weeds here, but the original outline, it was sort of a classic comic book thing where his father gets killed, and when Chris finds the amulet, and so Chris vows to get revenge on the people who killed his father and on crime in general. So I was proud of the different angle I brought to that, where he actually saw what looked like his father taking a payoff from some of the gangsters. I thought that that added an extra angle, like here his dad had taught him his whole life to do the right thing, and then he sees his father taking a payoff, and then the guy disappears. Spoiler alert, later on it turned out there was more to it than that, but I patted myself on the back. I thought that was a clever thing to bring to it.
Danny Fingeroth: It’s like here’s this guy who instills in you this set of values, then you see him betraying those values, and then what do you do, how do you live your life, especially if you get an amulet that gives you super powers? I think that’s actually, in a way, almost a classic Marvel thing where everything is not black and white, where suddenly there’s this extra complication that happens in real life. I mean, how many times, as you get older you look back on your life or your parents’ life or other people. You go okay, this person had this set of beliefs, but then they did this thing that really went against them. Why would they do that? What is this about real life that makes people have to compromise their beliefs? So I thought that was one of the things I’m proudest of, that series was that angle on it.
Danny Fingeroth: And then it was fun building up the relationship with his family and with the kids at school and so on. There was one story, it’s funny, Mike Manley has been posting some artwork on Facebook lately that reminded me the story where there’s a big hostage situation at his high school, and Chris has to rescue the kids and so on. It was fun to do a lot of that stuff.
Alex Grand: Yeah. So now, as you’re ending your run at Darkhawk, which was a long run, then this goes into the end of your time at Marvel. So some of the things that were happening at the time, there’s a lot of weird corporate decisions being made, Marvel was declaring bankruptcy shortly after, Mark Gruenwald died from a lot of people think the stress and his heart defect that he was born with, and you leave Marvel around this time. So can you tell us about what led you to leave? Did you feel like the ship was sinking and it’s time to leave? What happens?
Danny Fingeroth: Well, I mean, it’s funny. The way you gave that list, and if you look at a calendar, then your reading is valid, and that a lot of these things happened one on top of the other. In my experience of it was a lot more drawn out. In other words, yes, between ’94 and ’96, looking back from the perspective of 2019, that’s a short period. But when you’re living it, man oh man, it seems to be taking … It’s slow motion if anything. It’s not speeded up.
Danny Fingeroth: A question that I sometimes get asked, and that I’ll ask myself here, because I think it’s relevant to your question. Someone will ask me, “What was it like at Marvel in the ’80s and ’90s?” Which is a really general question, and generally I prefer more specific ones. But the answer I give is we thought we’d beat the system. If you look at the Marvel editorial roster from the mid, whatever, from 1980 to 1995, it doesn’t change a whole lot. There was sometimes where maybe somebody leaves staff, they don’t replace them. But Marvel was fairly stable in that period. And our joke used to be boy, how badly you’d have to screw up to get fired in this place? I mean, people just … It seemed like a pretty secure thing, and it seemed like, especially, wow, we beat the system. We’ve been working … I or several other people of my generation or my era, we’ve been working here for 15 years, and with editorial royalties and writers or artist royalties, we’re earning like lawyers without having to go to law school.
Alex Grand: Yeah, it’s pretty sweet.
Danny Fingeroth: That was … Yeah. So we really thought we beat the system, and then we realized we were totally deluding ourselves. Because I think what has happened is that both Shooter and DeFalco saw part of their mission as protecting their editorial staff from corporate ups and downs. They saw themselves and acted as lead shields from corporate. Because I think I may have mentioned this last time, which is a thing, when you’re a fan or when you’re starting out in comics, the editor in chief of Marvel seems like god manifest on earth. What could be a higher position? Well it turns out the editor in chief of Marvel is middle management.
Alex Grand: Right, right.
Danny Fingeroth: There’s numerous corporate levels above that person. So there was the, I think the trigger event of everything that happened was when Marvel bought Heroes World, and then decided to put all their distribution with that company, and that backfired. Because I mean, there was this glut of comics from all companies, and I think Marvel was putting out, whatever, 120 comics a month at that point. But people for whatever reason, people were generally buying them. Sales were slowly declining. And then that Heroes World debacle just broke the supply chain. And there had been things brewing in the upper corporate levels I think having to do with the stock price and a lot of other stuff that I vaguely understand. But the chain was broken of supply, the spell … I figure there’s a constant ratio of great and medium and terrible comics, but when you’re putting out 120 a month, and even if 10% of them aren’t very good, that’s still, whatever percentage of a good comic.
Alex Grand: Yeah, that’s still a good comic, yeah.
Danny Fingeroth: So I think that was part of what happened, and then of course that all got mixed in with the clone saga controversy, which increased Spider-Man sales and profits, and company profits, but it was obviously controversial. So all this stuff happened, and again, Darkhawk was declining in sales, so that was canceled. I was also doing a miniseries then, Spider-Man Friends and Enemies, which had Darkhawk, Spider-Man, Nova, and Speedball, because each of them was the Spider-Man of their era. So all this stuff happened, and then suddenly Tom DeFalco was no longer the chief, the corporate folks pushed him aside. He didn’t leave his office, even though he was no longer chief. He didn’t leave his office because, I think he had various reasons for not wanting to leave the premises, and the corporate people didn’t want him to leave because I think having him there would give the illusion of stability. So it was a totally surreal period where Tom is in his office, we’re all … A lot of us are still going to him for advice on what the hell’s going on, but he has no actual authority as chief anymore. He’s just a … He’s a freelancer occupying this office.
Danny Fingeroth: But things pretty much hanged overnight. There was what’s called a restructuring, which was very popular in corporations in the ’90s, and I think still is, where my title didn’t change, my salary didn’t change, but everything changed around me. And suddenly I had a different boss, who for numerous reasons I didn’t get along with, Tom was no longer my boss. So I started looking … They had what was called the Marvelution, if you remember that phrase. And the mascots of the Marvelution was the Spider-Man clone, that was considered the most exciting thing going on at the company.
Danny Fingeroth: But the Ben Reilly Spider-Man, when they had the big meeting announcing the Marvelution, the big visual was this huge picture of the sweatshirt Spider-Man, the Scarlet Spider. So I was pretty much ready to quit that day. It really was very … I don’t know if you’ve ever gone through a corporate thing, a corporate restructuring, but for me, and I think for a lot of people, next to the death of a loved one or the end of a romantic relationship, I would say this was the most unpleasant and intense thing that ever happened to me, was that day, that resurge.
Alex Grand: Oh wow.
Danny Fingeroth: And a lot of people. I mean … And I got a lot of mixed messages, because even corporate and management, nobody really agreed what the future should be for the company. They’d done this drastic thing, I think it was a lot of people trying to protect their jobs at various corporate levels, and cooler heads prevailed and convinced me not to walk out, but I started looking around, and I actually had … I had known Byron Price because he was doing, his company had the license for the Marvel short stories and novels, so I was consulting on the Spider-Man related stuff. So I knew Byron. And there were some other ways I had known Byron or people close to him. He offered me this job running this new division called Virtual Comics, which was part of his Byron Price Multimedia Company, which was different than his Byron Price Visual Publications, although they operated out of the same headquarters and so on.
Danny Fingeroth: It took me a couple of months to work out a deal with Byron, and I still wasn’t sure what was going to happen at Marvel, and there were several rounds of layoffs, and I did not get laid off. They wanted me to stay there. But I could see it was only a matter of time, you know what I mean. I look back and I go well, there were three or four rounds of layoffs, and maybe they would have kept me on or maybe they wouldn’t have. Byron gave me an opportunity to go somewhere, to still be involved with comics, to be on the … And to be able to say, “Ha ha, I’m going to the cutting edge of the internet.” So all those things happened at once.
Danny Fingeroth: Look, I guess it’s … Mark. So that was by ’90 … Well, ’96 I think was, maybe it was early ’96 when there was a big round of layoffs. Yes, Mark very closely identified with the company. I guess he did have … Did they find out he had a genetic … Because I know both his parents had heart problems. So I imagine he was predisposed to that. But certainly the stress of the Marvelution and all the aftermath obviously didn’t help. Mark really was so closely identified with the … Well we all identify with the company, because it really, many of us had grown up there. And it had many of the aspects of a family. And we really had deluded ourselves into thinking that we were immune from corporate and economic realities.
Danny Fingeroth: And then as it often does in the situation, the switch, it changed overnight. But the funny thing, I went over to Byron Price, part of the reason I was there was to recruit Marvel staff, Marvel freelancers to do comics, which I did, so I got Fabian and Louis Simonson, Ron Lim, Jimmy Palmiotti half a dozen other people. And of course what we had also was Stan Lee, because at that point, somehow Stan was able to do side projects if they weren’t considered directly competing with Marvel. So he had done these series of prose novels for Byron called Rift World.
Alex Grand: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jim Thompson: Sure.
Danny Fingeroth: The novels were written by a guy named Bill McKay, but it was called, it was branded Stan Lee’s Rift World, and Stan was involved with developing and creating the characters and the scenarios for the novels. And then, Byron wanted to do, and did, a comics adaptation that Stan scripted, and was involved with the plotting of also. So then I was Stan’s editor on that. So that was part of my role there also was to be a liaison with Stan Lee on material he did. And I’d worked-
Alex Grand: Oh, that’s cool.
Danny Fingeroth: And I’d worked with Stan, even been his editor on a few projects over the years. So in some ways it was like still being at Marvel, because I was working with so many of the same people.
Alex Grand: People.
Danny Fingeroth: But it was much different than that, it was a much smaller company. Like I remember, on my first week there I said to somebody, “Where’s the mail room?” And they pointed to the postage machine and said, “There’s the mail room.”
Alex Grand: Right.
Jim Thompson: So Danny, did you start as editor in chief, or was that something that developed as you were there?
Danny Fingeroth: at Marvel or Byron Price?
Jim Thompson: No, at Virtual Comics and Byron Price.
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah. I started as editor in chief. I came … I was part of … At Marvel there’d been a lot of title jockeying and title … They went from having one editor in chief to five editors in chief. So yeah, at Byron, that was the big thing. I believe I was vice president / editor in chief.
Jim Thompson: Yeah, that’s what I thought, and I wondered, was it segmented between … Because you guys were releasing them … Obviously they were online, but they were also being distributed as print? Is that right?
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah, that was another entity and enterprise that changed very quickly, because I think Byron had been doing bits and pieces of experimenting with digital comics, and then he brought me in to run this line. So yeah, we put them up first, they were on I think the Virtual Comics website, but we also put them out on CD ROM. And then we did print them. There was a big push, we took out a lot of ad space, and had articles in the buyer’s guide and in the Diamond catalog. And every once in a while at a convention I’ll get somebody who will bring up those comics for me to sign. We also put them out as paperback editions. So we put them out in multiple iterations.
Danny Fingeroth: I don’t know, obviously they never got the traction we were hoping they would. I look back on those, I think they were very good imitation Marvel comics. I mean, we had very good Marvel creators. I was writing, I did one called The Skul with one L, so you could trademark it.
Alex Grand: Oh, okay.
Danny Fingeroth: That was me, Ron Lim and Jimmy Palmiotti, and was it Greg Wozniak or Chris Wozniak? I always got those names mixed up. But one of the-
Alex Grand: That’s funny.
Danny Fingeroth: And they were, I thought they were very good comics. Me, Byron, basically me and Byron came up with the basic premises for the characters. It was the downtime in the market in general. The characters did not have the name brand recognition of Spider-Man or Iron Man, although we did our best to imitate them.
Jim Thompson: And you did use the digital form to some degree in that y’all had click and point discoveries on the panels, and things like that?
Danny Fingeroth: Wow, you really … Yeah, did you see that stuff online, or on the CD ROM?
Jim Thompson: There was a New York Times article in 1997, I think it was.
Danny Fingeroth: Holy cow.
Jim Thompson: About this stuff. And it was interesting, because it introduced it talking about things like Shannon Wheeler and Desert Peach and that kind of online presence. And then it got to you, and also Carl Potts doing VR1, and I was wondering about that. Were you guys both competing to get Marvel talent?
Danny Fingeroth: I don’t know if we were … I mean, when you say competing to get Marvel talent, I mean, there was people we wanted, and who if they weren’t under a specific contract, why not … There was a lot of ill will at that point. When that Marvelution, so called, happened, a lot of people had their lives and their income severely disrupted. It’s hard to explain if you haven’t gone through it, but it wasn’t just a matter of oh, we need to save money, and we’re going to lay off X number of people. A lot of things shifted, a lot of promises that had been made, or that had been assumed to different people, were broken, and there was just less work. I mean, you cancel a lot of books, there’s just less work to go around. So were we competing? We just offered people what we could offer them, and they either took it or not, and some people were eager to take it, because either they felt badly treated by Marvel, or they felt it was only a matter of time before they would be badly treated by Marvel.
Danny Fingeroth: I think the idea of Marvel or DC or any company as having the freelancers’ concerns as their first priority, that illusion was shattered. And people realized that it was every man for himself.
Alex Grand: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jim Thompson: You left there and went to work for a development visionary. Was that because they were shutting down, or did you just make a lateral move?
Danny Fingeroth: Well, again, there was some overlap. Virtual Comics lasted just about two years, and then there was stuff going on at Virtual, which was part of Byron Price Multimedia, which was also a publicly held company. So there was stuff going on, and they shut down that department. And to anybody who’s ever worked in an internet startup, especially in that era, this’ll probably sound familiar, where someone will say to you, “Well, we can’t afford to pay you anymore, but can you keep coming in so it looks like we’re still in business? You can use our fax machines and our computers to send out resumes and make phone calls. But it would really help us if you could just …”
Danny Fingeroth: That happened to me at a few different startups. So after Virtual I was freelancing some for DC and some for Eric Fine, and moved over to a company called, I forget the name. But Eric was editing at a kids book company. I had probably one of my few jobs outside comics at another startup that was in the self help area, where again I brought in a lot of comics people to that. That was, again, a classic internet startup where they said, “Here, put together an editorial and writing department.” So I had to hire 20 or 30 people in like two weeks. That was an interesting thing to do.
Danny Fingeroth: So while I was doing that, I was doing consulting for Visionary Media, which was founded by a guy named David Williams, who’s actually now got a very interesting company with his brother called Pocket Watch. It’s becoming a major player in the kids entertainment, online and the non online world. But David had started this World Girl character, and he was early into the digital entertainment world. And he, one of the people he had involved was a guy named Buzz Potamkin, who was a major player. He was the head of television at Hanna Barbara, he was one of the people behind the I Want My MTV campaign, and the Power Puff Girls, and the Berenstain Bears. Look up the name Buzz Potamkin. So he and a guy named Glenn Ginsburg were the people running this Visionary Media, and they had a very simple, straightforward business model, which was we will put together various kinds of flash animated cartoons in various genres, and if somebody at a studio likes them, we’ll make more. And we’ll make a deal with them, and hopefully everybody will make money.
Danny Fingeroth: There were some internet plays that were more complicated than that, or had more bells and whistles. This was really simple. Here’s stuff. Do you like it? Okay, give us money and we’ll work out what you wanted. And that’s where World Girl came from, we had half dozen other properties we were starting to work on. And that had been part of Showtime Online, just like actually Virtual Comics had been involved with the AOL Greenhouse for a while. There was a lot of shuffling of funding and corporate sponsorship in the Wild West era of the internet.
Danny Fingeroth: So a similar thing happened. Virtual ran out of funding in-
Jim Thompson: And World Girl actually was, that was the first real example of media convergence, in that that was playing online but it was also getting some television play, wasn’t it?
Danny Fingeroth: I think it got a little bit of television play, because of the Showtime connection.
Jim Thompson: And Alex, that’s interesting for you because this was really an early example of motion comics, like the stuff that you play with. That’s exactly what it was. I can’t think of a much earlier example of it in that form.
Alex Grand: Right, right. Although maybe that ’60s Marvel … Those could be seen as motion comics.
Jim Thompson: It is a prototype almost.
Danny Fingeroth: It’s a little more motion than that. We called it, or it was called flash animation. It was pretty rudimentary, and before it had been that, I think when David first put it up, I think it was just still images with text. As the bandwidth that more and more people had became higher and higher, you could do more with it. But I think doing full animation with it, there were a lot of companies doing various kinds of animation, and some very interesting stuff. Again, it was one … Ice Box, that was probably the most … Am I remembering … I think Ice Box was one of the better known ones. There were a lot of companies. There was some kind of cult popularity animated series, Hard Drinkin’ Lincoln comes to mind. Seth Feinberg, but he spelled it on his website Z-E-T-H, he did something called Abolbo, which was really hilarious. There were all these really interesting, bordering on brilliant, web tunes that of course made no money.
Jim Thompson: Well, they didn’t know how to make money, and the technology, the broadband wasn’t quite there, it was ahead of its time in a lot of ways.
Danny Fingeroth: You know, and then that led to one of my stranger gigs, if we’re getting in the weeds of the oddball Danny Fingeroth gigs here. I ended up working on a Superman choose your own adventure CD ROM.
Alex Grand: Oh cool.
Danny Fingeroth: At DC that I was on, and Luis was on, a guy named Rider Wyndham, a few other people. I mean that was a branching adventure.
Jim Thompson: When was that?
Danny Fingeroth: ’98, I think.
Jim Thompson: Oh okay.
Danny Fingeroth: But it later on ended up on the Warner website as a serialized adventure. And then, I can tell you exactly when this next one is at Showtime … This is probably the J Michael Straczynski, Jeremiah Show. Do you remember that show? It was on Showtime.
Jim Thompson: No.
Alex Grand: Yeah, I do actually. Yeah. And that one guy worked on it who was Joe Kubert’s friend from Eastern Europe, I forgot his name. But he had a graphic novel about Sarajevo and all of that. Yeah, that was the Jeremiah Show, right.
Danny Fingeroth: Oh, was it? Okay, yeah, I know … Not Ervin Rustemagic.
Alex Grand: Yeah, him.
Danny Fingeroth: I don’t think he … No, I think you’re maybe mixing it up with something else. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Rustemagic was involved with brokering the deal, because it was a French graphic novel by Herman Hupon.
Alex Grand: Yeah
Jim Thompson: Oh yeah.
Danny Fingeroth: But the show starred Luke Perry and Malcolm Jamal-Warner. And the premise, it was a post apocalyptic show, and everybody, I think everybody who’s hit puberty died. And this was 10 years later. So you had a lot of 20 something people who looked good without clothes, because it was Showtime. It turned out to be a very good show and very well written, especially the ones that Straczynski himself wrote. So what they wanted was they wanted … This was around the time that AI had that website where … The Spielberg movie? And they had this website where if you wanted to participate, you give them your phone number and they’d call you with all sorts of clues, some kind of contest or scavenger hunt going on. So in that same light, what they wanted to do is they wanted to show what happened in those 10 years between whatever the apocalypse was and where the Jeremiah show kicked in.
Danny Fingeroth: So it was basically, I think going to be done from the point of view of one or more of the scientists who unleashed whatever the horrible thing was that destroyed civilization that would document how the world went do hell in a hand basket, and how there were plagues and nuclear disasters and wars and terrorism.
Danny Fingeroth: And I was doing it with a guy named Jim Prozer, who was a novelist and whose father was the manager of the Copa Cabana, but that’s just a piece of showbiz trivia that … Anyway, so we’re doing this thing, and they need it in a hurry, so they put me and him in a hotel room for like a week. And then 9/11 happened.
Alex Grand: Right.
Danny Fingeroth: And suddenly nobody wanted a website about plagues and terrorism and nuclear disasters and the end of the world going to hell in a hand basket.
Alex Grand: Right, that’s funny.
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah, I mean, it was grimly funny, but I mean … And to their credit, Showtime paid us what they said they would and stuff.
Alex Grand: I see.
Danny Fingeroth: But that was something that could have been very big for the real life.
Alex Grand: Yeah. So Ervin Rustemagic was the producer of that show.
Danny Fingeroth: Okay. I mean, I didn’t remember that, but I’m sure it’s true.
Jim Thompson: So Danny, I have one question about your DC time there when you were … Because you didn’t write a lot for DC, but you did do a Superman story, Too Close to Home.
Danny Fingeroth: Right.
Jim Thompson: And I can’t find it. I don’t have that issue, or if I do, it’s somewhere I can’t-
Danny Fingeroth: It’s in an annual. It’s in one of their annual, the super specials.
Jim Thompson: Yeah. Was that your only Superman comic?
Danny Fingeroth: No, I did another one … Actually I got one that got reprinted numerous times. It was called Sole Survivor. It was me, Randy Green, and I forget who inked it. But it appeared in a … I don’t think it got printed in a Superman comic per se, but it was in a DC super something, and then it was reprinted as part of a collection later on. It was a cool … I mean, I doubt I’m the first person to come up with the premise, but the idea was scientist on earth who is convinced that the earth is going to blow up, and sends his son … Or wants to send his son rocketing out into space. So it was just a riff on the classic story.
Jim Thompson: Oh yeah. That pops up every once in a while.
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah, yeah. So those are the two I did. I think all the work I did at DC … Well obviously that digital thing was a different department. But I did three Superman stories for Joey Cavaleri, one of them never got printed I think, partly because he’d given the arc to a new guy who had a very oddball style that, maybe that was considered too oddball. I don’t even remember what the premise of that was. But it didn’t get printed. And I was working for awhile with Kevin Dooley on the miniseries, a spinoff … It was a spinoff from Chase, with their comic called Chase, or a character called Chase, a female.
Jim Thompson: Oh sure. Yeah, it was good, with … Yeah. The art was great on it.
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah. So I was pitching I think some kind of spinoff from that, that I think never happened, and then before anything got finalized I think Kevin for whatever reason was no longer there. That was all the work I ended up doing. Oh, well I guess if you count, I think I did some Flintstones.
Alex Grand: Oh yeah?
Danny Fingeroth: I think … Yeah, definitely a couple of Flintstones stories, maybe, I don’t think … I might have done one Jetsons. But as far as the superheroes, that was all I did for DC.
Jim Thompson: Mm.
Alex Grand: Oh, okay.
Jim Thompson: And then you went to work for Tomorrows after that?
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah.
Alex Grand: How did you get into working at Tomorrows, and what did you start with?
Danny Fingeroth: Tomorrows was a whole different kind of situation, because I was not working for them, I was working with them. And I’ll explain to you what I mean by that. In other words, Mike Manley was doing Draw Magazine, which was a wonderful magazine. If you haven’t picked it up, I highly recommend it. And I basically looked at it and said to myself, huh, wonder if they’d want to publish something that’s about writing. And I think I may have met John once or twice at the San Diego Con or something, so I basically either emailed him or called him.
Danny Fingeroth: I think at the same time, I think he was thinking of a similar thing, I wonder if there’d be a market for a magazine about comics writing. So I happened to call him at the right time. It was a partnership. I wasn’t ever working for John. It was more a matter of we were partners in this magazine.
Alex Grand: Venture. And that’s called Write Now Magazine, and it takes the reader behind-
Danny Fingeroth: Danny Fingeroth’s, it’s called Danny Fingeroth’s Write Now Magazine.
Alex Grand: Danny Fingeroth’s Write Now Magazine.
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah.
Alex Grand: And Write Now with a W. And it takes the reader behind the scenes of the comics industry, and it culminated into a best of compendium book. Tell us, how was it developing the format for Write Now Magazine, and how was it interviewing and talking to different people, and what was your mission statement with the magazine?
Danny Fingeroth: That’s like five questions in one.
Alex Grand: It is.
Danny Fingeroth: It actually, it ended up in the How To Create Comics From Script To Print book and the CD ROM that Mike and I did. Perhaps the first ever trade magazine crossover in history. But I mean that book, it’s still relevant. And it also ended up in the Stan Lee universe book.
Alex Grand: Right.
Danny Fingeroth: That book sprang out of the 85th birthday issue that Rory did for, Alter Ego and I did for Write Now, and then I ended up going to Stan’s archives and getting a lot of new material, never before seen stuff that made up the rest of the book. But it was very interesting for me. I’d done some editing of articles for some of the various Marvel magazines, the Xanadu super special, so I had some experience with editing and writing text like that. But I was certainly not a journalist by training or experience.
Danny Fingeroth: That led to some actual fortuitous accidents, because I didn’t know what you couldn’t do. I mean, I’m very grateful, on the first issue, because I’m a writer and editor and I lean so toward text that even though I had a lot of illustrations in the first issue I didn’t have nearly enough, and John pointed that out to me. It was great doing those interviews. I’ll tell you one in a second, but if you read the … By maybe the fifth issue I’d gotten to know what I was doing. But the first maybe three, four, five issues, there’s a lot of interviews there that they go on quite a bit and I think they’re interesting, but in later issues I probably would have trimmed them down some, so you’re getting a lot more raw material in the first few issues.
Danny Fingeroth: Here’s the thing about writers and creative people in general of course, and comics people in particular. Is they spend all day alone at their desk or their drawing board. I mean, I guess a lot of them, especially if you’re inking or something, it doesn’t require a certain kind of concentration, you can be on the phone. But a lot of them are just focused on their work. So when somebody asks them what they think or about their careers or about their theories on comics, they’re more than happy to talk about it at length.
Alex Grand: Because they live in their head most of the time.
Danny Fingeroth: Exactly. What I think I bring to a lot of things I do is this insiders’ point of view, so I’m asking them questions that a journalist or a historian or an academic might not think to ask. Two things I found fascinating, or among the things, I found very few people speak in complete sentences. Even people who seem like they’re speaking in complete sentences and may seem very, and who are very articulate and very intelligent speak in fragments and digressions. I think J.M. Dematteis is one of the few people who I ever interviewed who speaks in complete sentences.
Alex Grand: Oh, interesting.
Danny Fingeroth: As if he was writing.
Alex Grand: So transcripts get tricky that way.
Danny Fingeroth: Transcripts get tricky, because you don’t want to alter what someone says, you don’t want to alter their meaning, but you need to also cut out the ums and the repetitions and the moments where they’re buying time while they’re getting their thoughts together. So that’s tricky. What I found fascinating was I had what is called nuts and bolts, which now is literally I’d show scripts, and plots, and pencils, and layouts, and literally show how things were done. But for the interviews, I could say to somebody something like, “Well how did you break in?” And they’d say, “Well, I was having lunch with John Byrne one day, and then he said …” And I go, “Wait a minute. You’re talking like everybody has lunch with John Byrne. How did you get to be someone who …”
Alex Grand: Right, go to the beginning.
Danny Fingeroth: And a lot of people would say things like that. They would leap ahead like four steps in their career. Somehow they would start the story when they were already, if not already a professional of some kind then already had at least a foot in the door. And I found that interesting that I often had to very, probably very annoyingly, try to backtrack. “No, how did you get to that, how did you get to …” You know. The point was not to show … Obviously, no reader, you can’t duplicate somebody’s life. But you can, I thought it was important to show that well look, you may not think you know anybody, but you probably know somebody who knows somebody in some kind of position to at least get you in a door or get you in a meeting or get your work in front … I mean, especially now in the age of the internet that’s even more true.
Danny Fingeroth: But back in the early 2000s, it was, we had the internet, but it was … So I found that fascinating that so many people would skip ahead to, like, “So, I’m talking to George Lucas.” How did you get to be in the room with George Lucas?
Alex Grand: Right. Well that’s interesting. So then that leads into, like you mentioned, the Stan Lee universe, 2011, a book that you made with Roy Thomas, and it’s full of interviews of people who were there during the ’60s Marvel renaissance and the creation of all of those characters. How was it going through that, and did you learn things you didn’t already know about that era?
Danny Fingeroth: All this history, like all history, has multiple layers to it. It was interesting, I know it’s not a great, colorful word. But we did those interviews with people, and yeah, it was. I mean, I think especially say Al Jaffe, who I’d known … I got to know Al maybe a few years before that, and Al, who’s 98 and still got all his marbles, and still doing MAD. So 10, 12, 14 years ago. It all ties in there. It ties in with my books too, because I … And my starting to do conventions. Because you get to meet these old timers, and you get to hear their stories, and you hear where their stories, where different people’s stories contradict each other.
Alex Grand: Right.
Danny Fingeroth: I mean, everybody thinks of Al of course from Mad Magazine and the Mad Fold In, and the Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions. But Al worked for 10 years as a writer and editor and artist for Stan Lee.
Alex Grand: Right, oh, okay, yeah yeah, right right.
Danny Fingeroth: And the same with Jerry Robinson and the … I mean, Stan and Will Eisner are two people that everybody worked for at some point for various reasons. People wanted to apprentice with Eisner because he was Eisner. People liked Stan as a person and as an editor. But he also had a high volume of work that he needed done.
Danny Fingeroth: I think that was one thing I realized, just how many people who you wouldn’t think of as people who worked for and with Stan did that, and in what capacities. And also the idea of how Marvel grew and changed over the years, how big it had been in the ’50s, and then suddenly became small in ’57 when they had one of their periodic implosions and how that gave birth to Marvel. I ended up going out to Stan’s archives in Wyoming, which I recommend, and they’re open to the public, you just have to get to Laramie, Wyoming. Stan’s archives have a web finding page. You can search out things. But the problem is that they are not always, because I think some of them are cataloged by people who don’t know their comics history like you and I do, who does? They don’t know all the fine points.
Danny Fingeroth: Some of it was ambiguously cataloged, and I tried to order some online, and I did, and what I got was technically what described, but it wasn’t really what I was after. So I realized it would be good to take a trip out there. So we put that into the budget, and I went out there for a week. And I’d say the most fascinating stuff I found was a lot of radio shows Stan had been on in the ’60s and ’70s. And some of them were boilerplate, it’s great, buy it kind of things, but some of them were very long form, really fascinating interviews or debates or conversations. I’m thinking of one that Stan had with Hilda Mossey on the Barry Farber Show in 1968. Hilda Mossey was Frederic Wertham’s partner in research and comics hating. And I mean this was 10 years after, or more, closer to 15 years after Seduction of the Innocent. But it still was a very heated kind of discussion. I found a recording of Stan and Jack in 1967 on a local New York station.
Danny Fingeroth: So I had a lot of that stuff transcribed, and that’s in the book, and it’s … So that was really the mind blowing thing about going to that archive and finding this stuff that had not been heard or seen in decades. And there’s a lot of it. I think it would have been even more. At one point there was a fire at Marvel Productions, so Stan lost a lot of his stuff. But there was still a ton of material, and I had to go through it very quickly to try to determine what it was.
Danny Fingeroth: But a very interesting thing about Stan was that for all his salesmanship and hucksterism and ballyhooing, if you listen lose, he said a lot of stuff that was very frank and very honest, but he said it in the same tone that he would say the it’s great, buy it, or I’m working on this, or I just had lunch with this big movie … You know what I mean? You really have to listen. But Stan always said stuff that was really remarkably frank for someone in the high level position he was in, and including in these radio shows. So that, I think that if anything is one of the great selling points of the Stan Lee universe, and helped fuel a lot of my research in thinking about him for the biography too.
Alex Grand: I see what you’re saying, yeah. As far as Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, well you and I spoke once in person about this, about there’s a synergy, and that the sum of the parts was greater than the individual parts. Before Jim talks about Superman on the couch with you, can you elaborate on that synergy that you feel occurred there?
Danny Fingeroth: I was a talking head last year in that series, that Robert Kirkman series on comics.
Jim Thompson: Yeah.
Danny Fingeroth: And I felt bad, because there was … The interviewer was doing his job. His job was to get people to say controversial stuff. Even though I knew that it was going to be an interview like that, I let myself get backed into a corner. So there’s a clip of me going, “No Stan Lee, no Marvel Comics,” as if I was negating Jack Kirby’s or Steve Ditko’s roles. But I mean, the full belief that I have is that without any of those, certainly without Stan, without Jack, without Steve, you know what I mean, maybe you could say since Steve quote unquote only did Spider-Man, their most popular character, and Dr. Strange, all three are irreplaceable. And in his way Martin Goodman is irreplaceable. You know what I mean, there’s … He’s the power behind the curtain. I think all four … You look at the work they all did before, and the work they all did after. And there’s something magical, I don’t think it’s just that I was eight or 10 years old when that stuff came out. I mean, there’s something magical about what they all did together that transcended, to me, what they’d done before or since.
Danny Fingeroth: Everything then becomes a debate about credit and money, and those are not small topics. But I mean as far as the magic on the page, and the sense of wonder that it engenders in a kid or an adult reader, I mean, that … Yeah, I think they all somehow, whether they loved or hated or got along with or didn’t get along, whatever went on, what came out on the page was, I think the best work of all their combined careers.
Alex Grand: Right. Yeah, it was a special time.
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah, yeah, yeah,
Jim Thompson: Okay, let’s move on to your books, because I want to have room for three of them, and then we’ll get to the new Stan Lee book. But I want to talk about Superman on the Couch, I want to talk about Disguised as Clark Kent, and I want to talk about the Rough Guide to Graphic Novels.
Danny Fingeroth: Okay.
Jim Thompson: Let’s start with the first one, which would be Superman on the Couch. Was that your first straight up, I won’t say textbook, but book that’s not a comic book?
Danny Fingeroth: Pretty much. I had been writing some articles for various online and print publications. And I’d been doing a lot of writing of course for Write Now, not just the interviews but there were articles and editorials. So I’d been doing a lot of writing. And of course I’d been writing my whole life. But yeah, that was the first booky book. I had my credit on some novels for Byron Price, but those, now it can be told, those three Spider-Man novels that were variously credited to me, Eric Fine, and Piers Saskigran were actually, they were plotted by me and Eric and they were then, the actual novels were written by Piers. But Byron didn’t think, and probably correctly, that a novel should have more than two writers in the credits of any one novel. And I did some short stories.
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah, this was my first book of quote unquote criticism or pop culture insight. And it came about, a brilliant editor that I went to high school with, a guy named Evander [Lamke 00:49:04], I ran into him at a high school reunion, and we’d known each other somewhat over the years, but he said, “Do you have any ideas for books on comic books or superheroes?” And I think I pitched him a half dozen ideas, and this is the one that he liked the most, so I developed it from there.
Jim Thompson: Was this before Peter Coogan’s book? And was he still working … He’d done a dissertation by now I think.
Danny Fingeroth: Boy. You know, I think it was before Coogan’s book. Maybe it was being worked on simultaneously. But I think mine came out before Coogan.
Alex Grand: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jim Thompson: … saying what is a superhero in a lot of ways, and asking a lot of interesting questions.
Danny Fingeroth: Although as opposed to Peter, I mean, Peter, the point of his book is to say, “Here is a definition of superheroes.” Mine was more of asking the questions and saying it’s a very elastic kind of definition. So in that way Peter and I took opposing point of views. But one thing that book did was it put me on the map with Peter and Randy Duncan and a lot of other comics academics, that sort of introduced me to this whole other world of people who were approaching comics in a much different way than I’d ever been familiar with.
Alex Grand: Which is cool that you can cover it from both ends like that.
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah, I think so. And I think also that I had, not that I’m the world’s foremost authority in independent comics, but I’d always had an interest in underground comics and alternative comics. I realize they had a credibility. I think maybe back to my fine arts film background, I realized there were a whole lot of ways to approach any medium. So all this … I mean, I find it funny, and maybe I said this last time. I still find it funny that people who know a lot about comics, including professionals in comics, when you mention the name Raina Telgemeier, they go, “I never heard of that person.” And you go, “You know, she’s the highest selling graphic novelist in the world.” And then they’ll go right back to saying, “And comics are over, nobody’s reading them.” May I repeat, she sells a million of each …
Alex Grand: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Danny Fingeroth: So I was and am more interested and open to considering all sorts of comics, and I think that makes me a viable part. There’s a whole word of comics academics, intellectuals, that range all the way from people with PhDs and beyond to people like me who’ve been in the business and people like Nicky Wheeler Nicholson, who has a master’s, although I think not in comics. But somebody educated like that, who also is the granddaughter of the founder.
Alex Grand: Of DC.
Danny Fingeroth: Of DC. So there’s a wide range of comics studies people and people writing and talking about comics. Anyway, to go back. I know that’s a much more complicated … What was your question about the book, about Superman on the Couch?
Jim Thompson: Well, I mean-
Alex Grand: Well, isn’t it also an exploration into American identity and a deconstruction of the superhero genre? I mean, you really dissect all this, don’t you?
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah, well I think what had happened is one of the reasons I even pitched the thing was it didn’t seem to me that anybody since Wertham had written a book about superheroes and psychology, which seemed like a weird thing to me. That somehow that … Maybe Wertham made the topic so radioactive. If you read Jerry Jones and the Jacob and Jones books about their history books, there’s a lot of psychology in those. So I think there were different history books that maybe incorporated a lot of insights. I mean, I have to say mine, ultimately, Superman on the Couch is probably more of a sociological than a psychological study. But I do try to deconstruct it, and find the origins of it. A lot of it I look at now and I realize, boy, I really accepted a lot of the history as given at that time without question. There was a lot of those creation myths of the heroes. Certainly nobody, as far as I could tell, had attempted that kind of approach since Wertham.
Jim Thompson: It’s a very funny book though. I mean, I like a lot of the … You do things like calling the Justice League the Judgment League, because they’re … That was one of my favorite lines in the whole book. And you get into things like the Hulk, his anger versus Batman’s anger. Talk about that for a minute, because I thought that was a brilliant section of the book, when-
Danny Fingeroth: It’s so brilliant I’ve forgotten it. You better remind, what did I say?
Jim Thompson: The Hulk’s anger is all out … Like it’s pure, it’s a pure expression of anger with nothing else behind it, whereas Batman, it’s channeling it, and you basically go through and talk about how his anger creates everything that’s about Batman, but it’s a controlled anger.
Danny Fingeroth: I guess I did say that. I mean, what I remember … I don’t know about discovering, but what I found most fascinating was how so many of the superheroes are the product of a violent sudden loss, a traumatic … To me that was not so much a surprise, but just how deeply it went. And I think I continue this in disguise as Clark Kent, and maybe put a finer focus of having a Jewish background on it. But that idea of everything you have could suddenly go away, and everything could be taken away, and everyone you love could disappear. And the fantasy, I could say with Batman and Robin … Robin is a complicated character in general. That’s … No one since like the ’50s has ever been able to really give a credible explanation of Robin.
Jim Thompson: Yeah. Guys that work today now, especially, it’s very, very tricky to do.
Danny Fingeroth: I mean, I have to say, I know it was controversial, but I really loved Frank Miller’s take on it in All Star Batman and Robin, just Batman is essentially abusing this kid, and his answer to any question is, “I’m the goddamn Batman.”
Alex Grand: Yeah. I like that too.
Danny Fingeroth: It short circuits any … Is it psychological or criminal abuse to bring a 12 year old on your deadly … “I’m the goddamn Batman, shut up.”
Alex Grand: Yeah, right.
Jim Thompson: Having to eat rats was a bit too far for me.
Danny Fingeroth: Actually the one point I considered … I mean, I remember having a long discussion with Denny O’Neil about how does he rationalize taking a 12 year old … Really there’s no really good answer except it’s comic books, and it was the 1940s, who cared?
Alex Grand: But Batman is a sadist though. So for me, that Robin origin was consistent with Batman being a sadist and Joker being a masochist and all that stuff.
Danny Fingeroth: But this whole thing about traumatic loss I thought was very, gets to the heart of the characters and the heart of where they came from, which was the eve of World War II, and the tail end, of course they didn’t know it was the tail end of the Great Depression. Look at what’s going on. Little Orphan Annie, there’s all … There’s so much … The Dead End Kid. There’s so much in the culture about children or young adolescents tossed out on their own for … I think it’s so powerful, that whole metaphor.
Danny Fingeroth: So the fantasy of … I think one thing I do remember, I remember a lot of things, but one of the points I remember making was that whole fantasy of being an orphan. It’s a much … It’s a nice, vicarious fantasy, if obviously, if your parents actually do get killed in front of your eyes, that would not be such a great psychologically or any other way. But the fantasy of you and your pal Batman fighting crime and dodging bullets, what a great fantasy.
Alex Grand: Right, that’s the fun part.
Danny Fingeroth: What I was trying to do with that book, although I was doing it for an academic publisher, and I’m hoping at some point in the next couple of years to do an updated version.
Jim Thompson: I was going to ask you about that.
Danny Fingeroth: That’s next on my agenda. It just seems to me that that with superheroes, even if the superhero movie and TV genre fell off a cliff, then it would just be another chapter, like why did it fall off a cliff?
Jim Thompson: Well, you’re writing this book and you’re talking about why the audience is drawn to it in terms of film, and this is four years before Iron Man. You’re drawing a lot of conclusions, but you’d have to want to rewrite some of that in light of what has happened.
Danny Fingeroth: I’d say Superman on the Couch was in print for like 14 years and it went through four or five printings. But at this point the rights have reverted to that, and to Disguised as Clark Kent. I have the right to both of those books back. Disguised as Clark Kent was unfortunate, because it was the same editor, but shortly before that book came out, he parted ways with the company, so there was nobody … It was an orphan. So there was nobody whose job depended on that book doing well, so it got lost. Although I personally think it’s a much better written and researched book than Superman on the Couch.
Jim Thompson: Well let’s talk about that, because we don’t have all day. Let’s talk about that one for a few minutes too, because that’s an area that I think a lot of people like to argue about, get defensive about in relation to Shuster and Siegel and what Superman represents, and there’s so much of that topic of Jewishness in comics that I want to hear what you were aiming for.
Danny Fingeroth: Well, I mean, I’m … Given my background and my interests, I knew that was there. And I have to say, the thing, what helps it was Ari Kaplan’s series of articles in Reformed Judaism magazine that later became his book Crack Out Of Krypton. At that point I don’t know if I’d met Ari yet, and I didn’t know if he was … Somehow it seemed, again, talk with my editor, what would be a good follow up to Superman on the Couch, and this … It’s a cliché that Jews like to buy books about Jews, but it’s also true. So you know there’s an audience for it. And I had a lot to say about it. I was hesitant. If you put in the term Jews and superheroes on Google, you will get as many hate sites as you do tribute or joyful sites. I mean, it’s a little scary.
Danny Fingeroth: I really thought, boy, am I just giving … Whereas what I’m seeing as yes, we made these superheroes, somebody else who’s inclined towards prejudice and anti Semitism and nuttiness would have a like, it’s another Jewish conspiracy. So I really had to think a lot about that, and I think I addressed that in the book. And what I tried to not do is to not … I clearly say, I’m seeing these Jewish metaphors and Jewish subtext. But clearly in 99% of the time it’s not what the creators had in mind. What the creators had in mind was doing something that would have the widest possible appeal, but you can’t separate them from their context.
Danny Fingeroth: My favorite thing is Joe Simon, who was very nice, and anytime I met him was very complimentary and generous, he said, “There’s no connection.” He sent me an email saying, “There’s no connection, we never were trying to do anything Jewish, it’s a non-topic.” I got permission from him to reprint that email. And then, I forget if this is in the book or not, they did that Captain America, the death of Captain America story at Marvel, right around that time. And I’m listening to NPR one day, and Joe Simon is on, and the interviewer says, “Mr. Simon, how do you feel about the fact that they’ve killed your character?” And Joe says, “I’m sitting shiva for Captain America.”
Danny Fingeroth: And I’m thinking, well that’s pretty funny for a guy … I mean, it was a really funny thing to say and really appropriate. I saw well that’s really … Joe’s no idiot. He knew that that would be a great sound byte. But it’s pretty funny for someone who said, “Oh, there’s no Jewish connection at all.”
Alex Grand: Right.
Danny Fingeroth: For him to invoke that phrase, which is the name for the Jewish mourning custom is sitting shiva, and mourning for seven days, shiva meaning seven. And again, my favorite discovery was the Jewish subtext in the Thor, in the Norse god Thor. He kept imploring Odin to let him marry the mortal Jane Foster, and Odin kept forbidding him to. Odin looking very biblical and rabbinical the way Kirby drew him, with the beard, and fondly Jane is willing to convert to become a god, and that becomes a disaster.
Danny Fingeroth: I have no doubt that neither Stan nor Jack had any intention of that being the subtext of the story, but when you’re looking at it, and it … When you’re not looking for it, to me anyway as a grown-up reading it, it popped out. And there’s a lot of interesting things in history. So did Siegel and Shuster mean for Superman to be a metaphor for Moses? I think it was there in their background. I think they-
Jim Thompson: Yeah, I don’t think it matters whether it was intentional or subconscious, it seems like it’s there.
Danny Fingeroth: I never … People have tried to give a literal interpretation of the name Kal El. To me that was a little much. I think they didn’t even give him that name until a while later. A lot of stuff that we think of as the Superman mythology came later from different writers and different editors, and you can’t not credit Mort Weisinger and Julie Schwartz with a lot of their contributions to the heroes.
Danny Fingeroth: I had fun with that book, but I think it’s a serious topic as well, and I think I … Again, I’ve learned more about research and more about … I mean, if my books are about here’s some research and here’s what Danny thinks, I think I was more comfortable with both for Disguised as Clark Kent.
Jim Thompson: I just wanted to say the whole time you were talking, I don’t have that book. I have the others. So I’m walking around holding the Harvey Pekar Yiddish book, because-
Danny Fingeroth: Uh huh, Yiddish guide, yes.
Jim Thompson: Because you’re at least, you are in that one. So it was my way of connecting.
Danny Fingeroth: Well that’s pretty funny.
Jim Thompson: Yeah, I want to do the Rough Guide next, because I think that’s relatively important, and it’s easy to brush off as being part of a chain of books. But you’ve got a lot of really informative history in there, and it covers so many different topics and grounds. And a lot of this is not what one would expect from somebody who had worked at Marvel most of their career, in that you bring a great knowledge of what was happening in alternative comics and other things to it. So yeah, please talk about that.
Danny Fingeroth: That was funny. I get a call one day from the editor of that book, and he says, “Would you like to write the Rough Guide to Graphic Novels?” And I said, “Sure.” I said, “But it is funny that you didn’t all me when you did the Rough Guide to Superheroes.” I would have expected that. But sure. I mean, they offered me, it was a good financial deal. And I don’t want to brush it off by saying it was a work for hire, because all the great comics we love are work for hire. I guess they asked me for a list of some things they wanted. It was done in a flurry, it was done very quickly. I tried to give a wide range of stuff. I thought it was funny that they said everything but superheroes, but they still put a superhero scene on the cover. Somebody at some point must have said, “Eh, we’ll sell more if we put a superhero battle on it.”
Danny Fingeroth: I think, I guess there must have been maybe Watchmen and some other stuff. Most of it was stuff I’d read or read for the purpose of the book.
Jim Thompson: Did you have help on it, or did you do all the research yourself?
Danny Fingeroth: I think I did all the research myself. I think we must … I think with the editor and maybe other people at Rough Guides, we probably decided on the list and what would be there. There were, boy, again, it’s been so long since I’ve read. But yeah, I’d say most of the stuff, I had an issue with a couple of things that they wanted, and I insisted on putting in, inserting certain editorial comments about them if I couldn’t convince them not to have it in. But yeah, I think they recall a lot of … Whatever the parameters were, X number of main topics. I definitely wanted, I loved Harvey Pekar and his work, and that actually led to my relationship with Harvey. I’d met Harvey once or twice at conventions, “Hi, how you doing?” But when I wrote so glowingly about him in the book, he called me. And that’s how my relationship with Harvey really began.
Jim Thompson: Oh, that’s great. That’s really interesting.
Danny Fingeroth: Which led to, in 2009, which I can’t believe is 10 years ago, but I did a series of three nights at the Yivo Institute, which is like a Jewish, Yiddishist institution in New York. I did three nights in 2009 called Comics and the Jewish American Experience by the guy who was running their cultural department then, Harold Steinblatt. Saw my book on display in my local opticians, and he remembered that he knew me and he contacted me.
Danny Fingeroth: So suddenly I’m doing a night with Al Jaffe, a night with Harvey Pekar, and a night with Jules Feiffer. Those were pretty amazing. And all these different things, I’m sure you know from your own careers, a thing you don’t … I thought maybe having my book and my … I was friendly with my optician. So he said, “Oh, I like to put my clients’ books or paintings on display.” So I figured well maybe somebody’ll buy a copy of my book or something, having seen it. I didn’t think it would lead to somebody I knew from some other part of my life suddenly contacting me, and me ending up being able to do these incredible nights with … That includes the night where … I knew Al a little, but in preparing for this evening we spent a lot of time together. He really wanted to do it right, and we spent a lot of time.
Jim Thompson: I want to ask you more about the nights, but let’s go to Stan Lee first.
Danny Fingeroth: Okay, sure. Yeah.
Alex Grand: So you did a lot of research for your upcoming book.
Danny Fingeroth: It’s called A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee.
Alex Grand: It’s basically his biography, is that correct?
Danny Fingeroth: It is a biography.
Alex Grand: Yeah. And that’s different from the Stan Lee Universe book, which focuses more on his Marvel creations. Did you interview his brother and other family members? How did you come about this?
Danny Fingeroth: I’d been trying to get this off the ground for years, because it’s a no brainer. What would be the most likely book that people might be interested in who are not hardcore comics fan, but in the world outside that? Oh, a biography of Stan Lee. Well, turns out I know Stan Lee. So I tried … Stan and I talked about it at various points. I pitched the idea a couple of places and I let it lay for awhile, then I pitched it at an agent, who pitched it. So it went through various phases. Was it going to be authorized, turned out no, it’s not authorized. But again, it’s from an insider point of view, yes. So ultimately, when I told Stan I’d made the deal, he said, “Congratulations, I hope it sells well.” He said, “I’m not going to tell people to talk to you or not talk to you, it’s fully up to them.”
Danny Fingeroth: At first he didn’t want to do. He said, “I’ve done too many interviews.” But then I would occasionally in my subtle way gently nag him about it. I live in Washington Heights, where he grew up, so I would occasionally send him photos of the George Washington Bridge at sunset, the George Washington at night. So I don’t know if that touched some kind of sentimental chord, and for whatever reason though. And I guess it was also during the period when I was his regular interviewer at the Wizard shows, when I was traveling with Wizards for four years. So for whatever reason he ultimately did decide that he would do an interview with me, and then he did a follow up.
Danny Fingeroth: I asked him questions that, again, with guys like Stan and Will Eisner, who knows if you can ask them a question nobody’s ever asked, but I think I was, because I’d done my homework and because I knew him personally, I think I could ask him things and get answers that maybe he wouldn’t have thought to give to somebody else. In the book, in the biography there’s a lot from my exclusive interviews with him. And I interviewed, yes, with his brother Larry. That’s the only family member I spoke to.
Alex Grand: Yeah, so Larry Lieber was obviously a source on this then.
Danny Fingeroth: Right. And Neal Adams, and … And I had a lot of those interviews left over, well not left over, but I did for the Stan Lee Universe, so Jim Mooney, and I also spoke to Stan Goldberg’s widow, and to Ken Ball, and to Ken Ball’s daughter. Got a gazillion. Mark Evanier Thomas. I spoke to one of the people who invited Stan to his first speaking engagement at Bard in 1964. I just cold called her. She had a somewhat unusual name, so I was able to find her. Either going to think I’m a nut or call the police or something, or she’s going to be … Talk on and on. Luckily it was the latter she remembered it very well and talked …
Danny Fingeroth: So I think I found a number of people who are not the usual suspects of being interviewed about Stan and about comics. I want to emphasize that it’s not a history of Marvel Comics, it’s a biography of Stan Lee. I mean I think Sean Howe did the comprehensive Marvel Comics history in many ways, but this is about Stan. A lot with Jaffe, who I interviewed numerous times. I have a list of 50 or 60 people I talked to.
Alex Grand: Yeah, a lot of interviews. But it sounds like you were as extensive as possible and interviewed everyone you could that was around in those times.
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah, yeah.
Jim Thompson: Do you go all the way to final days, or do you cut off at some point?
Danny Fingeroth: Well, I mean, yes I go to final days, but there’s a lot of unfinished business regarding Stan’s life, so I mean at a certain point you have to say, “As of press time, X, Y, and Z was happening,” so it’s not a book about Stan’s final days, although obviously there’s no way to not cover it.
Alex Grand: Not have that part.
Danny Fingeroth: Because it was so wacky. I mean, every day a different story and every day a different party hear from about.
Jim Thompson: Yeah, that would seem like a tricky part to do from a legal standpoint.
Alex Grand: Yeah.
Danny Fingeroth: You are correct. And yet, you can’t really ignore it. I mean, I guess you could just say I’m ending the biography at, whatever, 2015. But that’s really the 800 pound gorilla in the Stan Lee story is those strange final days. And I think there is a book and maybe even a movie to be made about those. But I try to put Stan in context of the comics business, of American history, of pop culture history, and I think a lot of it is about, again, how can you avoid his relationship with Kirby and Ditko? How can you not …
Alex Grand: Talk about them, yeah.
Danny Fingeroth: And try to put it … In retrospect, I think oddly enough what I bring is not just insider status, and not just status as somebody who knew Stan. I by no means claim to have been Stan’s best friend. I knew him as a colleague, we were fond of each other, but I can’t claim that I was his intimate, close buddy. But what I do bring is having been in a similar position to his as an editor and writer of comics. And I’m not claiming, obviously, that I was a ground breaker or innovator in the same way he was, but that I can look at some of these controversies as someone on the inside, as a staff member at Marvel and in comics in general and say, “Boy, this may look like one thing, but there’s another way to look at whatever it is.”
Danny Fingeroth: I think that I bring that in a way that someone who hasn’t worked literally in the comic book business on staff that … And those other people bring whatever they bring as journalists, as critics, as full time freelancers. But I do think I bring a certain insight that comes with my own personal experience and career.
Alex Grand: A couple questions. So one, you come from a perspective of a writer in comics, and a creator of characters, and editor much like Stan does. Do you feel like that gave you a special insight? And then two, I think they say Jack Kirby had a very strong Jewish identity, and you remarked on the Jewish identity. Did Stan Lee, did he express much to you as far as a Jewish identity? Did that come out of him?
Danny Fingeroth: I don’t think he talked about it a lot. I mean, obviously I did an interview with him back when I was doing Disguised as Clark Kent, and I quote from that. So I would say Stan did not emphasize his Jewish identity, but he wasn’t … I don’t think he was embarrassed or ashamed of it either, and I did talk a lot about his childhood and his bar mitzvah, and various other, I’d say there’s insights into Stan’s Jewish background in my book that you probably won’t get anywhere else.
Danny Fingeroth: So yeah, he always said that it wasn’t … Look, his family, Lieber, maybe … It’s an ambiguous name, it’s not … If you put out a book with the name Stan Lieber, maybe some people would think it was a Jewish name, others would think it was a German name. It’s certainly no more … I mean, Stan Lee is a name that only a 70 year old kid would come up with. It’s like, “Oh, I’ll break my name.” So I think a lot of people thought he was Asian just because his name was Stan Lee.
Alex Grand: Right.
Danny Fingeroth: If you were going to change your name. So I think he just did it because a lot of people in comics did it, whatever their nationality, and I think in those days he didn’t want to taint his chances of doing a great novel or becoming a journalist or whatever. So I think he didn’t change his name because he didn’t want people to know he was Jewish, I think he just wanted to simplify it, and not have it be baggage when later on he would try to do whatever else.
Alex Grand: Something else, yeah.
Danny Fingeroth: He didn’t know that his fame and fortune would be connected to the name Stan Lee.
Alex Grand: And another question before Jim talks about Will Eisner is the reinvention of Stan Lee, because him and Jack, they weren’t exactly young chickens when they created the Marvel characters with Steve Ditko in the ’60s. So like you were mentioning before is that when you look at pictures of him from the ’50s and then pictures from the ’60s and after the projection of his image with his hair, his sunglasses, that brand identity of Stan Lee, can you remark a bit on his reinvention of himself in the ’60s and ’70s?
Danny Fingeroth: That’s an amazing thing. In any business, people get in to a rut and they get into a habit, especially if they’ve been reasonably successful doing what they’re doing. So I think that’s what made Stan different, I think that’s what made Will Eisner different. Kirby I think was just a dynamo of ideas. I mean, I don’t think Kirby … I don’t know if you could say Jack Kirby reinvented himself, Jack Kirby re-explored … I think Jack Kirby had an ongoing exploration of topics and themes that he’d always been interested in.
Danny Fingeroth: I think that Stan somehow figured out that he could and should rebrand himself and the company and make himself synonymous with the company. I think that’s what makes him outstanding in that field. There are some people who had very long careers just because they were competent or even gifted artists or writers or editors, but I mean, you don’t think of them in this decision to become somebody else. I think it was a combination of just Stan’s natural inclination. I think it was also that his office was on Madison Avenue. I think when you’re surrounded by Don Draper and other … By Mad Men types, and you see, oh look, everything, look, you can rebrand toothpaste, you can rebrand breakfast. You can present and change how people and things are shown to the public and sold. I think being literally on Madison Avenue was an important part of that.
Danny Fingeroth: And I think also when he started getting letters from people like Roy Thomas and Jerry Bales, he had a realization, like oh, there’s this audience of college educated adults, and while they won’t ever, ha ha, become our main audience, it’s definitely somebody we can appeal to. And look, whether did Joan ever really say to him, “Why don’t you do comics the way you want to do it?” Well I’m guessing she said it to him a thousand times.
Alex Grand: Mm-hmm (affirmative). As an ongoing thing.
Danny Fingeroth: I’m guessing there was not one conversation, but I’m thinking it was something … Marvel had almost disappeared just before that happened. And then you have, I think maybe the sudden death of Joe Maneely was a wake up call to Stan, like wow, we’re not going to be here forever. I think a lot of different factors. And something about him, I mean that’s why he was Stan Lee, because he didn’t retreat into a shell. I think Eisner had a similar but different realization, which we can talk about if you want.
Danny Fingeroth: But Stan couldn’t have done what he did without Kirby and without Ditko and without the other guy, but especially Kirby and Ditko, but I don’t think Marvel would have existed without Stan either. And without Martin Goodman willing to give thumbs up or thumbs down, or decide he was going to be hands off with Stan. I mean, that’s part of what’s in the book, how complicated that relationship was. Goodman didn’t just happen to be Stan’s relative, that was a big part of why Marvel was Marvel. And the context, if you … And Marvel also had the context of being part of Goodman’s publishing empire, which was a strange and oddball array of magazines and books that Martin Goodman published, that Marvel was a part of, and yet with Stan it became much its own thing.
Jim Thompson: I have one Stan Lee related question, and then want to get to the other aspect of your career I’m interested in. In doing this book, have you gone back and read the other biographies that have come out in relatively recent years?
Danny Fingeroth: There’s a Bob Batchelor book and then the Raphael Spurgeon book. What else-
Jim Thompson: Well, and sort of ends on …
Danny Fingeroth: Right. They were very important books to read.
Jim Thompson: Is there repetition in terms of do you go and look at the same archives and start from square one, or do you build upon the books that are previously done?
Alex Grand: And do you feel like you’ve covered things that weren’t in those books?
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah. Okay, wow. It’s funny, because just the way I learned about journalism in an oddball way from Write Now, I learned about writing biography in an oddball way by writing this book, because suddenly I’m not going to biographers’ events, and meeting biographers, and reading a lot of biographies, and reading about biographies. I mean, a classic one is I went to an event last year that was promoting a new two volume biography of Saul Bellow.
Danny Fingeroth: Well it turns out that this biography of Saul Bellow, this two volume RV exists is because Saul Bellow’s family didn’t like the previous biography about Saul Bellow that somebody else wrote 10 years ago. What I’ve discovered is that, right, let’s say you go to a job interview and the guy says, “Tell me about your life.” Or you’re being interviewed on a podcast by somebody and they say, “Tell me about your career.” Well there’s a million different ways to approach it. And you’re really in some ways creating, even unintentionally, maybe even thinking you’re telling quote unquote the truth, there’s a million ways to approach somebody’s life, there’s a million ways to approach and interpret the details of somebody’s life.
Danny Fingeroth: Have I discovered that Stan had a secret life as a spy and he was in disguise in Scandinavia for 10 years? No, I have not discovered that. But I think I have taken details of Stan’s life, discovered new, interesting details, and put together a narrative that is still Stan Lee’s life but has a unique take on it. I mean, I think I have found details in people that other people have not covered and given my insider point of view and whatever Danny Fingeroth intelligence or stupidity I bring to the table. I bring that.
Danny Fingeroth: I think if I’ve done my job right, I will have pissed off both the unquestioning Stan Lee haters and the unquestioning Stan Lee lovers.
Alex Grand: Oh, that’s good.
Danny Fingeroth: Almost certainly. So that’s … So yes, you can’t … The basic building blocks of Stan’s life, they’re the basic building blocks of his life. But I think I bring … I’ve either discovered or intuited a lot of new things that other people haven’t.
Alex Grand: Right, that’s great. We are excited to read it, and we’re … When can we expect it to come out? Is that set to be November? Is that when?
Danny Fingeroth: It’s set for October. I mean, I’m still hoping October, but somewhere in the fall. Somewhere … Well, with plenty of time to do your holiday shopping.
Alex Grand: There you go. Pre order now. All right.
Danny Fingeroth: Exactly.
Jim Thompson: All right. So let’s talk about the few side things that you have done that are of great interest. One of them was, are you still the programming director for Wizard World? Or how long did that last?
Danny Fingeroth: That lasted four years. That lasted from 2013 to 2017. I was not the programming director. I was the director of the Danny Fingeroth panels.
Jim Thompson: Ah, okay. Because you were MC’ing a lot of panels a the time, right?
Danny Fingeroth: Yes. I had done their show, they had a wizard show in New York in 2013, and I had done a couple of panels there, and the guy who was running their programming, a guy named Chris Jansen, said, “Would you like to come on the road with us, and do a lot of panels?” So we worked out a deal, and that’s what I did. And I did anywhere from six to 15 panels at every show. I think Wizard wanted to up their game in panels, and Chris had worked at the San Diego Con in programming. So he was … And they hired him, and he hired me too. It became almost a marathon. I mean, obviously the 15 panels would be for some of their four day shows, like Chicago or Philadelphia. But yeah, the idea was that because I knew the history and I knew the people, I could get people to their shows and to do panels that they might not ordinarily have done a Wizard show, or if they had done a Wizard show they might not ordinarily have done a panel, or have done any show.
Jim Thompson: What was the single greatest panel, Wizard panel, that you ever put together or did?
Danny Fingeroth: Wow. Well look, one of the wackiest things, you know Ben Katchor’s work?
Jim Thompson: Yeah, sure.
Danny Fingeroth: Okay. A lot of people don’t. Ben is a genius, you can tell because I believe he got one of those McArthur Genius Grants. Ben is best known for a strip he did in a New York paper and probably for a bunch of independent papers called Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer.
Jim Thompson: Yep.
Danny Fingeroth: But he’s also done tons of other stuff, and he’s got a very offbeat, idiosyncratic, hilarious point of view on the world. But he’s not somebody you’d expect at a superhero convention. Wizard allowed me to invite him and bring him to one of their New Orleans shows, and Ben was like, “Hey, a free trip to New Orleans.” So Ben Katchor came to the show, and he and Dean Hatfield did a panel where they read from their work as it was projected on screen, so that was pretty … For the 15 people in the audience, that was really great.
Danny Fingeroth: I did a lot of history panels. There’s a lot more interest in comics history than you think. I would do a history of 1942 in comics or whatever on a Sunday afternoon at 4:00, and you think well nobody’s coming to that, and suddenly there’s 300 people showing up in the room.
Alex Grand: Wow.
Danny Fingeroth: And what I would do is I’d get people, either other historians … Every city that’s big enough to have a comic convention the size of a Wizard show is big enough to have a university. And every university of that size always has a couple of people who have tenure who are teaching comics, so they can teach whatever the hell they want. And they’re thrilled to come and be asked to be on a panel at a convention with comic artists and comic editors.
Danny Fingeroth: I’d say not a Wizard show, the wackiest panel that I ever put together, that I couldn’t moderate a few years ago was I put together a panel that had Todd MacFarlane and Raina Telgemeier on it. That was … It was during my own kid’s bar mitzvah, so I couldn’t go to it.
Alex Grand: Oh, that’s funny.
Danny Fingeroth: But I was very proud to, like, holy cow, who else ever put Todd and Raina on a panel together?
Jim Thompson: That is such a weird combination.
Danny Fingeroth: But they both told me they loved it. I mean Paul Levitz moderated it, so how bad could it be? And they were, I’m embarrassed I’m not remembering exactly who else was on it, but it was … But I did a lot of how to panels, I did panels with Barbara Slade and Tom … My strategy was Wizards and whatever, I’ve done my famous Bob Dylan comics, when Prince died I did a Prince and comics with Dean Hatfield and Alex Lubet who was a local Minneapolis music and comics and Judaic studies scholar. So Wizard, I have to say, was very open to me … Of course, I’d have to do, and I was glad to, here’s Stan Lee, here’s Rob Liefeld, those were no brainers as far as comic conventions. But a Prince and comics, a Bob Dylan and comics.
Danny Fingeroth: Oh, you know what, actually one of my favorites was in Louisville. Whatever town Wizard was going to be in, I’d look at a map and I’d go what comics professional or academics or historians or whatever live within 50, 100, 150, 200 miles.
Alex Grand: oh, that’s cool.
Danny Fingeroth: Of this city? So Louisville, I’m going Louisville, Louisville. I went oh, let me look up Louisville Sluggers. I mean, Louisville’s a lot of different things and a lot of angles. But I thought well, Louisville Sluggers has a museum, and the guy who curates the museum, based on my research, seems interested in comics. Cut to here’s my baseball and comics panel at the Wizard World Louisville show with the curator of the Louisville Slugger museum, who brought in all sorts of cool artifacts from an animation show they were having. And to tie it into my other obsessions, he brought in some of their autographed bats, including a Louisville Slugger autographed by Bob Dylan.
Alex Grand: Yeah.
Jim Thompson: Oh, that’s great.
Danny Fingeroth: So that was maybe one of my favorites was that baseball and comics panel.
Alex Grand: So location really does matter.
Danny Fingeroth: In certain things. I mean, if … Let’s face it, because if somebody lives in that town, that means you don’t have to pay for air fare and hotels for them.
Alex Grand: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Danny Fingeroth: And they’re there, and they have this expertise, and they’re thrilled to do it, so why not?
Alex Grand: That’s cool.
Jim Thompson: Let’s talk about the night with ones that you did as well. You mentioned, I mainly want to hear about, for selfish reasons I want to hear about Jules Feiffer. That was my pathway into comics in a lot of ways.
Danny Fingeroth: Me too. Well, not my pathway in, but my pathway into the history.
Jim Thompson: Yeah, yeah, exactly. I just relished that book when it came out. I was reading comics already, but that book made me aware of so much before Marvel.
Danny Fingeroth: Right, yeah, everybody I think. That was an eye opener for me, that book. That was the holiday gift for that year, for 1965, was anybody who’s interested in comics, that was the book you wanted.
Jim Thompson: Now was Feiffer there, was he on stage with you?
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah, yeah. Yes.
Jim Thompson: Well no, I went to a personal look at Feiffer I think in San Diego, and Paul Levitz was there by himself because Feiffer wasn’t able to come at the time.
Danny Fingeroth: Well no, I mean, it’s funny. Actually I shouldn’t have laughed, because just a couple years ago I did a thing with Feiffer and it was via Skype, which was … I take back my derisive laughter. For that particular one, because he had moved out of Manhattan, but then he was still living in Manhattan, it’s very funny, because somehow with all my contacts, nobody I knew knew how to get ahold of Feiffer. I mean, at least I couldn’t find anybody. So I ended up, finally somebody said, “Well you know, he’s got a website. Just send an email to his …” I don’t know why I didn’t think of that. But I sent an email to his assistant, and his assistant said, at least at that point, I think Jules now does do email. But they said, “You have a better chance if you send him a fax.”
Danny Fingeroth: So I sent him a fax, then I dropped Will Eisner’s name, and I said I’d done this interview with Eisner that’s been reprinted a lot, and five minutes later he called me. And turned out he lived like 15 blocks from where I was living, but I couldn’t find the guy. My favorite Feiffer … I’ll tell you about a different event, because this is, I think … They’re both funny story. But a couple years later I’d gotten to be … I’ll say I interviewed … The reason I was looking for Jules was to interview him for Disguised as Clark Kent.
Jim Thompson: Of course.
Danny Fingeroth: So I became somewhat friendly with him. And when I was … Early on in my relationship with the Will Eisner Foundation and Studio, I was doing a night about Will Eisner at Columbia University through Karen Green and her, and also Jeremy Dauber, who was the go to comics people at Columbia. I think I had sent Jules an email or a fax, but I hadn’t heard back from him.
Danny Fingeroth: Well I’m in the cab on the way to the presentation, and Feiffer calls me and says, “I’m coming to your thing tonight,” which I immediately got horribly nervous, and I was glad I didn’t know before that, because I would have been horribly nervous for however long before I knew.
Danny Fingeroth: So I’m there, and I’m doing my talk, and I know my Eisner pretty well, blah blah blah, here’s my opinion and I always do … One thing I do with most of my panels or presentations is elaborate PowerPoint slideshows. I found that that’s, especially for a visual medium like comics, duh. It’s good to do.
Danny Fingeroth: I’m going on about the classic spirit story 10 Minutes, and it was 10 minutes in a man’s life. And Feiffer raises his hand and says, “I wrote that story when I was 17.” And I go, “Oh, okay.” I mean, I hadn’t known that. And then of course all the rest of the questions about that were directed to Jules. So I said, “You know what? I’m going to sit down, and Jules, why don’t you come up here and answer these questions, because clearly they’re not questions for me, they’re for you.” So that was a very funny moment. Like, “I wrote that story when I was 17.”
Danny Fingeroth: The thing at the Yivo Institute is part of that three nights, Comics and the Jewish American Dream. I knew him less well at that point. Again, I did my homework, and I was starting to ask him questions, and he says to me, “If you’re just going to read questions, what do I need you for? I could just read the …” And I went, “Okay,” and I literally threw the questions away, and we winged it from there, and it was great. But that was up there with the moment with the Al Jaffe night when, Al and I had met before, we talked about what we were going to discuss. But I asked some question that as soon as it was out of my mouth I knew was a stupid question. And Al gave me some smart ass response, which gave me the chance to say, “Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve just gotten a snappy answer to a stupid question.” That was a great moment in that series.
Danny Fingeroth: Well you know, I think I’ve learned my lesson luckily through somebody else’s … I was invited to be on a panel somewhere, I don’t want to get too specific. First one was very nice, and they seemed reasonably passionate about comics. But it was me and Joe Cubert and three or four other … I mean it was a hell of a panel, except for me. But it was really. And then the woman gets up and her question basically was, “So, graphic novels.”
Alex Grand: That was it.
Danny Fingeroth: that was pretty much it.
Alex Grand: Open ended.
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah. Okay. I’m being a little, I’m exaggerating a little, but it was not … So from that, I mean it was fine, because we were all blabbermouths, and it turned out fine. But I never wanted to do that to anybody. If I ever did or ever do do a panel where I don’t know the topic, I say that at the beginning. I just say, “Here’s something that I don’t know as much about as I wish I did,” but I try to do … I mean, with the miracle of the internet, it’s hard to have any excuse to come into a panel and not know anything about the topic.
Danny Fingeroth: Yeah, so Feiffer was … Having Jules was hilarious, and funny. And I’ve done a bunch of events with him. And really, I mean, if you’ve seen Feiffer, you know he doesn’t need a moderator, you know what I mean, it’s nice that he agrees to have a moderator, but he’s not exactly a guy who doesn’t have a lot to say and is not a self starter. He’s got a lot of opinions, and he’s very funny about expressing them. He’s interesting. He’s kind of like Stan in that way, in that his range of people that he’s known and worked with is so vast and deep, and goes into so many different corners of popular culture that it’s a remarkable … To go from Will Eisner to Robert Altman to kids’ books.
Alex Grand: Everything. He just … And, oh, his political cartoons, and-
Danny Fingeroth: The 40 years at the Village Voice. I mean, what a career, holy cow.
Jim Thompson: And now he’s doing graphic novels, and they’re fun. I mean, Kill My Mother and things like … He just never stops. It’s amazing.
Danny Fingeroth: And the last one, if you read the third part, it’s a real, it’s a real, I don’t want to give away too much, but it’s very … I mean, all his work obviously. I mean, he has … Especially this. He talks about having Eisner on his shoulder, but especially the third part is very Eisner referential and deferential.
Jim Thompson: Oh, and Monroe, I mean he just, you could go on …
Danny Fingeroth: And he does I think once a month, every two weeks, something for a tabloid magazine online. He does like a biweekly or a monthly strip in a tabloid, say-
Jim Thompson: Super active.
Danny Fingeroth: Or a Jewish oriented website. I would imagine that stuff will be collected at some point. Yeah, that’s I think where he and Eisner and Stan and a couple other people keep reinventing themselves and keep trying to do new things. That was a big thing with Stan, where once in a while he would do an old timer’s panel, but he really resisted that. He much preferred to be on panels with young people talking about new stuff.
Alex Grand: That’s cool.
Danny Fingeroth: I mean, it’s inevitable who he was that he, somebody was going to ask him or he would talk about Marvel. But he really resisted being cataloged as an old timer. And again, I think Eisner, Feiffer, they’re just people who, Jaffe, no matter how old they get, they have more ideas. I ran into Al Jaffe on the street. I mean I think I was going to see him, but he was coming back from the hardware store because somebody had given him a piece of cork, and he said, “I just bought some lumber because somebody gave me this cork, so I’m going to make a cork board out of it.” Which is like, “You know Al, you could buy for 10 bucks, you could buy a cork board.”
Danny Fingeroth: But I had an amazing conversation with Al literally the other day. I went to visit him. I said, “Did you ever think of maybe coming up with ideas for fold ins and letting other people execute them, you just supervise?” And he said, “Well no, because the fun for me is doing the execution. I mean, having the idea is fun, but I love doing …” It’s wonderful that somebody that old, that experienced is still thinking that way, and I know he’s got notebooks full of ideas that, if he lives to be 200, he’ll never have time to execute.
Alex Grand: Right, to do it all.
Danny Fingeroth: So there’s some people like that that are just … I don’t know if it’s genetic or what, but it’s just amazing.
Jim Thompson: I’m going to close with Eisner, but I wanted to ask you about your experiences teaching comics as well, because you’ve done stuff at, both lecturing and speaking at things like Smithsonian and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but you’ve also taught things both online and at the New School and other places. Can you talk about teaching comics?
Danny Fingeroth: Teaching comics is great fun. I’d say the most interesting thing about teaching comics, some of my students, I can’t think of names offhand, have gone on to be professionals. Mostly I taught writing, sometimes I teach history. It’s a lot of fun. I would say that the most interesting change … I haven’t taught for a few years just because I’ve been busy with other things, and also because it pays so badly, which I’ll talk about in a minute. What’s interesting is when I first started teaching, I was in New York University in their adult ed program. A wonderful writer named Michael Vam hired me. He’s written that Joan Crawford and Bette Davis show that was on and other TV shows, it was through the writing and TV department at NYU.
Danny Fingeroth: When I first started teaching, it would be maybe because people knew me mostly from Marvel, it would be like in a class of 16 students, there would be 15 guys and one woman. And as the years went on, I was teaching, ran the education department, and did a lot of work, including co curating a couple shows at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art. By the time I got near the end of my teaching years, which may happen again, I don’t know, the classes were half to two thirds women. So I thought that was a very interesting change. Maybe it was because of where it was. I don’t know. And I did a lot of master classes that I ran at MOCA, and did co-ventures with MOCA and NYU. So like Howard Chaykin and James [DeMatteis and DeFalco].
Alex Grand: Oh, cool.
Danny Fingeroth: Jamal Igol, Joe Cazata. Probably in the past 10, 15 years I’ve probably hosted or ran, whatever you want to call it, I moderated like 500 events. It’s a little wacky. So teaching, I would just say it’s criminal how badly teachers are paid, especially adjuncts. This is one of the great gifts, adjuncts especially having to do that a lot myself.
Jim Thompson: This is one of the great scandals …
Danny Fingeroth: In the educational system in this country, that people … I mean, I enjoyed it, and my students seemed to enjoy the classes, but the money was so … At least if I wasn’t making money doing Write Now, at least I owned it, or co-owned it with Tomorrows, and I had that pride of ownership and that the magazine was a complete, completely my vision. But to teach somewhere and put … If you’re doing it right, you’re putting in a lot of hours, not just the hours in class but the hours of prep, and then if it’s a script writing class, well you’re reading and critiquing the scripts. And man, I think it ends up for most adjuncts well below minimum wage. So I mean that’s really one of the main reasons I stopped doing it. It was enjoyable and it is a nice thing to have on my resume, and there are a number of Danny Fingeroth trained writers out there in the professional world, which I take pride in. But holy cow, the money was so bad.
Jim Thompson: So on that depressing note, let’s move on to Eisner, specifically Eisner Weeks. If you could explain what that is and your role in that.
Danny Fingeroth: Will Eisner’s legacy is controlled by his nephew Carl Graper, and Carl’s wife Nancy. They are the people who run the Eisner Foundation and the Eisner Studio, pretty much anything you see relating to Will Eisner has to be approved, and they came up with … So they, probably 10 or 12, maybe more years ago, I’m not sure exactly who came up with it, it was something called Will Eisner Week, which was the period … Will’s birthday, Will was born on March 6th, 1917. We have this thing called Will Eisner Week that celebrates Will Eisner, the legacy, the spirit, the graphic novel in general, free speech as a concept and as an idea in practice.
Danny Fingeroth: They brought me on, because I had done an event for them in New York, and I think I mentioned I found Will through a friend of mine who worked with him, my editor actually at Continuum had also worked with a guy who just died within the past couple of months who was Will’s, literally his best friend in high school. So I found him and I got Chris Couch, who had been Eisner’s editor at one point at Kitchen Sink, and I put together a couple other people, oh, Denny O’Neil. I put together a panel in New York, and I met Carl and Nancy there, and they asked me to be the chair of Will Eisner Week.
Danny Fingeroth: Basically it’s what I do best, which is nag people. So what I do is I send out emails and letters and phone calls, and say to people all over the country, “Here’s Will Eisner Week. If you have any interest or regard for Will or the work he did, or graphic novels in general, can you do an event, teach a class, do a radio show, do a podcast, hint hint, that you will brand as Will Eisner Week, and we will promote it, and the idea is to keep Will Eisner’s legacy, both his literal legacy of his graphic novels and his comics going, but also Will as an evangelist for and a lover of and a spreader of the word about comics.” So that’s what Will Eisner Week, which, it really I think we peaked at Will’s centennial year, which was in 2017, where we had close to 100 events worldwide, and live, online.
Jim Thompson: Wow.
Danny Fingeroth: So I’ll put out the word now. It’s coming up, if anybody listening, or if you guys want to do something relating to Will Eisner and Will Eisner Week in that period, I mean we’re happy to have people do stuff relating to Will anytime, but especially in that period, email me at [email protected], or go to the willeisner.com website. We’d love to keep Will’s work and his legacy in mind. So that’s what Will Eisner Week is about.
Jim Thompson: Alex, let’s bookmark that now and let’s talk about it.
Alex Grand: Absolutely.
Jim Thompson: That’s exciting.
Alex Grand: Danny, we wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for the time you’ve put in for these interviews, because we really wanted to do here was wanted to show people what an interesting career and life that you’re living, because you’ve done a lot, and you’ve been part of a lot, and you’ve met a lot of interesting people. And at the same time wanted to give people your insight into different things that happened in comic history, but also to learn more about the different books you’ve written. We’re really thankful for the time that you’ve put into this interview with us.
Danny Fingeroth: Well I appreciate the interest. I just wanted to mention, I will be at the San Diego Con, and I’ll be, oddly enough, doing a number of panels there. So come check them out. Thank you gentlemen for all your time.
Alex Grand: This has been a really fun episode of the Comic Book Historians Podcast. I’m Alex Grand with Jim Thompson finishing up the interview of the life and times of Danny Fingeroth. Thank you for joining us today, Danny.
Jim Thompson: Thanks Danny.
Danny Fingeroth: Thanks, and the best is yet to come.
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