Friends, Colleagues remember Julius Schwartz

Tue, February 10th, 2004 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Jonah Weiland, Executive Producer/Publisher

Photo courtesty Comic-Con International
As the news broke of Julius Schwartz's passing this past weekend, numerous creators on the Web shared their thoughts about the man friends called Julie. Marv Wolfman, Mike Grell, Neil Gaiman and Elliot S! Maggin are just a few of the many who shared their thoughts and memories of Schwartz. CBR News was contacted by a friend of Schwartz's, Lisa Feerick Pollison, who shared with us numerous stories from Schwartz's life. Pollison agreed to let CBR News reprint portions of her e-mail which follows.

"I was privileged to have known and loved Julie for my entire adult life, having first met him as a teenager and later forming a friendship with him based on our mutual love of Dixieland Jazz and Science Fiction. He helped me get my first job in Publishing in 1988 with Davis Publications who published four digest genre fiction magazines...

"I spoke to Julie a few weeks ago and he was very upbeat despite having been in a car accident a while ago. He gave no indication that he was feeling poorly and his voice was as strong as always. For years we spoke every week when he wasn't traveling and often I traveled with him. Before I left NYC to live on the West Coast full-time in late 1990, I had to work hard just to keep up with him since he had boundless energy for travel to both SF Cons and Comics events...

"Julie was never one to dwell on death or even entertain the idea of his own eventual passing. He reminded me constantly that he was going to live forever! When he would tell me this, he would repeat an anecdote, which I know by heart since he invoked it so often. He would say - "Harlan Ellison says that when I reach my 150th birthday, he will declare me The Messiah and I say to Harlan - what makes you think you will live to be 137?" Now, I don't know if that's the exact age difference between them, but it's what Julie always says. People hearing this little quip were sometimes offended if they weren't aware that both Julie and Harlan were born Jews and joked about their heritage from time to time. In times of sadness, Julie would always say "Hakol Latovah" which he told me means: Everything is for the best. Julie was a little bit of Rabbi.

"...I can't really say what I was to him, but he was just about everything to me. What I don't ever doubt was that he loved me. When I got married, it was he whom I asked to give me away but typical Julie...he refused to travel after November and the Wedding was in early December. I begged and pleaded, but he wouldn't break his 'No travel' blackout dates! Julie was nothing if not reliable about things like that.

"When I then asked another gentlemen who was like a father to me, Gil Kane, before agreeing to do it, Gil felt he needed to get Julie's permission! Of course, Julie gave his blessing and the wedding took place, but I mention this just to give you an idea of how much people deferred to Julie and respected him. Gil would never have presumed to accept an honour he felt was Julie's until Julie said it was okay....

"Perhaps you are aware that Julie carried little Superman pins and Tie-tacks which he'd bestow upon people for various reasons. The most amusing anecdote I have about that was when he gave one to Rudolph Guiliani way back when he was still a US Attorney and contemplating a run against Al D'Amato for a New York Senate seat, probably the winter of 1987. He and I were having Dinner at Ben Benson's Steak House when I noticed the future Mayor was sitting a table directly to the side of us just past a waist high partition. I leaned over and whispered to Julie who Mr. Guiliani was and you must recall, this was just after he had a rather big victory in a Mob trial. I had the idea that since both Superman and Guiliani fought for "Truth, Justice and the American way" that maybe Julie ought to say hello and bestow upon him a Superman pin. Well, Julie did, but as the introductions were being made and hands were being shook, Julie reached into his breast pocket for the pin and I noticed a number of the men with Guiliani get nervous and reach for their shoulder holsters! They must have been either FBI or plainclothes NYPD. At that time, it's safe to say Guiliani had a target painted on his chest. When it became evident that Julie wasn't pulling a gun, they sat down. Julie then made some darling little speech which pleased Guiliani immensely and he promised to wear the pin at his next news conference after which he said he would give it to his son, Andrew, who "loved Superman." A reporter present at the table came over to our table later and asked what that was all about and some item appeared in one of the papers a day or so later.

"The punch line to this story is that Julie watched every news conference Guiliani held after that when he knew about them and after 9/11, Julie reminded me that he never did see Guiliani wear that pin! How very like Julie to have been watching to see if he would! I was somewhat sad when Julie didn't include this little story in his memoirs but when I told him so, Julie said that I should include it in my own memoir of him. Again, how very like Julie to say such a thing because he knew that he had provided me with more than enough such stories of adventured with him that had I wanted to, I could have written such a book."

Pollison followed up with CBR News late Monday and gave us more details on this legend of the comic industry.

"One little known fact about Julie is that he was the last person living who had actually met the reclusive and elusive horror writer, H. P. Lovecraft. Julie sold 'At the Mountains of Madness' for him and met with him on occasion. Julie knew most of the member of the so-called 'Lovecraft Circle' such as Frank Belknap Long, Manly Wade Wellman, Bob Bloch, August Derleth... Etc. Lovecraft corresponded with many writers, but often never met them. When artist Gahan Wilson was making the original Sculpture of the Lovecraft Awards to be handed out by the Horror Writers of America every year ... he actually asked Julie what the back of Lovecraft's head looked like since there are no photos of him that reveal that particular detail.

"Julie had never even read many Comics at the time he interviewed for an editing position with the company now known as DC. He was recommended for the position by Science Fiction Writer, Alfred Bester ("The Stars My Destination"). Julie was fond of reminding audiences that the first comics he read, he bought on his way to that interview at National. At the time, it was difficult for him to continue making a good living as an agent since the War had caused the Pulps to dwindle in number. What is remarkable is that Julie not only got the job, but he was very good at it and stayed in that position for the rest of his life. When he retired from full-time editing, he became a Goodwill Ambassador for DC. Many of us couldn't even tell that he retired! He kept a rigorous schedule of appearances and still consulted on many projects.

"The last time I spoke to him he was telling me how very much esteem he had for Alan Moore. Julie had joked for many years that the last movie he had seen in a theater was 'Superman II,' but he dragged himself out of the house for the premier of the screen adaptation of Moore's 'From Hell.' I was in fact shocked that he had gone. His prototypical comment was that the film was quite fine. but the comics were far better! He really felt that Moore was at the top of his art and could not praise him enough. I say that I was surprised by his reaction because over many dinners with Robert Bloch, Julie would often get bored as Bob, myself and others, would delve into hours long arguments about Ripperana. When I told him that, he said that he did think Jack the Ripper was boring unless Alan Moore was telling the story and then he said, it was fascinating."

CBR News would like to that Lisa Feerick Pollison for her time and generosity in sharing these stories, giving fans who never got a chance to meet Julie a chance to feel a little closer to the man.

Monday afternoon DC Comics sent out a eulogy which we've reprinted below.

Julius Schwartz, one of the best-loved and most influential members of both the comics and science fiction communities, died Sunday morning, February 8, in Winthrop Hospital in New York from complications from pneumonia. Schwartz was 88 years old.

Schwartz, who was popularly called "a living legend" and served as DC's Editor Emeritus, will be remembered as one of the founders of science fiction fandom, as a comic-book editor whose vision spanned five decades with DC Comics, and as the architect of comics' Silver Age, revitalizing the careers of such super-heroes as Batman, Superman, The Flash, Green Lantern and The Justice League of America.

"DC has lost a living legend this weekend and a true original," says Paul Levitz, DC's President & Publisher. "Julie was an editor who entertained and educated millions over three generations, performed the near-impossible feat of getting great work out of his contributors without ever ruffling their feelings, and taught many of us our craft. If the measure of an editor is the respect of his peers, he was immeasurable - for his peers who loved and respected him were often legends in their own right. Most of us were simply left in awe."

Schwartz was born on June 19, 1915, in the Bronx, NY. In 1932 he created science fiction's first fanzine, The Time Traveler, with fellow enthusiasts Mort Weisinger and Forrest J Ackerman. With Weisinger, he formed Solar Sales Service, the first literary agency specializing in science fiction, with clients including Ray Bradbury, Henry Kuttner, Alfred Bester, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Bloch, and many others. In 1939 he helped organize the first World Science Fiction Convention.

Schwartz left the world of science fiction in 1944 to join the staff of All-American Comics (one of DC's predecessor imprints), where he was hired by Sheldon Mayer. As script editor, Schwartz contributed to GREEN LANTERN, ALL STAR COMICS, THE FLASH, and many others. As interest in super-hero comics faded in the late 1940s, Schwartz moved on to a variety of titles including ALL-AMERICAN WESTERN, DANGER TRAIL, HOPALONG CASSIDY, and REX THE WONDER DOG. His passion for science fiction shined through in launching MYSTERY IN SPACE and STRANGE ADVENTURES, which featured fondly remembered series including Captain Comet, Space Museum, the Atomic Knights, Star Hawkins, and Space Cabby.

During this time, Schwartz continued to work with his favored stable of writers including John Broome and Gardner Fox, and artists such as Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, Murphy Anderson and Joe Kubert. With these creators and others, Schwartz would soon lead comics into a new age.

Schwartz's career - and the history of comics - turned a corner in with the publication of SHOWCASE #4 (October 1956). The issue, which featured the debut of a new Flash, was a hit: it marked the start of the Silver Age of Comics, and of Schwartz's unparalleled streak at reintroducing Golden Age heroes in a way that would appeal to current comics readers.

The Flash soon was followed by the debuts of a new Green Lantern (SHOWCASE #22, September 1959), the Justice League of America (THE BRAVE & THE BOLD #28, February 1960), Hawkman (THE BRAVE & THE BOLD #34, February 1961), and The Atom (SHOWCASE #34, September 1961). Not content only to reinvent past heroes, Schwartz edited the far-flung adventures of science fiction hero Adam Strange, who made his debut in SHOWCASE #17 (November 1958).

"I know a lot of people in our business, but not many I could call my friend," says acclaimed artist Kubert. "Julie helped a lot of people in this business, as an editor and as a person, mostly by being a good guy and a straight guy. He came off as a curmudgeon, but he had a soft heart underneath it all."

"Schwartz was a fan, and agent, an editor," writes New York Times best-selling novelist Neil Gaiman. "Without Julie, our media landscape would look nothing like it does today. His passing really is the end of an era."

Schwartz's comics were noted for their rugged heroes, who were scientists, test pilots, and adventurers. Readers enjoyed their attention to detail and their mix of science fact and fiction, as well as their tongue-in-cheek sense of humor and strong romantic relationships between the heroes and their leading ladies.

In September, 1961, Schwartz transformed the world of DC Comics into a complex multiverse with THE FLASH #123. "Flash of Two Worlds" opened up the possibility that DC's Silver Age heroes could race into adventure alongside their Golden Age predecessors. It was an idea inspired by science fiction, and one that Schwartz would use for years to come in annual Justice League/Justice Society crossovers, and in stories that introduced Earth-2, Earth-3, Earth-S, Earth-X, and even Earth-Prime, home of DC Comics and Schwartz himself. This depiction of the science fiction concept of multiple earths became so iconic that it became the basis for a recent cover on a national science magazine.

By 1964, Schwartz's reputation for revitalizing DC's characters had grown so great that he was asked to rework Batman, whose adventures he edited through 1978. The "New Look" Batman first appeared in DETECTIVE COMICS #327 (May 1964). The issue featured the addition of an easily recognized bright yellow oval on the Dark Knight Detective's chest, while the tone of the stories shifted to moody and mysterious.

Schwartz helped move the comics industry forward again in the late 1960s by teaming Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams for the first time in DETECTIVE COMICS #395 (January 1970), which started the collaboration that still informs the portrayal of the Dark Knight today. Under Schwartz's watchful eye, O'Neil and Adams also created an award-winning run of GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW that brought the concept of relevant, contemporary issues into comics.

Following the retirement of his old collaborator Weisinger, Schwartz stepped in as the new SUPERMAN editor from 1971 through 1985. Typically, Schwartz enhanced what made the Man of Steel work while downplaying elements that seemed dated. He pared down Superman's out-of-this-world abilities, introduced a host of new characters into the Man of Steel's milieu, and gave Clark Kent a new job as TV reporter.

Schwartz retired from editing monthly comic books in 1986 with the two-part story "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?," which appeared in SUPERMAN #423 and ACTION COMICS #583. The story, written by Alan Moore with art by Curt Swan, George Pérez and Kurt Schaffenberger, served as a closing chapter to the Silver Age of Superman.

As a coda to his career as a comic book editor, Schwartz edited seven DC SCIENCE FICTION GRAPHIC NOVELS, adapted from classic science fiction works by Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg, Bradbury, and others.

Since his retirement in 1987, Schwartz made countless appearances as a goodwill ambassador for DC Comics. He has received awards including the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award, the Shazam, the Eagle, the Alley, the Inkpot and the Jules Verne Awards. In 1998, DragonCon established the Julie Award, whose recipients, including Bradbury, Ackerman, Gaiman, Ellison, Will Eisner and others, are recognized for achievements in multiple genres.

Schwartz's memoirs, Man of Two Worlds: My Life in Science Fiction and Comics, co-written with Brian Thomsen, was published by HarperCollins in 2000.

Schwartz is survived by his son-in-law, three grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. The family asks that donations be made to the Julius Schwartz Scholarship Fund c/o DC Comics, 1700 Broadway, New York, NY, 10019.

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