Over the past twenty or so years, a number of people have played a part in the comic industry’s changeover to computerized color and separations. Virtually all of them have had a vested interest in this change; they were already a part of the industry or were looking for a way to join it. One person, however, played a key role… and wasn’t even aware at the time that he was doing so.
Stephan Kravitz and I met at Hofstra University in 1970. I was editor-in-chief of Nexus, the yearbook. He was one of our photographers and later became Sports Editor and Photo Editor. Stephan, an Engineering major, was always up on the latest changes in technology. He was the first person I knew who owned a portable calculator that could do trigonometric functions, replacing the slide rule that was the mainstay of engineers. (Yeah, “portable”! It was about a foot long and he had it hanging from his belt like a codpiece. We used to laughingly refer to it as his “digital multiplier.”)
When we graduated, Stephan got a job with Preload, a company that designs and builds concrete water tanks and reservoirs. I (in case you’ve forgotten) went to work at DC Comics. We saw each other regularly and from time to time he would tell me about the latest breakthrough in computers and how he was applying it to the work he was doing. I didn’t understand some of it, but I could certainly appreciate the idea of a job that took two weeks to complete by then-traditional means being done on the computer in a few hours.
One weekend in the early 1980s, Stephan called and said, “You have to come over and see this new computer I’ve got.” So, instead of going to see a movie or out for dinner (which is what we and our wives usually did when we got together), we spent much of the evening with Stephan showing us all the things his new “toy” could do. Most of what he demonstrated was probably fascinating for engineers (though totally outdated and incredibly slow by today’s standards), but it was a big yawn for the rest of us…at least, until he started using the paint feature.
After Stephan drew some designs and colored them in onscreen, he printed them out. When I asked how the printer worked, he opened it up to show me: There were four compartments – one each for yellow, red, blue, and black – each containing what looked like a piece of a crayon. “So,” I said, “the computer is doing color separations!”
Suddenly, we had switched from engineering turf to the world of publishing and I ended up explaining four-color printing to Stephan. (This, not surprisingly, further bored both wives, who went off to the kitchen to eat cake.) I figured that if the computer program could translate the colors on the screen to percentage dots for the printer to reproduce, it could also be used to create film for a printing plate.
The following week, I explained what I’d seen to Jenette Kahn and Paul Levitz and how I thought it could be applied to comic books. They nodded and smiled and wished me luck, but it was plain that they did not share my enthusiasm. So, armed with a list of computer companies Stephan had supplied, I went off to find someone who could create a program that would replace the piles of acetates being painted. It did not turn out to be as easy as I had thought it would be…as you’ll find out next week.
Postscript: Where is Stephan Kravitz today? Still working at Preload, still on the cutting edge of technology (now with a cellphone hanging from his belt and a Palm Pilot in his pocket), and still my friend. In fact, in the “real world,” I work in the accounting department at Preload because Stephan figured I needed more to do in my post-DC life. (He was right.)
BOBRO’S TRIVIA QUIZ:
1. A married couple shared this DC doctor’s fate; name them.
2. Lee Falk’s “Kit Walker” married his girlfriend after many years; what was her maiden name?
3. “The Duke” had his own comic book from1949 to 1955; what was its title?
4. Everybody knows what former Bull who made his comics debut with Bugs Bunny?
5. Reprints of Flash Gordon, Mandrake, Popeye and Henry comic strips first appeared in what 1936 comic book?
6. Even though he was presumed dead, Mark Merlin actually returned as what mystical hero?
7. Dale Evans had what “royal” designation in her Dell comic book?
8. Even his power ring could not protect Abin Sur from what “belt”?
9. Gamma rays blasted Bruce Banner after he tried to save what harmonica-playing teen?
10. Only as Super Friends did Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman have a headquarters here.
BOBRO’S FUN FACTS TO KNOW & TELL:
1. King Tut’s tomb was discovered by Thomas Carter on November 6, 1922. The entrance was buried under a centuries-old workman’s hut in Luxor, Egypt.
2. The use of “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets in the 1955 film “The Blackboard Jungle” helped make it the first rock and roll hit to reach a national audience.
3. The world’s first speed limit, 20 miles per hour, was set in England in 1903.
FROM THE EMAILBOX:
I’m trying to find out what a copy of the January, 1947 issue of LOONEY TUNES & MERRIE MELODIES COMICS is selling for.
? Rob Builder [firstname.lastname@example.org]
According to my latest edition of Overstreet, LT&MM #63 should set you back $6.30 in good condition, but could cost you $70.00 in Near Mint. [Just for the record, I do NOT to plan to answer any more questions about comics prices / values in this column.]
Re: Clark Kent’s Social Security number. Don’t recall what it is, but I do know that Mark Waid can rattle it off the top of his head. This came up a couple of years ago when the topic of the annual San Diego Pro / Fan Trivia Match was Superman and I tried to stump Mark beforehand with what I thought was an impossible question.
? Tom Galloway [email@example.com]
Clark’s SSN? Given in an old ACTION COMICS lettercol – and, as my own research determined, originally the property of a dead Okalhoman (and thus presumably a deceased friend of Nelson Bridwell’s). However, it ain’t 123-45-6789.
Try this one: Clark’s phone number. Given only once. By, I believe, YOU!
? Mark Waid
Gee, Mark, that would be 555-0162, as mentioned by guest star Ralph (Elongated Man) Dibny in a Private Life of Clark Kent story. “Search for a Secret-Keeper” in SUPERMAN FAMILY #211 (October, 1981) was, indeed, written by yours truly.
As for Clark’s Social Security number, I let that remain your trivia match-winning secret.
Hey, Bob, loved your column in the DC pages and I really have a lot of faith in you. But where did you get your factoid about camels and rats? Under what conditions can a rat survive longer than a camel without water? Please don’t tell me you got it from one of those chain emails.
? Ron Saarna [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Long before there were chain emails (and the internet and computers) there was a popular newspaper feature called “Ripley’s Believe It or Not.” It was from one of the books of reprinted strips that the camels/rats info came from.
By the way, Robert Ripley has a couple of other interesting ties to the comics business: Often accused of inaccuracy in his strip, Ripley submitted to a test of William Moulton Marston’s newly invented lie detector in 1931. (Marston is, of course, better known in the comics biz as the creator of Wonder Woman.)
And in 1937, an aspiring 12-year-old artist sent in a cartoon about his dog who ate razor blades. That young artist went on to fame and fortune drawing a strip featuring a dog named Snoopy — Charles Schulz.
By having their questions used in this column, Rob, Tom, Ron and even Mark (assuming he needs one) earn an extra 10% off anything they purchase through Silver Bullet Comics for one week once our new retail partner is in place. You can save yourself some bucks too by submitting your question using the box on the left.
That’s all for this installment. See you next week.
The “ALTERED EGO” clue in the first letters of the questions points to the last names of the first ten Justice Leaguers. (That’s the original version — not the post-Crisis version. In fact, back then, Aquaman wasn’t even Arthur Curry yet and used “C. King” in an early story.)
1. KENT and Inza Nelson
2. Diana PALMER
3. John WAYNE Adventure Comics
4. PRINCE Ra-man
5. Michael JORDAN
6. KING Comics
7. QUEEN of the West.
8. The Van ALLEN radiation belt.
9. Rick JONES
10. The HALL of Justice
Want more of BobRo’s Trivia? Visit the daily Anything Goes Trivia at www.wfcomics.com/trivia.
Copyright ? 2000 to 2003 by Bob Rozakis. All Rights Reserved.