“I was a comic book fan. I guess I started collecting comic books when I was five years old and I had written all types of stories from the time I was in third grade. I had been writing to the editors at DC and they published my letters in the comic books. When I graduated from college, I came to visit and they treated me like a big celebrity although they were probably thinking. “Here’s the nut who writes all these letters.” I applied for a job, although I had a degree in accounting. When anyone asked why, I told them that I wanted to be creative and if you’re creative in accounting they throw you in jail.” – Bob Rozakis, DC Comics Production Manager, 1986
In 1986, WCEYE, the in-house newsletter for employees of Warner Communications, interviewed yours truly about ‘MAZING MAN and the CENTURIONS tie-in book DC was about to publish. I recently unearthed a copy and thought I’d share some of it with you this week and next…
Q: What is a Centurion?
“It’s a tie-in to a toy product of Kenner Toys. We are publishing a comic book in conjunction with the release of the toys. There’s also a cartoon series and probably 5,000 other licensed products coming out at the same time.
“It takes place in the 21st century and the three heroes wear suits wich give them weapons and all sorts of different powers. There’s one whose powers are land-based, one in the air, and one in the sea. They all get involved in plots of Doc Terror who’s the villain.
“What I’ve done is take the stack of information they gave me (which is about a foot high) and weeded through it all to find what I wanted to use in the comic book stories.”
Q: Who decided what they would look like?
“That’s been established by the people doing the cartoon show and the people doing the toys.”
Q: Suppose you were starting a series from scratch. Who would design the characters?
“The artist usually decides. The series I just finished doing, ‘MAZING MAN, was a creation of artist Stephen DeStefano and myself. He designed the original characters and then we sat down and worked out their personalities.
“When we would introduce a new character, I would decide what the person should look like and Stephen would interpret what I was saying.”
Q: After the story is written and drawn, what happens? Who approves it?
“On ‘MAZING MAN, Stephen and I would sit down with the editor to get our story ideas approved. With CENTURIONS, we’ve got an extra step. Since it’s a licensed series, the people who license it have to approve it as well.”
Q: How does the creative process work?
“It’s different for each team of writer and artist. With ‘MAZING MAN, since Stephen and I both had a hand in creating the characters, the two of us worked together to come up with the stories. We’d work out a plot and get three-quarters of the way through and sometimes say, ‘No, this wouldn’t happen. They wouldn’t DO this.’ Even if we hadn’t explained all their behavior in the book itself, we knew how they would act.”
Q: Sounds like you’re writing a TV or movie script.
“There isn’t much difference when you’re making up a story. In fact, with ‘MAZING MAN we tried to do it as if it was a TV situation comedy since that book was aimed at an older audience.”
Q: And once the plot was decided upon?
“I gave Stephen a page-by-page breakdown of what was going on. He would draw it and bring it back and I’d write dialogue to fit the panels.
“With CENTURIONS I’m using a slightly different approach. I’m giving the artist [Don Heck] panel-by-panel descriptions of what’s going on and underneath it there is rough dialogue. Since these are new characters, a new book, and an artist I haven’t worked closely with before, I’m giving him more. He’s got the range to say that I’ve given him six panels and he wants to do six or I’ve given him eight and he wants to do it in six. He just has to know that the characters have to say all of this in a given page and make sure there’s room for them to say it.”
Q: What happens after the art is done?
“Once it’s done in pencil, the artwork comes back to the editor, who approves it. I get it again to write the final dialogue, which will also go to the editor for approval. Next the dialogue is lettered and the art is inked for reproduction.
“At that point, with CENTURIONS, we have to get approval again from the licensor. They have already approved my raw script so their next approval would be on the finished artwork. We then make a photostat of each page and get it colored. The colorist has a limited palette of 64 colors that are tints of red, yellow and blue in combination. When the pages are colored, the separations are done and then it’s printed.”
Q: Is a book market-tested prior to publication?
“Usually not., Once we’re committed to publishing a book, there’s no pre-testing. Sometimes before a book is on the schedule, samples of the art will be sent to retailers in the direct sales shops that cater to comic book buyers and we get peoples’ reactions. But for the most part, the decision is made here by Jenette Kahn, Dick Giordano, and Paul Levitz. Sometimes it’s decided to do just six or twelve issues to see what will happen.”
Q: So how do you gauge what will appeal to young readers?
“I’m using my five-year-old son Chuckie as my consultant on this book. CENTURIONS is aimed at a younger audience – the same kids who will be watching the cartoons and buying the toys. Chuckie has seen CENTURIONS on TV and is excited about the book. If he understands the story, then I feel it works. Additionally, if I can write a story that I as a parent wouldn’t mind reading to him, all the better. That way I won’t drive parents crazy when they read it to their kids.
“I’m taking both sides and thinking that if I was buying this comic book for my son, he would understand it and I wouldn’t feel like a complete fool reading silly dialogue and a story that made no sense to him.”
BOBRO’S TRIVIA QUIZ
1. Strongman in the Hill Bros. Circus and pal of Boston Brand; who is he?
2. In what town phone book would you find listings for Parker, Lang and Kent?
3. Zack Nolan, Easy Company’s bazookaman, was replaced by what pair of misfits?
4. Eating is the primary hobby of what Harvey “heroine?”
5. Melvin eventually shared cover-billing with what “playful” Harvey girl?
6. “Arf” was all whose canine companion ever had to say?
7. Tubby often shared advenrtures with what curly-haired lass?
8. Tommy Rogers and two of his pals became what team?
9. Easy Company’s ace point man was an Apache Indian; name him.
10. Resident of Dogpatch and son of Mammy and Pappy Yokum; who is he?
11. She’s not interested in dancing; name young Miss Polka.
BOBRO’S FUN FACTS TO KNOW & TELL:
1. At the Battle of the Little Bighorn, George Custer’s troops were outnumbered by more than ten to one.
2. Charles Dickens’ Tiny Tim and “A Christmas Carol” made their debut in 1843.
3. The first book of shorthand was printed in Philadelphia in 1728.
ONE FROM THE EMAILBOX…
In 1977, DC announced (in a full-page ad) it was creating “The DC Super-Stars Society.” By sending a self-addressed stamped envelope and an indication of which of the 12 chapters (Batman, Superman, JLA, Wonder Woman, etc.) one sought membership in, a person would receive “a detailed application form explaining the DC Super-Stars Society, the items in your chapter’s membership package, and your special chapter questionnaire.” I recall receiving the Batman chapter application and questionnaire, but I never signed up. What WAS offered? Did DC follow through with the Society? If so, how long did it last? What was its ultimate goal? Develop additional subscribers? Thank you.
– Robert Rowe (email@example.com)
From the early days of comics, publishers have tried to start fan clubs of sorts. The “Junior Justice Society” and the “Supermen of America” date back to the 1940s, with the latter lasting well into the 1960s. For a dime, you got a certificate, a decoder, a pin-up, and other assorted things. Supermen members found messages in many of the issues that only they could decode; the messages were usually “top secret” information about upcoming stories.
Marvel jumped on the bandwagon with the Merry Marvel Marching Society and, later, F.O.O.M.
What the main purpose was, I cannot say. I belonged to both the Supermen of America and the M.M.M.S., but beyond the initial mailing, I don’t recall ever getting anything else – subscription offers, special ads, etc. – so I doubt that the purpose was to grow a subscriber base.
In any case, in 1977, it was decided at DC that there was an untapped market out there. Unfortunately, they couldn’t seem to find it.
Membership applications, as described above by Robert, were printed for a dozen different chapters, ready to be mailed out to any and all who responded. [I wrote quite a few of the trivia questions used in the “special chapter questionnaires.”] Despite the ads in the books, response was minimal — in fact some “chapters” had virtually no interest at all – and the idea was quietly laid to rest.
As you read this, I have just begun my six weeks of teaching in the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth summer program for gifted children. This is my ninth tour of duty teaching “Writing & Imagination,” a course my wife Laurie and I created.
Little did I suspect when the interview above was conducted that my five-year-old consultant on CENTURIONS would be accepted into the CTY program and that I’d end up teaching there. And as long as I’m wearing my proud father hat, I’ll mention that he has just finished his sophomore year at Princeton University.
Check back next week for the conclusion to the interview… and another surprise!
“Size matters” this week…
3. Long Round and Short Round
4. Little Lotta
5. Little Audrey
6. Little Orphan Annie
7. Little Lulu
8. Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys
9. Little Sure Shot
10. Li’l Abner
11. Little Dot
Need some answers from the Answer Man?
Ask BobRo at It’s BobRo’s Answer Board.
Copyright ? 2000 to 2003 by Bob Rozakis. All Rights Reserved.