The arrival of the CTY program at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland every summer generates interest as the campus is pretty much taken over by 75 CTY staffers and 200-plus students. The local newspaper, the Kent County News, usually runs an article about our arrival, focusing on the students and/or the program. This year, Lowell Shaw, who is Washington College’s Associate Summer Conference Supervisor and the liaison with CTY, decided that there should be an article about a CTY staff member, one who has come back every year.
Lowell interviewed me – our planned “twenty-minute chat” lasted 2? hours – wrote the article and submitted it to the newspaper. They opted to send their own reporter and photographer and write an article of their own, leaving Lowell’s unpublished… until I suggested running it here.
Superman at Washington College
by Lowell Shaw
Six students are hospitalized after being discovered in their dorm glowing bright green in the middle of the night. Investigators grill Dr. Wolfgang, the science department chairman, and Mr. Feedum, the dining service director, to determine the cause. They learn that Dr. Wolfgang – an expert on jellyfish that glow in the dark – has stored his specimens in a dining service refrigerator, where a dining hall worker mistakes them for Jell-O and serves them for dinner.
“That’s my favorite lesson plan,” states Bob Rozakis, as he describes how his creative writing class at Washington College investigates and records this fictitious event. The students are fifth and sixth graders in the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY) program, which tomorrow concludes its two three-week sessions held here each summer.
His students aren’t average kids. To qualify for CTY, they must take an academic ability test in which they score in the top two percent in their age group. And Rozakis is not an average instructor. The slightly balding 52-year-old employs a dozen different voice impersonations in leading his students through as many as seventy writing lessons during the three weeks the budding writers are in his charge.
Many of the instructors employed by CTY at its twenty-two sites nationwide teach school the rest of the year, but Bob Rozakis is not one of those. In 1974, he began writing comic books for DC Comics, and served as production director for seventeen years. In 1999, he became an accountant for Preload, Inc., a construction company that builds concrete water tanks.
Rozakis wrote many Superman and Batman comics, as well as two of his own creations -‘Mazing Man and Hero Hotline. But his greatest contributions to the comic book industry, Rozakis believes, came in the production end of the business. He convinced his company to switch from the big letterpresses in Sparta, Illinois, to the offset printing process in Montreal, Canada. “We were also publishing Mad Magazine at the time, and I moved it from its publishing location to Sparta, in order to compensate that small town somewhat for the loss of its comic book publishing,” he explains.
Rozakis never wrote for Mad, but he always wanted to. He chuckles when he explains that, because he was in the business end of publishing at the time, the Mad editors called him “one of the suits,” and believed the “suits” didn’t understand their mentality sufficiently to write for their magazine.
The Long Island resident also changed the color separation process in comic books in 1988. To document his impact on the industry, one need only compare the coloring and printing of a comic book twenty-five years ago with today’s productions.
Rozakis is not the only writer in his family. His wife, Laurie, has written fourteen of the Complete Idiot’s Guides, collaborating with her husband on the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Office Politics. She is also responsible for his CTY experience. When their son – now a Princeton graduate – qualified to attend CTY, they proposed a creative writing course that they taught jointly. When Rozakis left DC Comics, he and Laurie decided that he had more interest in extending his CTY affiliation than she did.
Why does Bob Rozakis continue to devote six weeks each summer to teaching writing? “I like Washington College – its staff and its responsiveness, the air-conditioning, and especially the food. And we CTY instructors come together here each summer as a community. But it’s really all about the kids. We’re here to make this the best three weeks of their lives. And I have to have fun if I’m going to help the kids have fun. I’d probably do this even without pay, but don’t tell anyone,” he concludes.
Last week’s Q&A column prompted some responses and additional information, first and foremost from my official unofficial researcher, John Wells…
- Don-El debuted as part of the Superman Emergency Squad in 1961’s
ACTION COMICS #276
- . In that issue, though, he was only a generic member of the team and wasn’t explicitly identified as Don-El until 1962’s
JIMMY OLSEN #60
- . It wasn’t until 1967’s
LOIS LANE #76
- , though, that (as already implied by his name and resemblance to Kal-El) Don-El was explicitly identified as a relative of Superman. Meanwhile, late 1962’s
ADVENTURE COMICS #304
- included a flashback dealing with Jor-El’s brother Nim-El, who was an exact double of the adult Superman. This was all tied together by E. Nelson Bridwell in the letter column in 1969’s
- “Don-El is the son of Nim-El, twin brother of Kor-El, Superman’s father, and therefore an older brother of Zor-El, Supergirl’s dad. So that makes Don-El a first cousin of the Supers. Van-Zee’s mother was a cousin of Jor-El and Zor-El. There are several other relatives of Kal-El and Kara in the bottle [city of Kandor], including Van-Zee’s brother, Dik-Zee, and of course, Supergirl’s parents, Zor-El and Alura, who are still living.”
- And, no, Don-El and Nim-El never appeared together.
- Beyond confirming that “Mystery of the Scarecrow Corpse” wasn’t based or reprinted from an earlier DC issue, I’m afraid I have no info on credits. I’d suggest Len Wein as a possibility, though, as he scripted some of the other Power Record comics stories.
- As for the Ghost Patrol, there’s nothing I can add beyond their entry in DC’s
- series. There was another one-shot Ghost Patrol in a Tomahawk story (
WORLD’S FINEST #69
- ) but they were orphaned boys, not disembodied pilots. [I always wondered whether the invisible (and possibly non-existent) Fred from
- was going to be revealed as the 1940s Ghost Patrol’s Fred.] And speaking of your own scripts, there’s a story entitled “Ghost Patrol” in 1979’s
WEIRD WAR TALES #75
- that’s piqued my curiosity. It involves a 1944 tank crew that’s shunted forward in time to save an American crew from neo-Nazis in a future war. At the end of the story, the crew realizes that no one can see them. But if they’re ghosts, one crewman points out, why did their weapons still function and destroy the Nazis? It’s only a six-pager but you took the time to give full names and backgrounds to the entire crew and that made me wonder if this wasn’t considered as a pilot, perhaps to reassert DC’s claim to the “Ghost Patrol” name.
- — John Wells (email@example.com)
I had no plans to have Fred in HERO HOTLINE turn out to be anything more than a hoax perpetrated by Voiceover, but that is an interesting idea. The WEIRD WAR story was a one-shot tale, though I wouldn’t have minded using the characters again if the opportunity arose. (Obviously, it didn’t.)
FIRESTORM: CORONA was about half pencilled and partly lettered when we shelved it. And you sort of forget All-American, which merged with Detective Comics Inc. into National Comics.
— Bob Greenberger
Michel Gingras’s question about why DC and Marvel put our four titles each of Superman, Batman, X-Men and Spider-Man included an erroneous statement in its premise… and to be honest, I’m kind of surprised you didn’t point it out!
He said, “In the 70s, each character had one title…” Now, while that is certainly true of X-Men (which entered the 70s entirely reprint, more or less, until GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1), it’s definitely not true of Batman (who had BATMAN, DETECTIVE, and BRAVE AND THE BOLD, as well as WORLD’S FINEST, shared with Superman for the most part), Superman (who was in ACTION COMICS, SUPERMAN, the aforementioned WORLD’S FINEST, plus his teenage self in SUPERBOY and appearances in LOIS LANE and JIMMY OLSEN, the latter three books plus SUPERGIRL folded into SUPERMAN FAMILY… and then, of course, there was DC COMICS PRESENTS which was either very late 70s or early 80s) or Spider-Man (who did start the 70s with just AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and gained MARVEL TEAM-UP shortly into the 70s, plus the later SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN, which I seem to recall started in the late 70s… and one can’t necessarily forget MARVEL TALES, reprinting earlier Spidey stories). Heck, with the reprint books at Marvel alone, the Fantastic Four had two books (FANTASTIC FOUR and MARVEL’S GREATEST COMICS… plus the Thing in MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE and the short-lived HUMAN TORCH reprint series), as did Thor (THOR and MARVEL SPECTACULAR), The Avengers (AVENGERS and MARVEL TRIPLE ACTION), and the Hulk had three (INCREDIBLE HULK, MARVEL SUPER-HEROES — initially shared with Sub-Mariner, giving Namor two books, too — and RAMPAGING HULK)!
Heck, Nick Fury had two books (SGT. FURY plus SHIELD)! For a short time, so did Daredevil (his own title, plus a short-lived reprint book) and Captain America (his own title plus MARVEL DOUBLE ACTION, shared with Iron Man, making two books for Shellhead… which was later replaced with MARVEL SUPER ACTION being all Cap until it was taken over with Avengers reprints previously in MARVEL TRIPLE ACTION).
And that doesn’t even take into account the various tabloid size titles, the one-shots and Treasury Editions, which were coming out like clockwork!
If anything, some characters (like Superman) have about as many books as he ever had before (fewer, actually, if one recalls Superboy appearing in his own title as well as ADVENTURE COMICS for a while)!
— Jon Knutson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Michael Gingras, in his question bemoaning the multiple titles of his favorite characters (Batman, Superman, Spiderman, X-Men), noted that in the 70s each character only appeared in one title. But my recollection is that BATMAN, DETECTIVE, WORLD’S FINEST, and BRAVE & THE BOLD were all being published in the 70s, and for a while we even had BATMAN FAMILY. The same for Superman: SUPERMAN, ACTION, WORLD’S FINEST, DC COMICS PRESENTS and JIMMY OLSEN (later transformed into SUPERMAN FAMILY). In fact, the last time either character only appeared in one title was before BATMAN #1 came out and the Dark Knight was only appearing in DETECTIVE. Okay, so I’ve made my point, now here’s a question: When did we have a character appearing in the most titles simultaneously and what were the titles? I’m guessing it was likely to be Batman.
— Mario Flores (email@example.com)
I’d still have to go with Richie Rich. The list of titles he starred in is seemingly endless.
Two comments on John Wells’s recent DC Secret Identities column:
First, while Hawkman and Hawkgirl were the first people Ray Palmer revealed his identity to, they weren’t the first people to find out who he was. To the best of my knowledge, the first person to find out that Ray Palmer was the Atom was Zatanna, in ATOM #19.
Second, for a rather good list of which DC Characters know which other DC Characters’ secret ID’s, go to:
JLA FAQ 05
— Orville Eastland (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I enjoyed John Wells’ recap of secert identity revelations, but I thought he overlooked one of the best in the case of the Batman, In BATMAN #47 (1948), there was the dramatic moment when Batman confronted Joey Chill, the criminal who killed his parents. Chill didn’t believe anyone would believe Bruce Wayne’s testimony after so many years until Batman unmasked in front of him. Realizing he was directly responsible for Batman’s war against crime and criminals, Chill fled in a panic, telling his cohorts that it was his fault that Batman existed. In a fit of fury, his henchmen gunned him down before they learned who the Batman really was. This retelling of the Batman’s origin was one of the most dramatic moments of the late 1940’s.
— Jack C. Harris (JCHARRIS66@aol.com)
Next week, it’s back to the pile of questions in the emailbox.. My goal is to get it emptied; your goal should be to keep it filled. Send your questions by using the handy mint-green box below. And after you’ve done that, try your hand at my daily Anything Goes Trivia at www.worldfamouscomics.com/trivia.
See you back here next week.