Back in 1977, New York City neighborhoods were being terrorized by a serial killer known as the “Son of Sam.” The 44-Caliber Killer, as he was also known, had targeted brunette women and their boyfriends, most of them parked in “Lovers’ Lanes.”
The killer had eluded the police for almost a year and frustrated his pursuers with correspondence to local newspapers. In his handwritten letters, he claimed that a large black dog named Sam who embodied a century-old spirit had ordered him to kill repeatedly.
Looking for any possible clue to the Son of Sam’s identity, the NYPD detectives acted upon someone’s suggestion that the block lettering used in the correspondence could have been the handiwork of someone who did it for a living. Coupled with the idea of 1,000-year-old spirits and talking dogs (not unlikely situations in some of the books) that brought them to the offices of DC Comics (and, one presumes, Marvel, Archie, and the newspaper syndicates as well) to see if anyone recognized the writing.
At the time, I was Assistant Production Manager at DC. One of my jobs was assigning the lettering work, so it was not surprising when I was called into President Sol Harrison’s office and asked if I could suggest anyone. Though the lettering might have had a look of professionalism to an untrained eye, I quickly pointed out that it was far too inconsistent to be anything we would have used.
When Sol and Production Manager Jack Adler agreed with my evaluation, the detectives thanked us and went on their way. But the story doesn’t end there…
Upon hearing why I’d been called into Sol’s office, a few of my cohorts had their own ideas about who might have been the Son of Sam, including a couple of people who were on staff. The most convincing argument, however, was made for a somewhat reclusive artist whose ultra-conservative leanings might have made him a natural as the killer of “loose” women. We did not, however, share any of this with the NYPD.
Not long afterwards, David Berkowitz, a 24-year-old postal worker, was tracked down and apprehended on August 10th, thanks to a parking ticket he’d received while on one of his murderous outings. It would be a few more years before someone in the comics business turned out to be a murderer. But that’s another story…
BOBRO’S TRIVIA QUIZ
Here’s a change of pace… name the character who is quoted and the occasion:
1. “I suppose I’ll give you a break…for a change.”
2. “A few more seconds and we’ll know if we’ve succeeded or not.”
3. “You! Get out of there! You’re in a forbidden test area!”
4. “Why—it looks as if they’ve stopped falling! It can’t be hard to catch things that are just hanging in the air…”
5. “The acid! It must have gotten into my bloodstream and caused a physical change!”
6. “Remember me saying there was only one thing I care about more than cars? Well, this is it.”
7. “Eben, there’s a baby in there!”
8. “Write neat. Use words!”
9. “We want to make you a member of our special club…”
10. “It bit me! But why is it burning so?”
11. “Whew…that gas is…powerful…stuff…”
12. “Did I hear my name called?”
BOBRO’S FUN FACTS TO KNOW & TELL:
1. Leonardo da Vinci could write with one hand and draw with the other at the same time.
2. A rat can last longer without water than a camel.
3. Forty percent of McDonald’s profits come from the sales of Happy Meals; the “prize” is often the most expensive component.
IN QUOTATION MARKS:
“If he really was an etymologist, he’d know that he’s supposed to be an entomologist.” Yours truly explaining the difference to Gerry Conway when one of his stories featured an insect-powered villain. (An entomologist studies insects; an etymologist studies the history of words.)
DREAMS, HOAXES & IMAGINARY STORIES (PLUS RUMORS, LEGENDS AND MYTHS) OF THE COMICS BUSINESS…
During the days when DC was at 909, one freelancer used to work in the production bullpen to all hours of the night. It turned out that he was quite a nosey character and saw nothing wrong with reading memos on people’s desks after they left, then leaking the information to other freelancers and to fans.
In order to prove (at least to themselves) that this freelancer was helping himself to information that wasn’t his, a special memo was prepared. It outlined plans for a 500-page comic book called BLOCKBUSTER and the single copy was placed in the in-tray of the secretary in the Production Department.
Sure enough, not long after, said freelancer engaged Production Manager Jack Adler in idle chatter about the problems with producing such a massive volume. And that was the last time he was allowed to work in the office after hours.
FROM THE E-MAILBOX:
So, what do you think of the news that Stan Lee will be writing that JUST IMAGINE series for DC?
– Robert Moraes
I think it’s an interesting gimmick and I hope that Stan makes a lot of money by doing it. For fanboys who grew up reading the Silver Age DC books and the first generation of Marvel Comics, it will be a much-anticipated event, though I doubt that it will reach the levels they expect. (Not to demean Stan’s skills in any way; I think he’ll do an admirable job. But can you name any similar super-hyped “event” in movies, TV, or publishing that has lived up to the expectations?)
As far as attracting a new audience to comics, I think DC’s stacked the deck against themselves right from the start. Today’s potential readers have little or no idea who Stan Lee is nor do they care what he did in comics almost forty years ago. And while they know who Superman and Batman are, will they care if Stan is doing his own versions of the characters? I suspect they won’t. (Perhaps most unreachable to any new reader will be the issue in which Stan does his version of CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. Who, other than the aging fanboy audience, is going to know what that is… or care?)
Keep in mind, too, that DC already did alternate versions of their characters with the Tangent books a few years ago. What new twists can Stan bring to the table? We’ll just have to wait and see.
[By having his letter used here, Robert gets the chance to take an extra 10% off anything he orders here at SBC this week. YOU can take advantage of that bonus too. Send your questions using that convenient little box in the column on the left right now!]
That will do it until next week.
1. Lois Lane’s first (published) words to Clark Kent
2. Bruce Banner just before spotting Rick Jones driving onto the testing ground
3. Banner again, TO Rick Jones
4. Barry Allen, in a diner, just after being splashed with chemicals
5. Eel O’Brien, discovering his Plastic Man powers
6. Johnny Storm, flaming on for the first time in FF#1
7. Sarah Kent upon discovering the rocket in the TV origin of Superman
8. BC Comics editor Bernie Cornfeldt, to Denton Fixx (Amusingly, a listing of DC editors throughout the company’s history included the fictional Cornfeldt because of his listing as editor in the Zoot Sputnik stories in ‘MAZING MAN.)
9. Cosmic Boy, inviting Superboy to join the Legion of Super-Heroes
10. Peter Parker, after being bitten by the radioactive spider
11. Jay Garrick, being exposed to “hard water fumes”
12. The Spirit, popping into Commissioner Dolan’s office in THE SPIRIT #1
Copyright ? 2000 to 2003 by Bob Rozakis. All Rights Reserved.