Lettering king Todd Klein has a couple of great blog posts showing a series of photos by Jose Luis Garcia Lopez in 1979 on a visit to DC’s offices. Klein’s memory is prodigious and it’s a great look at everything from obsolete technology to the prevalence of sweater vests in the late ’70s to a different way of working:
Here’s a better look at Joe [Letterese] himself. He was a good guy, and I enjoyed working with him, though he wasn’t really a comics fan, and to him it was just a job I think. Joe did some freelance cover lettering from time to time, but I don’t think he did much, if any, story lettering when I worked with him, though he did a fair amount in the 1960s. Below the shelf in front of his desk is an open area with no file drawers, and it’s full of stuffed boxes, don’t know what was in them. Probably comics and color guides.
The hardbitten production guy who doesn’t even like comics is a bit hard to picture today…although there must be some. However in part two, we learn that some things never change, in a quote from former DC staffer Anthony Tollin.
“Not only did [colorist] Adrienne [Roy] have her own assigned desk (first in the bullpen and later John Workman’s former desk), she also had a Warner Communications after-hours employee ID card, allowing her 24-hour and weekend access to the offices. (I didn’t have such a card, though letterer Ben Oda did.) Adrienne sometimes worked ’til midnight or later on hot jobs, so she spent a lot of time in the bullpen with Ben as he finished his last pages. Jack Adler and Sol Harrison both found it useful to have an in-house colorist readily available who did not have staff duties, so Adrienne did a lot of last-minute freelance jobs, often at enhanced commercial rates.”
Even in the days of friskets and color guides, it was always the colorist who had to do the rush job.
Klein makes much mention of the DC Implosion, a generally disastrous time which saw a big ramping up on DC’s part suddenly crashing to the ground in the face of bad sales. Klein’s piece makes some mention of the layoffs of the period—newsstand sales were going down and there was a recession on. Although certainly there were some dark sides to the period shown in the photos, to most it will be a more comforting trip to a world that still exists—one of the people pictured still works at DC!—at least for the moment.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.