The PopCult Bookshelf

DIRECT CONVERSATIONS: Talks with Fellow DC Comics Bronze Age Creators
by Paul Kupperberg
Independently published
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8373651769

For an aged comic book nerd like me, this book is pure gold. As the title says, it’s a collection of conversations between writer, Paul Kupperberg, and the people he worked with at DC Comics back when he was breaking into the business in the 1970s. This was a crowdfunded project, but it’s now available for general sale.

Kupperberg engages in trips down memory lane with Howard Chaykin, Jack C. Harris, Tony Isabella, Paul Levitz, Steve Mitchell, Bob Rozakis, Joe Staton, Anthony Tollin, Bob Toomey, and Michael Uslan. These are casual, but very informative chats that serve as a terrific oral history of a pivotal time in the comic book industry, as seen by some of the younger creators of the time.

On the creative side, comics were making the transition from being produced by long-time pros who’d been around almost since the begginging of comics to the first generation of comics creators who had grown up as fans. On the business side, comics were changing from a ubiquitous form of cheap, disposable entertainment for kids into a niche market sold in specialty shops aimed at teens to adult readers.

These guys were there for that. Some are still producing great comics, while others have moved on to other pursuits…and Michael Uslan gets a new mansion and yacht every time they make a Batman movie. In Direct Coversations we get treated to the kind of candid exchanges between friends that a hardcore researcher might not elicit.

This book really hits my sweet spot because I’m the perfect age to have lived through this time as an enthusiastic fan, primarily of DC Comics. I already knew all the names of the folks interviewed here. I’m even Facebook friends with more than a few of them. They’re all six to fifteen years or so older than I am, so when I was just getting heavily into collecting comics, they were the fresh new faces behind the scenes. It’s weird to realize, but I’ve been fans of some of their work for damned close to fifty years.

Kupperberg does a great job of steering these conversations into relevant and cohesive directions. The book is filled with terrific anecdotes, like Rozakis talking about his time driving the DC Comicsmobile one summer, or Steve Mitchell telling how knocked out everybody in the office was when the art for an Alex Toth-drawn Batman story arrived.

We also get a lot of insight into the business at the time, largely from Paul Levitz, who went from being a gopher to eventually become the president and publisher of DC. There are more than a few small mysteries I remember from those days that are solved here: Why some books got cancelled early while others didn’t, and just exactly what was going on with all the experimental formats DC came up with in the 70s, just to name a couple.

While this book is an absolutely necessary read for longtime DC Comics fans like me, who grew up getting to know most of the people interviewed here from letters columns, credits boxes and The Amazing World of DC Comics fan magazine, Direct Conversations is also an invaulable historical document for any comic book fan interested in the “inside baseball” story of how comics were made at such an eventful and important time.

It’s great that these old friends got together and preserved their memories of this memorable era of comics. Over the past couple of decades there have been several books dedicated to the creators of the Golden Age and Silver Age of comics, and the march of time pretty much dictates that we need to preserve the history of the Bronze Age while the people who were there are still with us.

A reminder of that is that Direct Conversations is dedicated to comics writer Marty Pasko, who unfortunately passed away before he could be interviewed for the book.

Direct Conversations is a fun read for anybody with an interest in DC Comics of the 1970s, or anyone with an interest in comics, period. You can order it from Amazon, or try using the ISBN code to order it from a local bookstore…or get a signed copy directly from Kupperberg himself (that’s the best option).