Legendary Comic Book Writer Paul Levitz Unmasks the Horror Lurking in Brooklyn

Brooklyn was a place residents worked to escape in Paul Levitzs day, which was decades before an influx of wealthy whites transformed it into something barely recognizable to its natives.

But its hold on its children can be felt in the bitterness, the contempt and the truth behind the opening lines of Levitzs newest comic book: I got Brooklyn in my blood. But it sure as hell isnt this Brooklyn.

The lines belong to Billy OConnor, a pissed-off Marine veteran of Afghanistan turned asshole cop whose struggle with PTSD fuels the engine of Brooklyn Blood, Levitzs first original comic in 40 years published outside DC Comics.

Levitz, an East Flatbush native raised in the shadow of Tilden High School, spent decades shaping DC Comics as a writer, editor and eventually publisher. But on Wednesday, the smaller-press Dark Horse Comics will publish a collected edition of Brooklyn Blood, Levitzs hybrid detective thriller/horror story, a collaboration with artist Tim Hamilton.

Its a creative stretch for Levitz, one of the first comics fans to turn professional, whos most widely known as the driving force behind DCs Legion of Super-Heroes, a 30th century intergalactic task force helmed by teen heroes Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, and Lightning Lad. Brooklyn Blood riffs off Ed McBains detective fiction, he saysgreat procedurals and often structured to work around not developing too much detail about an adversaryand felt it was important to ground such a work in a familiar place.

OConnor is channeling my amazement at the borough changing. Not disgust, part joy, part amazement… and some worry that the working class transformative power of Brooklyn may get lost in the shift, Levitz tells The Daily Beast.

Brooklyn Blood, first serialized in the anthology series Dark Horse Presents, is a nervous tale driven by trauma. OConnors flashbacks to his armored personnel carrier running over an insurgent roadside bomb both complicate and help him unravel the case of a serial killer stalking Park Slope. With help from a psychic, OConnor and his Muslim partner, Nadira Hasan, get sucked ever deeper into a seemingly random spate of slayings that connect to something ancient and occult lurking within the fabric of the borough. Theres even a guest appearance by the borough of Queens.

Somehow, despite the supernatural elements of the story, the least realistic thing about the comic is the idea of a serial killer in Park Slope, the least distinct and interesting neighborhood in Brooklyn.

Well, Levitz says when I ask him about the Park Slope settingor, more accurately, vent my Park Slope antipathyI could argue the contradiction between a peaceful neighborhood and the manic crimes add texture…but mostly it was the history that led me there. To say more would probably spoil the story, but Levitz has a fair point.

He also has a secret weapon: his collaborator Hamilton, whose deep pools of black ink combine with smooth linework to look like a mix between Gahan Wilson and Sin City-era Frank Miller. Hamilton, a Brooklyn resident himself, renders a faithful, familiar 7th Avenue. His color palette is appropriately muted, full of mustards, soft blues and bursts of pink that feel somehow like a woozy borough at dusk, humid even in the fall when the story takes place. Levitzs friend, the comics artist Christine Norrie, connected him with Hamilton, whose adaptation of the Ray Bradbury classic Fahrenheit 451 had caught Levitzs eye.

Levitz is a crucial figure in comics history. His LOSH is the definitive version of a fixture franchise for DC that has fallen into eclipse in recent years, despite a recent televised depiction on the CW show Supergirl. But Levitzs work off the page has similar staying power. It was under Levitz and his similarly legendary publishing partner Jeanette Kahn that DC, ahead of rival Marvel, implemented a royalty system for writers and artists. With creators compensated more fairly than before, DC underwent something of a creative renaissance that stretched beyond revitalized Superman or Batman stories and into the launch of mature-readers imprint Vertigo and black superhero sub-universe Milestone Media.

Levitzs time as a DC executive ended in 2009. But in 2015, he and artist Sonny Liew revamped the Doctor Fate character. This version of the superhero mystic was an Egyptian-American living in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

Though Levitz long ago decamped for Manhattan, his daughter lived in Boerum Hill and Williamsburg, making it not so easy to disentangle from a borough he hasnt lived in since he was 23. But the ghosts of his childhood linger: the zoo in Prospect Park, classes at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, taking in the Childrens Museum in Crown Heights or the majestic Brooklyn Museum on Eastern Parkway, where he later volunteered making up boxes for the gift shop.

Brooklyn was the place you worked to get out of in my day, Levitz remembered over email. It's long been a launching pad for immigrants and their families (I'm first generation American), and still is, but now there's this cool aspirational dimension for young people. I think that's unlike anything we've ever seen before…and amazing.

And in his blood.

Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/legendary-comic-book-writer-paul-levitz-unmasks-the-horror-lurking-in-brooklyn

Jim Galton, The Man Who Kept Marvel Comics Alive

Jim Galtons tenure as the president of Marvel Comics got off to an alarming start. He was just settling into his new desk when his predecessorwho had never been informed of his own firingreturned from vacation, walked into the office and demanded, Who are you? A stunned Galton immediately ushered him to lunch at the Players Club to break the news, whereupon the outgoing president clutched his chest and fell to the floor.

Such was the daunting work culture cultivated by Galtons abrasive boss, Sheldon Feinberg, CEO of Marvels parent company, Cadence Industries. From the start, Feinberg made it clear to Galton that Marvels future was uncertain, unless its performance could be turned around in two years.

Within months, the solution serendipitously appeared when Marvel editor Roy Thomas pitched an adaptation of an upcoming science-fiction movie that was in preproduction in Tunisia. Galton hesitantly approved, and it turned out that making a Star Wars comic book was a good decisionin fact, he would later say, it saved the struggling Marvel.

Galton, who died on June 12 at the age of 92, was in charge of Marvel from 1975 to 1990, a stretch in which the company attained corporate respectability, expanded from newsprint to graphic novels, and broke industry sales records. He relentlessly pursued merchandising deals, and steered Marvels first major forays into Hollywood.

When Galton arrived at Marvel, from the paperback publisher Popular Library, he hadnt looked at a comic book since the Captain America adventures of the 1940s, and still regarded them as kids stuff. After he learned that Marvels magazine arm was publishing titles like Stag and Male, he recoiled, and then quickly sold them off, deciding that the corporate proximity to Spidey Super Stories was inappropriate. Well into his tenure, he continued to consider comics a medium that was a few rungs down the ladder, an outlook that sharply contrasted with that of Stan Lee, who often invoked Shakespeare and Picasso. When a Los Angeles Times reporter asked Galton if comics were literature, he replied: I think you have to define literature. Is Judith Krantz literature? Then comics are literature.

Perhaps, as they say in politics, his thinking on the issue evolved. Galton was smart and flexible enough to eventually shepherd the company into an era of higher-quality printing, graphic novels, and placement in bookstore chains. He strove to establish independence from independent newsstand wholesalers, and embraced the so-called direct market, in which dedicated comic shopslargely a domain of adult consumerswould purchase product at a greater discount in return for waiving the option to return unsold inventory.

In the mid-1970s, Marvel licensed several characters for live-action television; Spider-Man, the Hulk, Doctor Strange, and Captain America made it to the air. After Warner Bros. Superman movie became a blockbuster hit in 1978, Marvel began a campaign of full-page ads in Variety, attempting to entice potential licensees (The Man Called Nova is but one of over 100 exciting Marvel characters ready right now) or to farm out its creative powers (Would you like us to create a character for your next motion picture or TV production?)

Eventually, Galton and Stan Leewhod been a vocal, almost solitary booster of the idea that the Marvel Universe was perfect for Hollywoodconvinced its parent company, Cadence Industries, to invest money in launching a Los Angeles animation studio. Galtons instinct, again, was in putting comics where the children wereand in the early 1980s, that meant Saturday morning television. Decades before there was a Lego movie franchise, Marvel was using comic-book storytelling skills to build fictional universes for toy lines like G.I. Joe and the Transformers. But the movies would have to wait. Outside of the 1986 disaster that was Howard the Duck, and low-budget, direct-to-video Captain America and Punisher movies, nothing escaped development hell.

Galton was one of a half-dozen Marvel co-owners from 1983, when Cadence privatized to avoid a takeover from the investor Mario Gabelli, and 1986, when it was sold to New World Pictures. He stayed on as President throughout New Worlds tenure, before retiring in 1990, shortly before Ron Perelmans Andrews Group took the company public.

A few months earlier, Jim Galton claimed one parting victory: the first issue of a new Spider-Man series sold more than two million copies. It was the best-selling comic book in history.

Read more: http://www.thedailybeast.com/jim-galton-the-man-who-kept-marvel-comics-alive