Written by Bryan Stroud
Richard Joseph "Dick" Giordano (born July 20, 1932) was an American comics artist and editor whose career included introducing Charlton Comics' Action Heroes stable of superheroes and serving as executive editor of DC Comics. In April of 1955, he married Marie Trapani (sister of fellow comic book artist Sal Trapani). Mr Giordano helped to sculpt the look and feel of DC Comics, working for them from 1967-1971 and again from 1980-1993. His touch on the industry can still be felt to this day. Dick Giordano passed away on March 27, 2010 due to complications of pneumonia.
Dick was one of the great guys of the industry. No one ever had a harsh word to say about the guy and when you read the transcript of the interview, I believe it shows through. A greatly talented artist who rubbed shoulders with some of the titans of the industry over the years, I wish I'd been able to hear more of his stories. To no one's surprise, you may recall that Neal Adams listed Dick as his favorite inker on his DC work. He left us far too soon, but I was certainly grateful for the time he took to answer my questions. For further delving into his remarkable career, I can highly recommend Michael Eury's Dick Giordano, Changing Comics One Day at a Time.
This interview originally took place via email on June 10, 2007.
Bryan Stroud: I was amazed at the volume of work you did for DC in the Silver Age despite your relatively short time involvement. You inked, edited or penciled on over 25 titles running the gamut from superhero to westerns to romance to mystery. You left your mark, too, as you received an Alley award in 1969 for best editor and a Shazam award in 1970 for Best inker (Dramatic Division.) Was any genre more enjoyable to work on than another?
Dick Giordano: I was young enough to handle a long work day that I thought was fun and which included a 4 hour round trip commute from Connecticut to Manhattan, Monday thru Friday. My normal work routine had me waking at 4am, at my drawing board until 7am, make the 8 o'clock train to Manhattan. On the train, I often napped or edited scripts and/or wrote lettercols (letter columns). I was at my drawing board for some part of every weekend and sometimes for the entire weekend if family and friends were not on the menu.
Favorite genre? Well, I sorta preferred romance. But only because it allowed me to flex creative muscles that were not required for the other genres; design, fashion, storytelling that was often more subtle than the shoot-'em-ups. In the main, though, I reveled in the variety and often yearn today for those halcyon days when each week or two, I could work with a different skill set.
Stroud: Was it more fun to be a creator or an editor?
DG: Neither. It was more fun to be a creator AND an editor! And as a matter of fact, that was required by my employment agreement. The company was not allowed to ask me to give up freelance assignments so long as they were done outside of office hours and on my own premises and didn't interfere with my editorial duties. The agreement did not allow my working freelance for anyone but DC.
Stroud: What’s the difference between an executive editor and a managing editor?
DG: No difference, really. And both are administrative or business titles that were incorrectly applied to me because I didn't like Editor-in Chief. That sounded like a word guy and I saw myself as a picture guy, but EIC is basically what my function was both at Charlton and much later at DC.
Stroud: What did you consider your best assignment at DC?
DG: During this time period, I think I would have to go with Aquaman. I worked with some very talented people, Steve Skeates, the late Jim Aparo and Neal Adams - and was able to accomplish my editorial goals before leaving DC. After establishing basic parameters, Steve and Jim and I would meet every so often at DCs offices to plot the next round of issues. Jim lived in Connecticut and didn't much like traveling. We did most of the real work by telephone (while I could still hear) and the mails (before FedEx) and everything went smoothly until we admitted that we couldn't figure out where we had sent Mera at the start of the series (we needed to have her out of the story for a while) and how to bring her back. Neal had an idea that worked and he wrote and drew a back-up story for several issues that not only was a cool solution to the Mera problem, but gave Steve and Jim some breathing time on the main story. We had given Aquaman a more Sci-Fi feel and Neal's solution worked well within the concepts we had introduced to the strip.
Stroud: What was your proudest achievement during the '68 to '70 timeframe?
DG: I would find it difficult to pick one. I found joy in everything that I was able to accomplish with DC, particularly after my disappointing experiences at Charlton. Charlton was to DC as a weed is to a flower!
Stroud: Carmine Infantino was very proud of Bat Lash, but lamented it wouldn’t sell stateside. Did you enjoy that brief project?
DG: I loved it! "Stateside" was another word for children. In Europe comics were aimed at mature readers. In the U.S., our audience was thought to be pre-teen children, hence the Comics Code. Carmine was right...but couldn't help wanting to have a little fun with a more mature concept!
Stroud: Neal Adams told me that everyone wanted a crack at Deadman and you edited that title for a while as well. Was it a difficult task?
DG: The Deadman title (actually, Strange Adventures) was under my editorship from, I believe issue #3, until it was discontinued. Perhaps Neal is correct that others wanted a shot at it because it was a cool concept but no one in his right mind approached me. Neal would have been a formidable act to follow. It was a piece-of-cake job for me since Neal was the person who knew the character best and regardless of the credits, Neal either wrote or re-wrote nearly all the scripts as well as drawing them. My major contribution to the strip was as a whip-cracker. Neal was involved in so many projects that meeting deadlines was becoming difficult. I believe the title's cancellation was due more to Neal's problems with getting the material in on time, than to a fall-off in sales. We had to do a non-Deadman reprint issue (a no-no) in the middle of a story line. Publishers then, unlike now, would not ship late. Period!
Stroud: In my copy of Secret Six #2 you introduce yourself (with someone depicting your face as well, was that your artwork?) as the new editor and ask for all kinds of feedback on that and the other issues you were working on. Did you feel like you’d jumped into the deep end of the pool with the new titles to edit?
DG: Not at all! I was straining at the bit and couldn't wait to put my plans in operation for the 8 bi-monthly titles assigned to me. All were already being published and two of them (Blackhawk and Bomba) were already headed for the scrap pile after 2 more issues each, when I took over. Joe Orlando drew the caricature of me and I inked it and wrote the copy.
Stroud: There was a gaffe in Secret Six #4 that several readers picked up on when Carlo effectively revealed he was not Mockingbird via a thought balloon suspecting Lili. You did your best at damage control, but it seemed to be too late. Was that a writing or editing error?
DG: There is no such thing as a writing error getting to print. That's what editors are for. I believe Joe Gill wrote it and I missed it completely! I believe there was another thought balloon error that made it to print in a subsequent issue that I also missed. I don't remember what is was, though. If either balloon was spoken aloud, we wouldn't be talking about this now. But there was no way out of it...it was blown. Of course, we could have changed the title to the Secret Four...
Stroud: Did E. Nelson Bridwell tell you who Mockingbird was?
DG: No. I wanted to be surprised like everybody else…if it ever came to that. I believe the revelation would have come only after a decision to cancel were made.
Stroud: You brought some talent with you to DC from Charlton. Was it difficult to persuade Jim Aparo, for example?
DG: Why would it be? Jim's DC page rate would be more than double his Charlton page rate. He would be working for the biggest and arguably the best publisher in the business and working on iconic characters, of which Charlton had none. His working routine would not change, he could still work at home and send the work in by mail and he would be paid weekly. This was also true of everyone who came with me, to one degree or another.
Stroud: Joe Giella told me that he had to re-pencil some work by Mike Sekowsky when he was headed into his decline and to his chagrin he delivered the pages when Sekowsky was in the office “…raging at Dick Giordano for not giving him more work.” Do you recall the incident?
DG: No. And it could not have been true for '67 to '70 time period. Mike's work was not in decline at that time. He was writing, drawing and editing the all-new Wonder Women that I was inking (without any re-penciling) and I was working for him, not the other way around. I did not give out much work to others than the artists assigned to my books.
This might have happened after Mike had moved to California (to get into animation) and he would do an occasional job for DC that was definitely not up to his previous standards. I was in charge of editorial at DC at the time and Mike might have been visiting the East Coast (though I don't recall that specifically) and badgering me for some more work. I guess...
Stroud: I’d like to list some names of people you worked with during the Silver Age and ask your impressions: E. Nelson Bridwell.
DG: A brilliant researcher and student of comics with a good sense of humor. A journeyman writer with good ideas. Nelson was unfortunate in that he looked strange, suffered from Tourette's Syndrome and ticked incessantly and those who were crude made Nelson a butt of their jokes. Nelson would just make believe he didn't hear.
Stroud: Julie Schwartz.
DG: My officemate for most of the time I spent at DC this time around. He was very rigid in his work and personal routines but you knew exactly what he wanted from you and where he would be at certain times of the day. His desk was spotless and before leaving for the day everything was put away. By contrast, my desk was piled halfway to the ceiling...always! His stories were not always my cup of tea. Most were plot driven. I preferred character driven stories. BUT he did what he did better than anyone before or since! And many would pay admission to witness a plotting session with Julie and a writer and I was sitting right there. He had his foibles but I respected him immensely!
Stroud: Bob Kanigher.
DG: Other than to say I disliked Mr. Kanigher immensely, no comment.
Stroud: Neal Adams.
DG: Good buddy and great artist whose work changed comics for good and all to this day! We partnered and prospered on a lot of things important to both of us and then went our separate ways, I believe, the better for having been together.
Stroud: Denny O’Neil.
DG: A quiet, professional and great writer that I am glad to have had at my side from our Charlton days (Sergius O'Shaughnessy) to our retiring from DC several years ago. His work on Batman as both writer and editor leaves a legacy that will not soon be forgotten or equaled.
Stroud: Carmine Infantino.
DG: The real reason I moved to DC in 1967 was to be able to work with DCs new art director, Carmine. The abrupt changes in management at DC when they were bought out by Kinney National were difficult for me to feel comfortable with, but fans of Carmine's artwork have to line up behind me! He designed and drew the first Deadman story, he designed and drew the first Human Target story (with me inking!!) and I followed as regular artist on the second story, with my meager talents. His pencil and inked version of the Elongated Man back-up stories were my guiding lights when I took over the strip and his cover designs were always striking and eye-catching! Unbeknownst to many fans, Carmine designed most of the covers for DC from his art director days to his abrupt departure years later.
Stroud: Steve Ditko.
DG: Steve and I worked together at Charlton and had a lot of fun. He and I played ping-pong at lunch time, and his humorous cartoons on the walls in the comic department drew people from other departments to share in the fun. When the Ayn Rand philosophy began to take over his interest and crept into his stories (first glimpsed in the Question back-up stories at Charlton), I found communications between Steve and myself becoming increasingly difficult as it was a philosophy that I did not entirely agree with. This led to a creative standoff between Steve and DCs more liberal writers that eventually led to Steve discontinuing his involvement in Beware the Creeper and The Hawk and Dove. I believe that was the last work done by Steve Ditko for DC and I for one wish that were not so.
Stroud: Gil Kane.
DG: A well-read and very intellectual man and a great artist, Gil could hold court for hours on just about any subject. He was always ready to try something new that had no known commercial value just because the idea appealed to him. Among his many ground breakers were a paperback sized comic, Blackmark, arguably the first graphic novel ever, His Name Is Savage, a two tier daily comic strip with regular collaborator, Archie Goodwin and with Roy Thomas, The Ring, based on an opera. We became good friends after he moved to the west coast to do animation design and a trip to LA without dinner with the Kane’s was unheard of.
Stroud: Murray Boltinoff.
DG: Strangely, I knew very little of Murray Boltinoff. Freelancers who worked for him enjoyed the experience and he certainly looked like an easy going person but we had very little to do with each other at DC and I never got to know him. My loss.
Stroud: Nick Cardy.
DG: Nick was a favorite artist of mine. Did some truly terrific covers for Teen Titans and Aquaman while I edited those titles. One of the hardest things I had to do in taking over the editorial reins of Aquaman, was to replace Nick with Jim Aparo. This was not a criticism of Nick's work on that title but because when you are to create a new editorial approach in a comic book (in this case, replacing the silly Saturday morning cartoon approach that DC had opted for) it behooves you to call attention to the changes by changing the look of the book. I think it worked but it was a hard change to make.
Nick disappeared from view sometime in the '70s and resurfaced in the '80s by meeting me at a Florida convention that I was attending. I convinced Nick that his fans would welcome him back with open arms if he'd only dip his big toe in the water. Which he did and the fans did. Nick is now a regular attendee at many conventions and the fans crowd his table as he does sketches and chats with them. We still have a ball together.
Stroud: I understand you and Neal are partners on Continuity Studios. Has that been an enjoyable endeavor?
DG: WERE partners. We broke off our partnership with no animosity before 1980 when I moved over to DC. We see each other only at conventions these days. Neal and I are still friends but we are not doing the same things with our lives as we did then.
The partnership was enjoyable but rather hectic. We did a lot of nice stuff together but as the years past, we found that we were not as good a fit as first thought. I was more into a regular schedule. I lived in Connecticut, Continuity was in NY. I got in at 10 am, Neal, much later. I left at 5pm to get home at 7pm for what was left of my family life. Neal almost never left the studio. These things in and of themselves were not a deal breaking problem but the advertising agencies we worked for wanted their work (usually in the morning) that we received at 4 in the afternoon and Neal often worked all night and I wasn't there to help. Patti Bastienne and I handled most of the business end of Continuity but that often led to my being frustrated as I wanted to draw more.
Stroud: You collaborated with Lew Sayre Schwartz, another DC alumnus on a graphic novel adaptation of Moby Dick. What was that like?
DG: Fun. We first met at a Cartoonists Society diner and Lew asked if I would be interested in working with him on Moby Dick. It was to be done for the city of New Bedford in Mass. to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the first publication of Herman Melville's Moby Dick. As is often the case in these sorts of projects, the project was not approved by the city of New Bedford until about a year later and before we were able to start a few more months had past but time was available to do the project properly. Lew supplied excellent story boards instead of a typed script and they made my work easier as I knew just what Lew was after. We finished, did a book signing at the city's whaling museum, treated like royalty and taken to a nice dinner by the city which then bought my original art for the city's whaling museum. Lew and I have talked regularly since then and we've worked on a couple of projects now hunting a publisher.
Stroud: Legend has it that in Wonder Woman #203, which credits you as artist that the villain resembled Carmine Infantino. Any truth to that?
DG: Yep! I done that. We had publicity stills of most of us in a file in the production department. I took Carmine's file and drew him as the heavy to increase my having fun in a story that was pretty lackluster.
Stroud: You’re one of the few creators online at www.dickgiordano.com. Is it a good avenue for you to keep in touch with the fans?
DG: I'm having someone create a revised website to encourage more people to produce feedback. It will be more interactive. If you go on my current one, you'll find an email link that so far has only been used for fans to order art. I'd like to keep more in touch with fans.