GRAFAN #8, Feb. 1971, Denny O’Neil interview, Part 3

St. Louis comics fandom wraps up its 1970 interview with native son and DC comics writer O’Neil, weeks away from revamping Superman, Batman.

GRAFAN 8 cover

Rare fanzine: GRAFAN 8, February/March, 1971
[This issue is for sale as a digital download pdf.]
Publisher: Graphic Fantasy Society of St. Louis, Missouri
18 mimeograph pages + offset cover
Circulation: < 100 copies
Editor: Walt Jaschek
Cover by: Vaughn Bode
Main Feature: Part 3 of interview with DC writer Denny O’Neil by Len McFadden, Mike McFadden, Bob Schoenfeld, Bob Gale and Walt Jaschek
Additional features: Editorial, Fandom Report (member and meeting news), Miami-Con 1971 report by Steve Houska, letters from from Ralph Green, Tony Foster, Joe Caporale, Ruben Hayes
Interior art by: Joe Caporale, Tom Foster, Chester Gould, Steve Houska, Len Wein
Mimeograph production: Walt Stumper

In January, 1971, at the ripe young age of 15, I was putting finishing touches on the 8th issue of GRAFAN, the mimeograph fanzine newsletter of the Graphic Fantasy Society of St. Louis, the enthusiastic, young fan hub of this Midwestern city back in the day. The zine was, according to the indicia, “conjured every month with a little bit of luck… and magic.” All the issues included “Fandom Report,” a preview of upcoming meetings, TV airings and movies of interest, and minutes of previous meetings.

We were a tight and dedicated bunch of what we now call nerds (I say proudly,) and I really don’t know how I would have survived my teen-age years without this funny, supportive group of fellow fans and aspiring writers and artists.

The highlight of this issue was Part 3 our our round-table discussion with St. Louis native and ascendant DC Comics writer, Denny O’Neil (“Wonder Woman,” “Green Lantern,” “Justice League of America.”) The recorded and transcribed conversation took place in Bob Gale’s basement late in 1970, with questions from Bob Schoenfeld, Len McFadden, Mike McFadden, Bob and me. Most of these guys were in their late teens; Denny was in his late 20s. I was, as mentioned, 15. Imagine my thrill.

Here’s the first page of the interview, with a header designed by me right on the mimeograph stencil, and an opening cartoon by me, as well.

This part of the discussion was focused on comic book sales and the target audience. Is it spontaneous (“That looks interesting, I think I’ll buy it”) or uniform (“I will buy this every month no matter what.”)

GRAFAN: It seems to me that the company should either go to an all-spontaneous audience or a uniform audience. 

DENNY O’NEIL: Well, we’re not going to be able to go to a spontaneous audience for a number of reasons, among which are merchandising problems. We can’t put comic books out like they put TV Guide out, with point-of-purchase displays and that sort of thing. It seems to me, that our best hope is to try to build a solid audience; to do that it’s going to require some major upheavals. A lot of attitudes are going to have to be changed. The Academy of Comic Book Arts is in business to change the attitudes. First we have two change the attitudes of the readers— the public — toward comic books. For years comics have 

been synonymous with the most imbecilic entertainment. And we are going to have to change the attitudes of the publishers…

GRAFAN: And the editors…

DENNY O’NEIL: Well, no, you give the editors a good product, and they get turned on. Julie Schwartz is a fantastic man now… he’s bubbling and happy because he’s doing science fiction.

GRAFAN: Growing long hair, wearing beads…?

DENNY O’NEIL (smiling): Not quite like that.

Much of the discussion was about declining sales and the potential demise of comic books altogether.

GRAFAN: So you’re going to have a good time as the comic industry slides downhill, is that it?

DENNY O’NEIL: Well., that could be. We may be on a real Ragnarok trip. The end may be very soon. But I think there are things that can be done. A lot of bu­siness things–thing that should have been done ten years ago. But ten years ago, Superman was good for 750,000 co­pies and the money was just rolling in. I guess at that time they didn’t see any need to engage in what I feel are very simple basic business practices that would tend to build an audience am get the magazines displayed. Practices that would broaden the base of the operation, so that if you had a bad year with the comics, you don’t stop altogether. Well, obviously, [ownership by the] Kin­ney [Corporation] is good for that, so that’s at least one thing that has been done. 

And some of the discussion was prophetic: talk of new formats and distribution models that would take years to manifest.

GRAFAN: Is the Kinney Corporation significantly interested in DC Comics to really institute some revolutionary changes in distribution?

DENNY O’NEIL: Sure. They’ re talking about all sorts of things.

GRAFN: What sort of things?

DENNY O’NEIL: Oh, there is the package con­cept, the subscription concept, the bigger-magazine with higher-price concept, which would make comics more attractive to retailers. People are talking about paperback book formats, and even hard cover formats. A lot of things are being kicked around….

Here on the back page is an actual sketch of Dick Tracy by creator Chester Gould. It was an original I received in the mail from Mr. Gould after I sent him a fan letter. But of course it had to be traced onto the mimeograph stencil by someone. You guessed it: me.

Being “editor” was a role for multi-taskers!

To read this part of the Denny O’Neil interview:
GRAFAN 8 as digital download pdf
And to read the rest of the interview:
GRAFAN 6 as a digital download pdf
GRAFAN 7 as a digital download pdf

For more of GRAFAN, see also:
ATLANTIS 1 and GRAFAN 2-8 (1970-1971)
SON OF GRAFAN (1971-1975)
granfan.org

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GRAFAN #7, Jan, 1971, Denny O’Neil Interview, Part 2

In first issue under new editor Walt Jaschek, St. Louis fanzine GRAFAN continues in-depth, 1970 conversation with writer of Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Justice League.

GRAFAN 7 cover

GRAFAN #7 is available as a digital download pdf.

Rare fanzine: GRAFAN 7, January, 1971
Publisher: Graphic Fantasy Society of St. Louis
16 mimeograph pages + offset cover
Circulation: < 100 copies
Editor: Walt Jaschek
Cover by: Steve Houska and Mike McFadden
Features: Editorial, Fandom Report (member and meeting news), book reviews
Main Feature: Part 2 of interview with DC writer Denny O’Neil by Len McFadden, Mike McFadden, Bob Schoenfeld, Bob Gale and Walt Jaschek
Mimeograph production: Walt Stumper

Covers and content lists for all 9 issues of GRAFAN (originally ATLANTIS.)

GRAFAN 7 page 3

50 years ago this month, at the unripe young age of 15, I was putting the finishing editorial touches on the 7th issue of the fanzine GRAFAN, “official propaganda organ” of the Graphic Fantasy Society of St. Lous. I inherited the Editor role with this issue from beloved, late founder Mike McFadden. Oh, how I remember being excited that this January, 1971 issue was to feature original cover art by Steve Houska; the second part of our in-depth, far-ranging interview with the late Denny O’Neil, superstar DC comics writer [see below;] and other fun fannish fodder. The mimeograph machine was running hot that cold Midwest winter.

GRAFAN 7, page 4

GRAFAN the organization was a St. Louis-based, comics-focused fan club, composed mostly of teens and young adults with passion for storytelling, writing, art and collecting. It met regularly in the homes of members and fostered creative collaborations of all kinds. One subset of members met on a dark, 1970 night in Bob (“Green Vomit”) Gale’s basement to interview a guest: DC Comics writer and St. Louis native Denny O’Neil on a brief return visit home. I was with Len McFadden, Mike McFadden, Bob Schoenfeld and Bob Gale for the long, recorded conversation with Denny. It was transcribed and ran across three issues. The second part ran here in issue #7.

GRAFAN 7, page 6

Here is an excerpt from the interview.

QUESTION: You’ve scripted all of The Creeper stories so far, right?

DENNY O’NEIL: All but the first one, in Showcase.

QUESTION: How did you like working with Steve Ditko?

DENNY: Yeah, sure is nice weather we’re having.

(Laughter)

DENNY: Oh, Steve is a very talented guy, but we disagree in every possible way to disagree, on politics, on morality. So after the second issue of The Creeper, I wasn’t working with Steve anymore, I was working through Dick Giordano. It was even worse for Steve Skeates, who looks like a hippy, and was doing Hawk & Dove with him. Ditko is very big on Ann Rand, and Mr. A really sums up his philosophy. He didn’t like — I think he didn’t like — The Creeper because we had the character sort of self-satirizing in the thought balloons. He made fun of himself, and it’s one of Ditko’s tenets that heroes have to be serious and straight. I don’t think he liked how we handled the character at all…

GRAFAN 7, page 7

Another section of the interview, from page 8:

Q. With National trying out these new Western titles, I don’t suppose there’s any chance they might revive Bat Lash?
Denny O’Neil: There is a chance! There’s no chance of it being feature in his own book; Bat Lash had the worst sales in the whole 30-some-odd-year history of National Periodical Publications. We’re targeting it for a back-up feature in one of Giordano’s books.
Q. Was Infantino as excited about Bat Lash as everyone else was?
Denny O’Neil: Oh, it was Infantino’s baby. He kept it alive three issues after the business office told him to stop publishing it.

Shortly after this interview, the same group of fans escorted Denny to St. Louis tv station KPLR-TV, where he was interviewed live on-air about his comic book work as we watched from the green room. Could there have been a bigger thrill for me, a 15-year-old comic book fan also fascinated with journalism TV production? No, of course not. But there was hardly time to take it all in. There was another issue of GRAFAN to put out…

To read this part of the Denny O’Neil interview:
GRAFAN 7 as a digital download pdf
And to read the rest of the interview:
GRAFAN 6 as a digital download pdf
GRAFAN 8 as digital download pdf

For more of GRAFAN, see also:
ATLANTIS 1 and GRAFAN 2-8 (1970-1971)
SON OF GRAFAN (1971-1975)
granfan.org