The Men Who Saved the Mythos
The Fourth in a Series Examining Green Lantern History
Throughout the months of June and July, we are celebrating the 75th anniversary of Green Lantern’s first appearance via a series of features each of which focuses on the characters and creators who had a lasting impact on the rich history of Green Lantern mythology
The title “Godfather of Modern Comics” is often used to describe Stan Lee but history tells a far different tale. There is a man who resurrected heroic comics from the ashes of their demise in the early 1950s and that man is Julius “Julie” Schwartz. Julie was the nucleus of the big bang explosion of the Silver Age from which modern comics was born, an explosion still influencing the medium since Barry Allen burst from the cover of Action Comics #4 back in 1956,
Schwartz was born in 1915 in New York and like so many people who created comics was a first-generation American born to parents who immigrated to the United States. At the young age of seventeen Schwartz, along with Forrest J. Ackerman and Mort Weisinger, published the first science fiction fan magazine, Time Traveller, through their mutual membership in the Scienceers, a New York City based fan club. The three young men all served as editors and it was their participation in the publication of the fanzine that would shape all of their distinguished careers with Ackerman going on to create Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine and Weisinger co-creating characters like Aquaman and Green Arrow and introducing new elements to the Superman mythology.
Julie and Mort founded a literary agency when Schwartz was 19, an endeavor that connected his life with science fiction icons like Ray Bradbury, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Bloch. It was the connections established in these days between writers Alfred Bester and John Broome that would eventually come into play when World War II interjected and Weisinger went to serve in the military and Schwartz became an editor for All-American Comics. His recruitment of both writers would have a permanent impact on the Green Lantern mythology when Bester crafted the iconic Green Lantern oath and Broome would join Schwartz in reviving the character for the space age.
Schwartz loved science fiction and heroic comics and when handed the opportunity to edit Showcase gambled on the readership embracing the return of superheroes and worked with Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino to relaunch The Flash. The success of Barry Allen’s version of the Scarlet Speedster led to Green Lantern’s revival as well as new versions of many other Golden Age favorites, not the least of which was the Justice League of America. It was the JLA’s success that led to the infamous golf game between DC’s Publisher, Jack Liebowitz, and Martin Goodman from Timely Comics where the JLA’s success would inspire Goodman to have editor Stan Lee change one of Timely’s dozen publications to feature a superhero team. Lee partnered with Timely’s best artist, Jack Kirby, to create the Fantastic Four and so the Marvel Universe was born.
Julie’s editorial process included hands-on involvement with writers and he often helped create plots and re-write scripts. The covers were often created before the stories were written and Carmine Infantino would often try to design covers that would make it a challenge for Julie to come up with a story to fit the image. In 1961 Infantino thought he’d stump Schwartz and gave him a cover with Barry Allen racing alongside his Golden Age forefather, Jay Garrick. Thinking he’d finally topped the editor Julie responded with the concept of multiple Earths, not only beating the artist at the game but creating a core concept that defined the DC Universe and paved the way for the return of the heroes who built DC Comics.
Julie helped resuscitate Batman after the 1960’s television show crashed and the public’s fascination with anything with a bat logo on it faded by bringing in John Broome and Carmine Infantino to give the character a facelift, introducing Batgirl to the world before helping Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams rise to great standing as together they reintroduced reader to the Dark Knight. Julie would call on the duo again when Green Lantern fell into a state of disrepair as the Silver Age turned to bronze.
Schwartz would eventually retire from DC in 1986 but remained involved with DC and the convention circuit until his death in 2004 at the age of 88.
Not much is known of John Broome’s early years, but his interests in writing and science fiction led to crossing paths and becoming friends with Julius Schwartz who was two years older than Broome. Schwartz became Broome’s agent and helped him get published in a number of science fiction magazines in the 1940s, having already established himself writing comics under a number of pseudonyms. When Schwartz joined All-American Comics his friend Broome followed him and began writing scripts for a great deal of their stable of books, creating tales from everyone from the Atom to the Justice Society of America to Green Lantern. Broome co-created the JSA’s time-traveling villain Per Degaton, the Phantom Stranger, and Detective Chimp along the way. As the Golden Age came to an end, Broome penned JSA and Green Lantern stories which served as some of their final appearances.
With heroic comics nearly dead Schwartz called on Broome’s science fiction roots to craft stand-alone stories for anthology comics like Mystery in Space and Strange Adventures, but when Schwartz decided to bring back superheroes with an Atomic Age flair Broome’s star really began to rise. Following the successful launch of Barry Allen’s Flash Broome wrote became a key creative talent in fleshing out his world, co-creating Flash villains Captain Boomerang and Professor Zoom as well as Flash allies the Elongated Man and Kid Flash.
Broome would join Gil Kane and Julie Schwartz for the next revival, Green Lantern, allowing Broome a cosmic canvas for him to explore with the space-faring Green Lantern Corps. As Green Lantern‘s main writer throughout the Silver Age, Broome established most of the Green Lantern mythology as it’s known today, introducing a galaxy of new characters which are still a vital part of DC Comics today. Broome then went on to help repair Batman before moving to Paris and eventually on to Japan where he taught English after retiring from comics in 1970.
Broome only attend one comic book convention in his lifetime, the 1998 San Diego Comic-Con, thanks in part to funds raised by Green Lantern fans. Broome would comment on Emerald Twilight at the show during an interview by Mike W. Barr, shaking his head in disgust and saying that “I would never write that story!” Broome would pass away the following year at age 85.
Eli Katz was born in 1926 in Latvia before his family migrated to the United States in 1929 and settled in Brooklyn, New York. Katz quit high school at age sixteen having found work at Archie Comics as a talented young artist. The job, putting borders on pages and finishing up artwork, only lasted a few weeks but he was re-hired a short time later and his career began flourishing there where his work appeared under several pseudonyms including the one that stuck with him for the rest of his career, Gil Kane.
When World War II arrived Kane went off to war and served in the Pacific theater of operations for the U.S. Army. After the war was over Kane returned to New York and worked for All-American Comics and did some television storyboard work before engaging with Julius Schwartz and becoming a major talent for DC Comics.
His design for the Silver Age reincarnation of Green Lantern would become one of the most iconic costumes in comics and he would stick with the character for most of the first 75 issues designing the look that defined Green Lantern for a new generation of readers. His Hal Jordan would be based on film star Paul Newman, who was once his neighbor, while David Niven would be the inspiration for Sinestro due in part to his spectacular mustache. The Guardians of the Universe would gain inspiration from Kane’s choice of modeling them after Israeli Prime Minister David Van-Gurion.
At DC Kane kept the successful formula for Hal Jordan’s uniform design when he created a similar look for the Atom and drew books like the Teen Titans, Captain Action, and Hawk and Dove. As a freelance artist, Kane did work for a number of publishers, helping design the Hulk’s nemesis, the Abomination, for Marvel and working on T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents for Tower Comics. Kane eventually settled in at Marvel Comics and had a successful run on The Amazing Spiderman and became one of Marvel’s most prolific cover artists. Kane worked on the infamous Stan Lee written anti-drug issue which defied the Comics Code Authority and went on to co-create Iron Fist and Morbius the living vampire at Marvel, and he also drew the infamous death of Gwen Stacy during his Spiderman run.
Kane would go on to do design work for a number of animated series and continue to work in comics as a freelance artist including more work for DC Comics until his death in 2000 at the age of 73. One of his last published works teamed Green Lantern and the Atom in the pages of Legends of the DC Universe.