I'll make this quick because I'm as eager to get back to the interview as you are. This is Part Two of the panel discussion we
had at last year's San Diego Comic Con International. Murphy Anderson, Julius Schwartz and Mike Barr are up there with me, and the room is
packed with professional writers, all of us there to hear John Broome, one of the great writers of comics' Golden and Silver Ages.
M.E.: Let's discuss the way you worked with Julie. How many pages did you write a week?
JOHN BROOME: I think I did enough to make a living. As I said, I wrote for money. I don't want to disguise it. I
wasn't working to try and make a lot of friends. I seem to have a lot of friends but I didn't work for that. I went for the money.
I did the best I could, and Julie and I turned out to be a good team. We complimented each other, we supplemented each other and
I could always rely on him to have a good reaction to any ideas that I would bring up. People would often ask me, "Where do you get the
Well, I don't think any comic writer can ever tell you where ideas come from. If you are a comics writer, you get ideas.
That's your business — to get ideas. I remember, I got an idea..."The Guardians of the Universe!" That was an idea. As far as
I know, they didn't exist. (Audience laughs) That didn't keep me from writing about it. That's what the stories were based on
JULIUS SCHWARTZ: That originated in a science-fiction story, I believe, that appeared in either Strange Adventures or Mystery
in Space. It was called "Guardians of the Clockwork Universe." That eventually lead into the Guardians that appeared in the Green
Lantern series. Incidentally, why do aliens have to look different from the way we do? Maybe in this particular universe, all the
aliens look alike. The Guardians of the Universe were all based on the prime minister of Israel, Abin Sur.
MARK WAID: No, not Abin Sur — Ben-Gurion.
SCHWARTZ: Oh, right! (Audience laughs)
M.E.: Abin Sur was the first Green Lantern. Would you describe for us what it was like to work with Julie in the typical
session? You would come in the morning and he would tell you what he needed?
SCHWARTZ: He would probably say, "What are you going to have for lunch?" (Audience laughs)
BROOME: He would say what he needed. For example, he would say, "I need a 12-page Flash story." We always knew the number
of pages ahead of time. That was very important. An idea for a story had to be bigger for twelve pages than for six or eight. You
had to get the right kind of idea for the length of the story, and that came with practice.
SCHWARTZ: Well, of course, we came up with the idea of having the cover first. We had a provocative cover and it was a challenge
to us to look at the cover and figure out how a thing like that happened. A typical example was the Flash cover in which he was holding up a
big hand toward the reader and the copy read, "Stop! Don't pass up this magazine! My life depends on it!" (Audience laughs).
We worked it out and it became a beautiful story.
There was another reason, incidentally, why we had the cover done first. After the artwork was done, there might not be a decent
cover scene in it, so it was much better to get the cover beforehand. Poor Murphy, poor Gil Kane, poor Carmine Infantino, poor Mike Sekowsky
would pace up and down, trying to think up an original cover idea. Sometimes, nothing came out but some days, you'd get three or four.
I'd present the cover to John and say, "OK, let's solve it!" We had a great time doing it
BROOME: That's right. The cover sometimes provided the story in a sketchy kind of way. Then I'd work out some kind of
understanding or explanation of the cover. The cover usually presented some kind of mystery. Something was happening, someone was getting
poisoned, or frozen or killed or something like that.
M.E.: You would come up with ideas and he would come up with ideas...
BROOME: I would usually have a day or two because he would contact me by telephone and, a day or two later, I would come in with some
ideas for a story. I might have several ideas and he would pick one of them. He knew what was good and what wasn't. Then we began
the most intricate and interesting part of our meeting, which was the plot.
SCHWARTZ: No, it was discussing where we were going to have lunch. (Audience laughs)
M.E.: After you settled on lunch, you'd talk through the plot, you'd take notes?
SCHWARTZ: John never took any notes.
M.E.: You would go home and write the script in a couple of days —?
BROOME: Maybe two or three, maybe a week.
SCHWARTZ: No, let me interrupt again. John would say, "When do you want the story?" I'd say, "Wednesday," for
example. He'd come in Wednesday and have the story done and the beautiful part was I had the check ready for him. In Mort Weisinger's
case and Jack Schiff's, the editor made you wait a few days to a week. But my writers knew they the check was waiting in my drawer, and that's
why most preferred to work for me. (Audience laughs and claps)
MURPHY ANDERSON: Not true. (Audience laughs) That was a factor but that was not the big thing.
M.E.: Julie, how often did you want rewrites on these scripts?
SCHWARTZ: When the rewriting had to be done, I did it. Yes, I would say, "John, I didn't like this," but I would rewrite it
myself. With John, there was very little rewriting. Gardner Fox, quite a bit. It would be easier for me to do it than to try to
explain where again and bring it in. A terrible example of that was Fox. He bought in a story we had plotted and I said, "Oh my God,
there's a hole in the story," and Gardner said, "I know."
I said, "Why did you write it that way?" And he said, "That's the way we plotted it!" (Audience laughs) John always
brought it in on time and with very little rewriting.
ANDERSON: I can attest to that. I'd get John's scripts and there would hardly be any editing at all. But with Gardner, it
sometimes took quite a bit of figuring out.
M.E.: Let's talk about the Atomic Knights. What do you remember about how that strip came to be?
BROOME: I remember, in the beginning, we both got the feeling that it had something to do with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round
Table. We thought if we could make a modern version of that spirit and the feeling, that would be a new kind of comic that hadn't been done and
we would enjoy doing it. So we worked out a third World War where life was almost destroyed and crime was all over. And the Atomic
Knights stand for justice and faith and all that. So that is the way the story began.
M.E.: Murphy, do you remember starting on the Atomic Knights? Was it one of you favorite assignments?
ANDERSON: Oh, yes, I remember. Yes, that is something I really enjoyed doing. Except it was a back-breaker and I was
thankful it only appeared every three months.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: While we are on the topic of the Atomic Knights, I just have to know this. What did you get the idea for the
giant dalmatians? (Audience laughs)
BROOME: That was one of the stories? (Audience laughs) That's been long ago! Sorry.
M.E.: Towards the end of your career at DC, there was an attempt to form a writer's union...
BROOME: Oh, yeah. I developed a fixed idea that DC should pay us for reprint material. When they reprinted a whole story
without paying us, that was a stealing of our abilities. It was stealing something away from us. I knew that, in movies and television
and ASCAP [the composers' union], they paid royalties...so I thought comics should pay royalties and I talked to the other writers. I didn't
talk to the artists...they were above me, anyway.
There were five or six writers — Eddie Herron, Bob Haney, Otto Binder, Gardner Fox, a few others. I think it took six or
eight months but one day, I got them all together — all in the same room, ready to do what we had to do, which was to march into Liebowitz's
office. Liebowitz was the millionaire boss. We marched in and demanded reprint rights. And Liebowitz, who I understand is still
alive...he's about 95 or something
SCHWARTZ: Or more!
BROOME: He didn't waste any time. He said, "Boys, I'll give you a two dollar raise," and immediately, my union collapsed!
(Audience laughs) That was the end of the first union at DC.
M.E.: Can you give us a year on that? About '68 or so?
BROOME: By '68, I was already cashing out of the picture. It would be earlier. Maybe '65 would be about right.
M.E.: Now were there other grievances besides the reprints? Didn't some of the guys want health insurance?
BROOME: Maybe. I think maybe they had other demands, but that's the only part I recall. Liebowitz was afraid of me.
He knew I was a danger to him. I was going to cost him money! (Audience laughs). So he didn't like me but he really couldn't get rid of
me too easily.
M.E.: Now, one day, years later, they started sending you reprint checks. How'd you feel the first time you got one?
BROOME: I loved it!! (Audience laughs and applause) I felt that I had it coming to me. The new management, Jenette [Kahn]
and a couple of others seem to me to be a new breed, different from the old breed hanging on to their money.
SCHWARTZ: To show you an instance...when the Flash went on television, I received a check, Robert Kanigher received a check, Carmine
received a check...John, they sent you a check for how much?
BROOME: It was $5000. (Audience applause)
SCHWARTZ: They didn't have to do it.
M.E.: So that was sometime in the sixties. You didn't work for DC much longer after that.
BROOME: Not much longer. I wasn't fired or anything like that. I just lost momentum. I lost steam. I just
couldn't keep going. And so I went into the business of teaching English, and that was the end of it.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: John, I was wondering if there was any sense of competition between you and Gardner Fox? I always feel that you
guys were the two giants of DC writers. Did you ever feel competitive with him?
BROOME: I'm afraid when it came to comics writing I never recognized that I had any competition. (Audience laughs and
applause) We were good friends. He was an honest man.
I had a very enviable position. I remember Eddie Herron — some of you may remember — a giant of a man. He said
to me, "Your stories are cold. Mine are warm." He was trying to make up for the fact that I had this great 'in' with Julie. I could
travel around the world, so he was jealous of me, as I'm afraid other people have been.
MARV WOLFMAN: Julie's books and comics back in the fifties and sixties for a long time never had credits. However, there were
always stories that all of us would say somehow resonated a lot more than the others. Later on, when I became a professional and had access to
DC office files, I checked out all the stories from my childhood that I liked. There were so many that you wrote that I want thank you for my
childhood, as everyone else here does, too. (Audience applause)
M.E.: He's basically saying we all stole all our ideas from you. (Audience laughs)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Mr. Broome, I had a question regarding the current direction of Green Lantern. How do you feel about DC taking
your baby and turning Hal Jordan into a mass murderer?
SCHWARTZ: He knows nothing about that.
M.E.: DC has done a storyline in which Hal Jordan has become a mass murderer and gone crazy...
BROOME: I would never write that story! (Audience applause and shouts of approval)
DAN RASPLER: Mr. Broome, I'm an editor at DC Comics. I would just like to cordially offer you the opportunity to, if you have any
interest in writing a story for DC Comics, we would always be interest in talking with you. (Audience applause)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I wonder if you recall any of your favorite gimmicks that you came up with?
BROOME: That's a good question! As I've said, I think that is the key to a good, successful comic.
It's very hard to say what a successful gimmick is. A gimmick could be something like a banana peel. A typical example from
newspaper comics — in the old days, they used to show a guy walking along and he would slip on a banana peel and land on his head and that was
considered very funny.
But if you put a banana peel down on a villain who is running away from Green Lantern or Flash, you want him caught because he is an
evil person. Well, he slips on that banana at the right moment and the reader feels great. The reader feels fate overtook him. It's
what you used to say, Julie — "tragedy struck and fate intervened!" That was the slogan. We would joke and say. "At this
point, tragedy struck and fate intervened!" (Audience laughs)
M.E. again. This has been an edited transcript of maybe the best panel I've ever seen at any convention. Admittedly, what
made it great cannot be reproduced here. It was the massive amount of respect and affection that filled the room, emanating from the audience
to John Broome (and also between Broome and his collaborators, Julie Schwartz and Murphy Anderson).
At the end, Mr. Broome received a standing ovation that rocked the convention center. I hope, back in Tokyo where he now lives,
he's still hearing its echoes. It was loud enough that he should.