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Friday, May 16, 2008

Dick Giordano Week, Part 5 - Interview

What can I say?

I was thrilled--thrilled--to get to talk to the Dick Giordano, and he could not have been nicer to interview. He answered all my questions and then some. Take it away, Mr. G!:

Aquaman Shrine: Were you familiar with Aquaman much when you were assigned to edit the book?

Dick Giordano: Generally. My main information was gathered from the two people who interviewed me for the editorial position, Carmine Infantino and Irwin Donenfeld. They thought the editorial direction, which was based on the popular Saturday morning cartoon TV show, was wrong for the audience we were trying to attract. After reviewing the material, I agreed whole heartedly and formulated a plan of sorts.

AMS: One of the frequent comments I've read about your editorial style was, essentially, it was very hands-off. You hired who you thought were the right people for the job and then let them do it. Did this style develop over time or did you come into editing with it already in mind?

DG: As a freelancer, I came to recognize that my best work was done without a strong editorial hand dictating. I was hands off after I sat down with my creative people and we discussed the approach we would be taking.

After that was decided, I let them loose. It was, however, my idea to have Aquaman lose Mera, leave Aquatot, and the family walrus behind and explore new undersea worlds not shown previously in his quest to find Mera. I described it to them as a combination of Star Trek and The Fugitive but otherwise left them to their own devices on how to achieve these ends.
Jim submitted finished, lettered art without my having even seen the pencils and the only other editing I did on the series was editing down Steve's copy...with his prior knowledge. He had at that time a tendency to overwrite dialogue and I told him write the hell out of it...I'll edit to fit the art.

Years later, I read an interview with Steve in which he said that I had spoiled a plot point in an issue by my editing his copy. I don't remember the circumstances but I wish Steve had said something at the time that the gaff occurred.

AMS: Skeates and Aparo were certainly a good team. Did anyone within DC ever take notice? Something like "Hey, this Aquaman book you guys are doing is really working"?

DG: Actually, no! For reasons unknown to me, management said nothing at the time. I think Carmine and/or Irwin didn't personally like my approach. I got raves from the fans and sometimes from members of the editorial staff and freelancers.

In 1980, when I returned to my editorial desk at DC, Paul Levitz told me that sales records had been found that indicated Steve's and Jim's Aquaman was a sales success!

AMS: In an interview I did with Craig Hamilton, he said this of you: "He saw my portfolio and said come into the office, and there I got to meet Dick Giordano, which was just a thrill beyond measure. When I broke in I was so blessed to have people like Joe Orlando and Dick Giordano looking over my shoulder, teaching me as I worked."

Did you step in to help younger artists who you thought needed it, seeing it as part of your job?

DG: Yep! Did then and I still do. Seeing an artist mature is just as much a kick as seeing your children learn to walk! My current assistant is Rob Jones and he has grown as an artist in great spurts! He's currently reworking the origin to a self published title called Perfect Storm.
AMS: Did Neal Pozner come to you with his Aquaman mini-series proposal fully written out, or was it more just a germ of an idea? Did you have much input in the direction of it?

DG: Neal had an idea and I asked for an outline. He was shocked when I said, "Write it." I don't recall that I had much input with the idea but I certainly helped him over the speedbumps as work progressed.

AMS: When he proposed changing Aquaman's costume, was there a consideration towards the impact in licensing? While he's no Superman or Batman, Aquaman still did appear in a lot of merchandise outside of the comics.

DG: I'm an editor. My responsibilities are to turn in stories that are fun to read and cool to look at! Licensing can, and this case, did, ignore a new costume as having never happened. I was not asked to cease and desist...I would have, if so ordered.

Speaking of merchandising, your work certainly appeared on a lot of it. Did you pursue this work? Was it more fun for you doing these single-type illustrations instead of sequential storytelling?
DG: More fun, no! My pleasure is still sequential story telling, as it was then. It was fun to be able to use a different skillset but my involvement in licensing art was more practical matter.

Joe Orlando was in charge of Special Projects and he could call me upstairs to his office, give me instructions, reference and/or a script and sometimes get it back, finished, at the open of business the following morning. He knew of my routine of getting up at 4am and working until 7 or so before coming into the office. If it was a three hour job, he had finished art some sixteen hours after it was assigned. Joe also trusted me to know the needs of art that sells product or ideas...that's what we did at Continuity (with partner Neal Adams) before I came to DC.

AMS: When you found that you had skills as an editor as well as artist, did you find that as satisfying? For example, would you have ever wanted to be, say, the artist on Aquaman, or was it just as rewarding to oversee Skeates and Aparo and guide their work?

DG: I found a separate satisfaction in penciling, inking or editing. I enjoyed each and the different skill set used to do each job. I generally focused on the job at hand and was satisfied to let others enjoy doing their jobs.

I grew up enjoying and loving Mr. Giordano's work as both a penciler and an inker, and then as an editor through his regular Meanwhile... columns, where he gave readers a peek behind the curtain at a big time comic book company. For someone always just as interested in The Story Behind The Story, these columns were utterly fascinating to me.

This wraps up our Dick Giordano Week. I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did putting it together. And, most of all, thanks Dick, for the interview, the sketch, and all the amazing work over the years!


The Irredeemable Shag said...

What a great interview and a great week of Giordano topics!


The Irredeemable Shag

Anonymous said...

He definitely seems like an officer and a gentlemen...and a hell of a talent, to boot. Great job, Rob, and to Mr. Giordano I say, thank YOU and good afternoon.

Adama said...

Wow Rob, what a great interview! Mr. Giordano sounds like an amazing person.

Anonymous said...

Great interview Rob. Mr. Giordano has always seemed like one of the classiset guys in comics, and that has come through again here.


Plaidstallions said...

One of the true giants from my childhood, thanks Rob for that awesome interview.