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19 June 2017
On this day in 1915, Julius Schwartz was born in the Bronx, New York City. Throughout his long life, he was a fan, an editor, a literary agent and a giant in the field of comics. If DC Comics had a counterpart to Marvel‘s Stan Lee, that man was Julius Schwartz.
While still in his teens, he met a fellow fan, Mort Weisinger, who would become a lifelong friend and DC colleague, and together they produced what might very well be the first fanzine: The Time Traveller (along with Forrest J. Ackerman, the original ‘super-fan’). Two years later, the two friends founded Solar Sales Service, the first literary agency specifically dedicated to science fiction. Their clients included Alfred Bester, Otto Binder, Manly Wade Wellman – all of whom Weisinger would later recruit to write for DC – Leigh Brackett, Ray Bradbury and John Russell Fearn.
In 1939, Schwartz was one of the organisers of the first Worldcon, in New York.
To butcher a sporting metaphor: if the ref had blown the whistle then, you’d have named Schwartz Man of the Match, and declared him a legend of the game. But this was only half-time . . .
In 1944, Schwartz became an editor at DC Comics. A dozen years later, he spearheaded the reinvention of the superhero comic, moribund since the war, with the publication of Showcase Comics #4, introducing a new, updated Flash (police scientist Barry Allen in place of college student Jay Garrick, for those as nerdy as we are about such things). Similar re-inventions would follow quickly, with Golden Age characters such as Green Lantern and Hawkman losing their mystical origins and gaining new, scientific back stories. In 1961, under Schwartz’s editorship, the DC multiverse was created in the famous story ‘Flash of Two Worlds‘ (Flash #123).
Schwartz retired from DC in 1986, just as Marv Wolfman and George Perez‘s landmark Crisis on Infinite Earths was consolidating his multiverse into a single narrative, but he remained a ‘goodwill ambasador’ and editor emeritus until his death from pneumonia in 2004.
Happy Birthday, Julie!