By Arlen Schumer
To most of us who came of age reading DC comics during the early 1960s, Julius Schwartz became known to us through his letter columns first as "Ye Ed," before we knew his actual name. Those columns were where we first learned the art of the pun, because his erudite, witty retorts were rife with them - but always in a good-natured way, never mean-spirited. And he never failed to cap off each column with a tempting hint of what was to come, either in the next issue, or soon after that.
And what issues they were! Schwartz' roster of titles were the Cadillacs of DC Comics, a full cut above the other DC editors' titles, with the slickest artwork, the most interesting stories, and the greatest line-up of characters - even without (at first) DC's two biggest guns, Superman and Batman. Because in the pages of Schwartz' The Flash, Green Lantern, The Atom and Hawkman, filled with scientific fact and fantastic fiction, we kids felt we were not being treated like kids - which is how we did feel reading Mort Weisinger's Superman and Jack Shiff's Batman comics.
And besides, Schwartz had the team, the Justice League of America, which gave us his takes on the big two anyway (albeit in supportive, group roles). And soon enough Schwartz did helm DC's franchise characters - first Batman (who can forget the electric frisson when "The New Look" hit in 1964) and then Superman a couple of years later - and lifted those titans to heights they hadn't reached in years, in turn setting the bar for their titles so high that it took years after Schwartz left before either character attained those heights again.
By that time Schwartz had assumed his rightful position as Editor Emeritus and goodwill ambassador for DC - and comics in general. It was in this role that I invited Julie last Fall to help sign my comic book history art book - and was humbled when he accepted my invitation. That night, sitting next to him, the fabled editor of my favorite comics of my youth, ranks as one of the highest of the highlights of my comic book life and career.
Though he never told me explicitly whether he liked my book, I know he did, because I heard he proudly paraded it around the DC offices the day he got his advance copy. So when I leaned over and asked him if he would consider writing a blurb for the book's promotion, I was stunned when he looked at me like my request was a little out of line (a look I'm sure all of the writers in his past employ must have seen way more than once), and said he'd give me one word, and one word only! Pausing for dramatic effect, a slight mischievous grin on his face (mine puzzled), he said... "Super!"
Little did I, nor anyone else in attendance at the CUNY Grad Center in New York City the night of November 21, 2003 know that it was to be Julie's last public appearance. How fitting that it was in service of a book that was named for the Age of Comics he ushered in, and forever owned: The Silver Age of Comic Book Art.
- Arlen Schumer, April 27, 2004