I keep meaning to send this letter off to The Believer, but I don’t get around to it. Nerves probably.
Letter to the Believer About Mort Weisinger
by Tom Crippen
One of my TCJ columns was all about Mort Weisinger, the miserable bent man who edited DC’s Superman titles during the 1950s and 1960s. I read a bunch of interviews in Alter Ego and so on (I don’t mean to sound offhand: the magazine makes for good reading) and I read a couple volumes of DC Showcase: Superman, plus old Weisinger Superman stories that were available on the Web (can’t find them now). I even sent away for some of Weisinger’s books: The Contest, 1001 Things You Can Get for Free, How to Be a Perfect Liar. I started with the idea that Weisinger was a jerk. Pretty soon I discovered that, yes, he really was. He was also banal to a degree that’s wonderful. You read Alan Moore rhapsodizing about the miracle conceits of the Weisinger period, and then you encounter the period’s mastermind and realize that behind the conceits lay a man who could not frame a worthwhile thought or write an interesting sentence. His brain had a big lobe for monkey-like ingenuity and no lobes for anything else. And of course he was a mess, an emotional slop pile, a heap of semi-liquid venom. He took delight in splattering anyone without the rank or assertiveness to tell him to lay off. If you want an idea of the low end of the human scale, spend some time researching Weisinger.
Because he was a mess and he had to churn out comics, Weisinger’s neuroses showed up in the Superman stories he oversaw. So it is with artists and neurosis. But Weisinger had very little talent — less, say, than a writer coming up with a funny dream sequence for The Dick Van Dyke Show. The Weisinger neuroses poke thru the stories like broken bones thru skin. God, are they painful. There’s no aesthetic payoff, just the fascination of the awful. But, okay, I’ll settle for that.
My column, called “The Night Thoughts of Mort Weisinger,” looked at a couple of Weisinger fave stories and dug out their abundant emotional subtext. To the extent that anyone reads my columns, this one was a success. So why not resell it? Weisinger seems like a good subject for The Believer, a general-interest magazine that runs articles on ’80s teen movies and the man behind a mid-century publishing imprint dedicated to educating the masses. The Believer, I mean to say, is fairly eclectic and doesn’t demand topical hooks for its articles. So why not an account of how this nasty heap’s emotional problems got imprinted on the favorite reading material of 10-year-old baby boomers? No reason at all, except I’m having trouble writing the letter. I’m just the diffident type.
There is the chance, of course, that someone at The Believer will browse along to this post and save me the distress of stepping forward. I did a post called “Question for Kurt Busiek or Mark Evanier” and, damn, they both wrote in. Conceivably I could write a post called “Will You Love Me, Emanuelle Béart?” and she could write in and say no.