setup 181114: Paul Levitz was a perfectly adequate editor in his own right, but I think it may have been DC’s policy that writers not edit their own work. I don’t know. At any rate the Legion at that time was edited by Karen Berger, to whom I addressed the following remarks. Nevertheless, Levitz himself handled the “Letters to the Editor” column because, well, I suspect because he liked to.
Herewith are my remarks from 1984 regarding Levitz’ and his collaborators’ super-heroic confabulation, The Legion of Super-Heroes, and in particular, their character, Dream Girl.
Brilliant. Just brilliant. I couldn’t have said it better myself. In LSH vol 2 number 310, Nura Nal coins her own best epitaph (and I hope she never needs it as such.)
Preparing for an action which, at best, will neatly suck Omen out of her universe and, at worst, kill her, her compatriots, and possibly all of Khundia, she succinctly sums up her existence and completely crystallizes her character.
“It’s been a fun life.”
Not, “It’s been a useful life,” nor “…a productive life,” nor “…a meaningful life,” nor any other of the abundant clichés of individual subordination. “It’s been a fun life.” Nura knows. I know. Paul Levitz apparently knows. (Whether or not he believes it himself. Steve Ditko obviously knows — see AVENGiNG WORLD.) If human existence has any purpose at all, it is the pursuit of pleasure. Whether we derive pleasure from a job well done, from helping others, or from helping ourselves, fundamentally we’re in the game for number one. It’s the human thing, we must depend first on ourselves for our own happiness. Aside from contractual obligations, nobody owes us anything, and we owe nobody our lives. Not our church, not our party, not our race, nor tribe, nor “society,” and certainly not the state.
Thank you Nura. Thank you Paul. Keep up the good word.
“Whew! One of the best parts of writing the Legion is seeing what depths of character readers can analyze out of brief sentences. While we’d agree with your analysis (largely) with respect to Nura, Lawrence, we’d hate to be accused of believing as our various characters do. — pl.”
update 181114: I don’t condemn Levitz’ hesitation to commit to radical individualism; Nura Nal and Steve Ditko and I represent the narrow end of that particular bell curve and I know how awkward it gets out here.
In spite of that, Paul Levitz remains a great personal hero of mine. In the mid to late 1970s he and Neal Adams led the charge to help Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster reclaim their interests in Superman. Going up for decades against the metastasizing goliath that had become Warner Communications, Seigel and Shuster had all but given up hope.
Adams gets a great deal of the credit for their eventual triumph, and he deserves it, but people often neglect this very impressive difference. At the time Neal Adams was a powerhouse in the industry. Just about every publisher in town was courting him and he was writing his own golden ticket. To speak of Adams as Adams himself might, “The son of a bitch carried some goddamned weight and the corporate suits dared not fuck with him.” If Warner held a grudge Adams could stroll across the street.
Paul Levitz, however, carried no such weight. He was admittedly a tyro writer and a rising star with an MBA on the way and Earth-Two’s Bat-Daughter in his portfolio, but still, he knew the history of DC AND Donenfeld’s toxic legacy. He knew what had happened to writers before him who had pushed too hard.
He pushed anyway.
For the Fathers of the Man of Steel, he couldn’t not push.
Paul Levitz and Neal Adams may disagree with me on matters of art or food or politics, but I still hold them both in the highest of esteem,
both as artists, and as men.
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