Friday, May 8, 2009

It's The Answer Man

My daughter Sammi called me yesterday afternoon with an amusing story. One of the teachers in the school where she's been student teaching had just realized who I am. "Your father is The Answer Man!" he told her with great enthusiasm. "He's famous!"

In 1976, when I moved from DC's Editorial department into Production, one of the tasks I took up was the proofreading of all the books. (Yes, I was being paid to read comic books!) Not long after I started doing so, I proposed a weekly house ad page to company president Sol Harrison: A faux newspaper highlighting the events in upcoming issues. Of course, it would be called The Daily Planet, named for the "great metropolitan newspaper" that was home to Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White. I did a sample, writing the "news" and using photostats of cover art as "photos." Sol liked the idea, especially since I was doing the work on staff time and it didn't really cost anything, and gave his go-ahead. And so, I became the editor of The Daily Planet.

From 1976 through 1981, the Daily Planet pages ran in the DC books. In addition to the promos about upcoming books, I came up with trivia quizzes, mini-crosswords and word find puzzles for the pages. And a few months into the run, while going through some letters from readers asking about various DC characters, I came up with the idea of running a Q&A column, dubbing myself The Answer Man.

Well, it took a little while to catch on, but after I started printing the readers' names with their questions, the letters started pouring in. (Everyone, it seemed, wanted to see their name in a comic book!) The amount of mail became so overwhelming that I created a second page, "It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's the Answer Man," devoted entirely to readers' questions, just to handle the backlog.

It is an identity that has stayed with me ever since. I have been listed in comic convention booklets as Bob "Answer Man" Rozakis and wrote an online column for four years titled "It's BobRo, The Answer Man." (They are archived at http://www.comicsbulletin.com/bobro/archive.htm for those of you who want more to read.)

And there have been moments, like the one Sammi experienced yesterday, when someone suddenly makes the connection. One came in the early 80s, when I was in a comics shop. A boy about ten or eleven years old stopped, pointed his finger at me and said, "You're the Answer Man!" I nodded and he ran out of the store.

About ten years ago, during the CTY summer program, I was sitting at dinner and one of my colleagues turned to me and said, "Hey, wait a minute -- you're the Answer Man! I sent you a question once!" He did not know if it had ever been published because he did not buy that many comic books. I asked him what the question was and when he told me, I gave him the answer. So what if it took twenty years...


[For a brief history and a look at some of the Daily Planet pages, check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daily_Planet_(DC_Comics_house_advertisement) and http://www.dailyplanetpages.com/ ]

4 comments:

  1. So you answered the boy and he ran out of the store. What do we make of this? Was his life fulfilled? Did you growl at him? Did the ice-cream truck lumber by? Was he eager to come up with another question?

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  2. He was in such awe he could not think of anything else to say. I think it was something akin to coming across Bigfoot in the forest.
    Perhaps he tells the tale to this day of his fateful meeting with the fabled Answer Man.

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  3. "All right, class, what do these locations have in common? Loch Ness in Scotland; the great north woods of Canada; and Elmont in New York?"

    I loved the Answer Man columns. Gave me a chance to match wits with the greatest comic mind at DC Comics (well, the greatest one actively answering questions... no offense, but I hear that Mr. Bridwell was THE expert.)

    I remain,
    Sincerely,
    Eric L. Sofer
    The Silver Age Fogey
    x<]:o){

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  4. Loch Ness, the woods and Elmont are home to famous mythical beings: The monster, Bigfoot, and the Answer Man.

    Nelson Bridwell was indeed THE expert.

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