Saturday, January 5, 2013

BobRo Archives: "Son of Sam" and the Comics Industry

I was asked recently about an old column I'd written about the "Son of Sam" killings. Here, from the archives, is a lightly-edited version of what I wrote in 2000...

   Back in 1977, New York City neighborhoods were being terrorized by a serial killer known as the “Son of Sam.” The 44-Caliber Killer, as he was also known, had targeted brunette women and their boyfriends, most of them parked in “Lovers’ Lanes.”
   The killer had eluded the police for almost a year and frustrated his pursuers with correspondence to local newspapers. In his handwritten letters, he claimed that a large black dog named Sam who embodied a century-old spirit had ordered him to kill repeatedly.
   Looking for any possible clue to the Son of Sam’s identity, the NYPD detectives acted upon someone’s suggestion that the block lettering used in the correspondence could have been the handiwork of someone who did it for a living. Coupled with the idea of 1,000-year-old spirits and talking dogs (not unlikely situations in some of the books) that brought them to the offices of DC Comics (and, one presumes, Marvel, Archie, and the newspaper syndicates as well) to see if anyone recognized the writing.

   At the time, I was Assistant Production Manager at DC. One of my jobs was assigning the lettering work, so it was not surprising when I was called into President Sol Harrison’s office and asked if I could suggest anyone. Though the lettering might have had a look of professionalism to an untrained eye, I quickly pointed out that it was far too inconsistent to be anything we would have used.
   When Sol and Production Manager Jack Adler agreed with my evaluation, the detectives thanked us and went on their way. But the story doesn’t end there…
   Upon hearing why I’d been called into Sol’s office, a few of my cohorts had their own ideas about who might be the Son of Sam, including a couple of fellow staffers. The most convincing argument, however, was made for a somewhat reclusive artist whose ultra-conservative leanings might have made him a suspect as the killer of “loose” women. We did not, however, share any of this with the NYPD.
   Not long afterwards, David Berkowitz, a 24-year-old postal worker, was tracked down and apprehended on August 10th, thanks to a parking ticket he’d received while on one of his murderous outings. That's an ending you might have expected in a comic book story...


  1. Mr. Rozakis,big fan of your work especially in the Batman corner. I noticed that Showcase Presents Teen Titans still had one volume left (vol.3) to complete the series. It had stopped at #37 and never have seen anything for a third volume to finish through #53. The second volume was released way back in October 2007. I know you are the right from #44-#53 and was wondering if you know anything about why the third volume of Teen Titans never was released or has yet to be released. I'm still eager to pick it up ot finish the set. Thanks for your time and giving this Gen Y reader some of the best stories ever!

    1. It is likely that DC will not publish that third Teen Titans Showcase volume because of the reprint royalties agreement that is in place for that work. See my blog installment for more infoabout that.

  2. Bob, I'm sorry you weren't one of my instrutors at CTY!

  3. Wow, this is a pretty darned interesting story. I'm sure Bob isn't going to spill the beans, but I wonder who the suspected Son of Sam at DC was?

  4. Sounds like Ditko, but I could be wrong, and of course they were only joking.

  5. Alex Toth had pretty similar hand-writing.