When you step off the elevator on the seventh floor of 1700 Broadway, you know instantly you're not in just any old midtown Manhattan office building. At DC Comics' headquarters, you're greeted with a wall-size mural of the Metropolis skyline, the fictional reflection of New York City in the Superman comics.
Getting a camera inside DC Comics is no mean feat, since photos can potentially reveal sensitive storyline information, but Crave managed to get a good look around during a recent visit.
The other is the Dark Knight himself, obviously in town to pick up his monthly royalty check. Notably missing is Wonder Woman, the third character that DC promotes as part of its "holy trinity." Maybe she's present in her invisible plane, though.
On each of the three floors taken up by DC Comics, the elevators open onto a different mural. This one shows the stages involved in the making of a comic-art page. It starts with the script from a recent issue of Action Comics. Then come the unvarnished pencils, then the inked pencils, then the colored version of the art. Finally, the word balloons and captions are added.
On DC's third floor, the elevators open onto a massive mural that's only partially pictured here. It shows all the major and many of the minor characters in DC's pantheon, each drawn by a different artist, with the artist's signature floating above.
The signatures are not located directly above the character a given artist drew, so the mural becomes an interactive game that lets you test your knowledge of comic art. A guide to the right of the mural reveals who drew which character.
Other memorabilia includes classic items like this Superman pinball machine. As part of the strict rules about what could and couldn't be photographed, collectibles that carried the likenesses of actors playing the characters -- such as a Batman movie pinball machine depicting Michael Keaton -- were verboten.
Pictured is part of a glass case of Mad Magazine memorabilia, near the Mad editors' offices. Mad Magazine was bought in the 1960s by the conglomerate that eventually became Time Warner, and it was folded into the DC Comics editorial structure in 1992 after co-founder and publisher Bill Gaines died.
Sam Viviano, Mad's art director for the past decade, had fewer concerns about photos being snapped than others at DC. That might have something to do with the fact that Mad is often in hot water for its satire, so how much more damage could one more roaming reporter with a camera do?
You're looking at the much-vaunted "What, me worry?" Alfred E. Neuman attitude in action.
This page of original art was drawn in 1955 by Jack Davis for Mad creator Harvey Kurtzman, who rejected it for unknown reasons, Viviano said. It was meant to accompany "A Guide to Better Understanding the Fine Old Art of Boxing," a rare story written by Fold-In creator and artist Al Jaffee. Instead of patching over the change and redrawing the correction, Davis redrew the entire piece. It appeared in Mad's issue 26 in November 1955, only the third issue of Mad in magazine form.
Somehow, it missed the many Mad art auctions that were held over the years, and remained in the DC/Mad flat-file archives to show nosy visitors.
Viviano explained that 1950s-era artists had their tricks. One was using posterboard that had been treated with special chemicals by the paper manufacturer. When another chemical, also sold by the same company, was applied to it, that created a cross-hatch pattern. The artist could use this to create instant shading, the kind that's often achieved on computers these days.
In the office of DC's now-former public-relations director David Hyde, a rack shows all the comics the company published that week. (Hyde quit after 10 years on the job between when this gallery was shot and when it was published.)
On another shelf in Hyde's office are graphic-novel collections of some of DC's best-known comics, like Alan Moore's Swamp Thing, and action figures depicting characters like The Creeper, Black Lightning, and a vampire Batman.