Mindy Newell: Go West, Young Man
Editor, New York Tribune
July 13, 1865 Editorial
The New York Tribune, established in 1841, was the most progressive and influential newspaper of its day. Horace Greeley, founder and editor of the paper, was a notable social reformer and political activist and through his leadership, the Tribune advocated for abolition, the legal protection of unions, protectionism (known today as anti-globalization or anti-free trade), and against nativism, the political position of demanding a favored status for certain established inhabitants of a nation as compared to claims of newcomers or immigrants. (In modern America Greely would be considered a leftist liberal Democrat, though in the antebellum, Civil War, and eras those beliefs belonged to the Republican nee Whig Party.)
Today a statue of Greeley sits at 33rd Street and Broadway in Greely Square, directly across the street and south of Herald Square, home to Macy’s and the end point of the Thanksgiving Day parade where the Rockettes do their famous line kick dance every fourth Thursday of November.
I know that statue well, for Greely Square is also across the street (and above) from the 33rd PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) terminus. And the PATH train was the way I commuted into New York City whenever I needed be at DC Comics, back when the company “lived” at 666 Fifth Avenue.
Last week – Tuesday, Tuesday, October 22, to be exact – Diane Nelson, President of DC Entertainment, sent a memo to DC employees. You might have seen it already, but here it is:
Dear DCE Team,
As I hope you know, I and the entire DCE exec team work hard to offer transparency about as much of our business plans and results as we possibly and responsibly can. In an effort to continue to do that where possible and to ensure you are hearing news from us, rather than a third party, I am proactively reaching out to you this afternoon to share news about our business.
I can confirm that plans are in the works to centralize DCE’s operations in 2015. Next week, the Exec Team will be in New York for a series of meetings to walk everyone through the plans to relocate the New York operations to Burbank. The move is not imminent and we will have more than a year to work with the entire company on a smooth transition for all of us, personally and professionally.
Everyone on the New York staff will be offered an opportunity to join their Burbank colleagues and those details will be shared with you individually, comprehensively and thoughtfully next week. Meeting notifications will be sent tomorrow to ensure the roll out* of this information and how it affects the company and you personally.
We know this will be a big change for people and we will work diligently to make this as smooth and seamless a transition as possible.
My first reaction when I saw it was “Oh, maaaaaan.” My second reaction was “knew it was going to happen.”
My third reaction was sadness, and, surprisingly, since it’s been thirty (!) years since I first stepped onto the PATH train in Jersey City (New Jersey) and took it to 33rd Street and Greely Square to walk up the Avenue of the Americas and west on 53rd Street to 666 Fifth Avenue and the offices of DC Comics, a feeling of dislocation. I felt cast adrift, even though 99% of my friends and co-workers no longer work at DC, and, in fact, the office itself has long since moved to 1700 Broadway, across from the Ed Sullivan Theatre, home of the David Letterman Show.
Many people on various websites have commented on the move. The news media picked it up, including a rather stupid, no, correct that, very stupid piece on WPIX Channel 11 (CW-NYC) while on break at work on Wednesday. I suppose the segment producers thought they were being clever, because they tied the news into some guy who wants to start a “superhero” school in the city, although actually it looked more like self-defense classes for kids. As far as the DC thing, they showed animated Superman and Batman, etc. on the screen, and then the reporter signed off and “flew off.”
But no one thought of the history behind the thousands of four-color pages produced by DC. No one thought of interviewing Michael Chabon, author of The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier And Clay, the Pulitzer Prize winning novel that chronicles the rise of the comics industry in New York City though thinly veiled characters based on Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and dozens of other early comics professionals. No one thought to interview those writers and artists who made their name at DC.
And no one thought of the history behind the hundreds of thousands of four-color adventures that started out as a way for those writers and artists to earn a living during the Depression and became the mythology of the 20th century, a doorway into imagination for generations, for hundreds of thousands of dreamers who grew up to become artists and writers and police officers and f, refighters and astronauts and astrophysicists because of those four-color pages, those adventures of Superman and Batman and the Flash and Wonder Woman and Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter and so many, many more, inspired them.
Yes, Marvel Comics is still here. (But for how long?) Yes, many of those who created those adventures never lived in New York City or its surroundings, originally mailing in their work, then faxing in it, then e-mailing their pages over the internet. Yes, Marvel Comics is still here. (But for how long?) And, yes, New York City will always be the city of dreams for the millions who come here to start or restart their lives.
But the citizens of the great metropolis will never again look up in the sky and cry, “Look! Is it a bird? Is it a plane?”
No, it was DC Comics, home to the supermen and superwomen who lived here, if only in the imaginations of those who loved them.
*By the way, Diane, there’s a typo in the memo. It’s “rollout,” not “roll out.”)
TUESDAY MORNING: Emily S. Whitten
TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis