Barbara Friedlander-Bloomfield is a fascinating lady to speak with, who worked at DC Comics as an Editor, from 1964 through 1970. I have a Facebook online friend named Ken Quatro, who is a comic book historian, like myself. Ken frequently posts historical information on vintage comics and comic book creators; his Facebook comics articles are always interesting and very informative! Recently, Ken posted a brief article on Facebook, about a fascinating lady who was a DC Comics Editor, from 1964 through 1970, which follows.
Her name is Barbara Friedlander-Bloomfield.
Ken Quatro had posted info on her, including how to get in contact with her.
I jumped at the chance and asked her if I could interview her, for First Comics News
She graciously agreed to the interview!
I had previously seen my Facebook friend Ken Quatro’s post on Facebook about Barbara, which said this:
From Ken Quatro, on Facebook: ” On a subject related to my last post: In writing my article about Tony Abruzzo, I contacted a wonderful woman named Barbara Friedlander Bloomfield, who used to be an editor at DC circa 1964-1970. Barbara has many great stories to tell about DC and the people she worked with during the Silver Age and she asked me to let folks know that she is actively looking to make appearances at upcoming comic conventions. Obviously, there aren’t any conventions in the near future, but if you are planning one for next year, Barbara would make an excellent guest.”
First Comics News: Barbara, can you tell me, kindly, where you were born, and where you grew up and went to school?
Barbara Friedlander-Bloomfield: I was born in N.Y.C. in Manhattan General Hospital, and I was a total New York Girl! Still am, in a way. My Dad had a hardware store for well over forty years, in the west fifties. I went to grammar school (p.s.69) at 125 West 54th street High School and college, all in N.Y.C. So I remember my city, the good, the bad and with all that, I still love her. My Dad passed away when I was in my senior year of High School, and the family ran the hardware store, but I was at loose ends. So I went to Hunter College at night for a while, and then I got the bright idea to get a paying job, by day. This idea changed my life.
1st: Barbara, How old were you when you went to work for DC Comics, and when approximately was that? Also, how did you find out about that job being listed at that time, who invited you in to be interviewed for that position, and do you remember who at DC Comics interviewed you for that job?
Barbara: DC Comics was my second interview. I interviewed for a job as a file clerk. So, I was a file clerk, and that was all I expected it to be. See, I never read Superman, etc. I had no interest in the world of Super Duper stuff. I was an Archie, Millie the Model, and a Brenda Starr kind of gal. I was nineteen.
1st: Can you tell us what types of work you had done (prior) to working for DC Comics, and where?
Barbara: At the time, I was at DC comics, my first job. It was still a very small shop. Yes, it had a well-staffed bullpen, headed by Sol Harrison and Jack Adler.
1st: Jack C. Harris, perhaps. He was there at DC/ ‘National Periodical Publications’, then.
Barbara: They were the head of the colorists, and letterers, and everything in between. I was friendly with all these people, Walter Herlicheck, Ira Schnap, and Gaspar Saladino. Sol Harrison and I got along very well, and his ideas for new looks in comics were dynamic. He created the checker-board stripe across the top of DC Comics, to set them apart from other comic mags. He was always pushing for new ideas. He wanted to push DC out of just doing heroes and villains, and so ‘Teen Beam’ was born. I was put in charge of getting material for a teenage rock star, celebrity, and Hollywood book. Jack Miller and several other talented folks were editors, writers, and photographers, and they all did the layouts and the mockups. I learned on the job. I had to, and with a little help from Jack Miller, I was conducting my first interview with the English rock group, Herman’s Hermits. I learned almost everything, on the spot, AND because I HAD TO.
1st: Do you happen to remember which comics titles (and issue #s) you worked on, either in terms of writing or editing them?
Barbara: Hello, I created the characters in Swing With Scooter; I believe that lasted into the seventies, as well.
1st: Yes, Swing With Scooter started in 1966 and lasted until late 1962. It lasted thirty-six issues, which was actually a rather impressive run (for DC Comics) at that time, when numerous comics series from DC, at that time, were lasted a total of about five or six issues. Here’s a look at all of the Swing With Scooter covers from that series, from The Grand Comics Database, online: comics.org
Barbara: Joe Orlando (so talented and so funny) gave my babies form and features. Yes, you are correct in assuming I had no knowledge of how this type of book was formatted. Yes, and so I, after speaking to Jack Miller, who was my mentor and who helped others, as well — I hunted and pecked and pecked and hunted, and I just did it. I know it’s hard to believe, but this is my truth. I wrote and co-edited Scooter until I couldn’t add anything else to it, and then I was more than happy to let it go.
1st: I don’t find that hard to believe, at all. When a person has to do something, they just find it in themselves to do it, or they don’t, and you were very clearly, up to the task! I understand that you, yourself, were depicted (drawn) into certain issues of DC’s 1960’s Silver Age Inferior Five. Ken Quatro mentioned these depictions of yourself in those issues were ‘less than flattering.’ What can you tell us about that, and how you felt and feel about that? What was the situation?
Barbara: I actually like the Inferior Five spoof of me. If you google me under only Barbara Friedlander, there are a ton of pics you can use. Please let me know if this answers your questions.
1st: Yes, that’s great, Barbara. What can you tell us about both Jay Scott Pike, as well as your dealing with him? Also, were you two friends?
Barbara: Jay Scott Pike was a complete professional, and a well-dressed gentleman. He was very good-looking, and he had a shaved head. While others fussed with bald spots, I think he dealt with it, way ahead of his time. All I can say is I was so happy to have him put faces on the characters I created, for my continuing dramas. Three Girls, and Reach for Happiness. These two soaps lasted long after I left DC, and I was very proud to contribute a new format to romance books. I knew Scott could draw superheroes, and he worked for other editors also, at the time. I’m not sure Scott ever put up with the melodramatic outbursts of Mort (Weisinger) or Bob (or anyone else for that matter. He seemed to be a very rational guy.
1st: How did you find out about that job being listed at that time, who invited you in to be interviewed for that position, and do you remember who at DC Comics interviewed you for that job?
Barbara: To make a long story short, and in the interest of interesting quirks, some of my subjects, along with Biology, logic, speech, and English, there was also writing. I showed a few of my efforts to the DC romance Editor, Jack Miller, and he said, “How about you try a romance story, and if it’s good, you can be a freelance writer and a file clerk?”
1st: What types of work, specifically, did you do as an editor at DC Comic in those early years, for you? Can you give us some specifics, vis-a-vie your day to day work, and what was involved in it? Also, What other editors, if any, did you also work with, at DC Comics during those years? Who did you report to?
Barbara: From the start, I felt really out of my league. Fortunately, Jack Miller liked my work and so did Irwin Donenfeld, and since Irwin did the hiring and firing and promoted folks, he was the one I had to please. Sol Harrison, head of the Bull Pen and a really forward thinker, also liked my work. This all made a difference, and I guess I was on a fast track. I was made Associate Editor, in 1966.
1st: This being the 1960’s, and since comics as an industry, was, at that time, mostly peopled by males, were there any problems you experienced, in terms of chauvinism, from staff, including men you reported to, freelancers, such as writers and artists, and/or other editors?
Barbara: Most of the time the “real” editors only tolerated my work. That was fine by me because I would never enter their realms. let’s face it, they were the adults, and I was ‘just a GIRL.’
1st: That’s unfortunate, and certainly not fair.
Barbara: Yes, it was a time when females were seen as out of place, and here’s the classic example! Irwin Donenfeld wanted me around, and to learn everything about comics. He sent me to Sheldon Mayer, the creator of Sugar and Spike, to have me learn about different realms of comic book writing. Then, in the same breath, he refused to give me a raise because, even though I was doing the same work as the male editors (granted, in a different sphere), I didn’t have a rent to pay, or a family to support. Double standard, n’est pas?
1st: I understand. And I agree with you, Barbara. Whether you were out, living on your own, having to pay for an apartment, etcetera, (or) still living at home with mom and dad as a teenager, this shouldn’t have been a question on their minds, let alone asking you about those topics, because you can bet these questions were never (also) put to their (male) employees when considering their pay level, or pay raises, etc… Did you also end up writing any of the comics’ scripts? And, if so, which ones? Also, what can you tell us about DC’s Tony Abruzzo?
Barbara: Hello, I created Swing With Scooter! Joe Orlando gave those characters their faces and their swagger, and I was the storyline creator and birther. I loved soap operas, and so I created three girls, their lives, their loves, and their reach for happiness. I fought to get Jay Scott Pike, who was so terrific when it came to illustrating females and beautiful settings. I loved Tony Abruzzo’s work, and I tried to get him to do work for me, very often.
1st: Here’s a quote about him which I found, online: “Tony Abruzzo was an American comic book artist, who worked mainly on stories for the romance comic books published by National Periodicals/DC Comics in the 1950s and 1960s. He was born as Anthony Abruzzo into a family of Italian descent, and educated at the Pratt Institute and the Traphagen Institute of Design.” Swing With Scooter was awesome, Barbara! If memory serves, I think Swing With Scooter first appeared in DC’s ‘Showcase’ title. Nope, ixnay on that. I checked, and it turns out that Swing With Scooter first appeared in ‘Swing With Scooter’ # 1. The title lasted thirty-six issues, from 1966 through 1972, which was considered a fairly healthy run at the time, for a new, at the time, DC title. So many other NEW at the time DC titles, like you yourself, mentioned earlier, didn’t last very long at all, despite the quality of many of them. And, more’s the pity. Two of those were Steve Ditko’s (illustrated by) titles The Hawk and The Dove, and The Creeper, and so many others. A handful of years later, (in 1975), the so-called, at the time, the so-called ‘DC Implosion’ took down a lot of short-run (as a result) DC comics titles, including First Issue Special, Claw The Unconquered, Starfire (not the later Teen Titan, but rather, a female sword and sorcery female character of the same, but earlier, name), Beowulf, the 70’s relaunch of Challengers of The Unknown, Blackhawk, and Plastic Man, Hercules Unbound, as well as DC Special, Black Magic, The Joker, Richard Dragon Kung Fu Fighter, Secrets of Haunted House, Justice Inc., (featuring the vintage Pulp magazine character The Avenger), Ghost Castle, Tor, Kong The Untamed, Steve Ditko’s Stalker, Batman Family, Sherlock Holmes (only a single issue was ever released), Superman Family, Weird Mystery Tales, Young Love, Young Romance, Isis, Steve Ditko’s Man Bat (only two issues published), All Star Squadron, Blitzkrieg, Kobra, and The Phantom Stranger. Although, this said, this (second) Phantom Stranger series, one of DC’s best, had a very healthy, long run, one of my top favourites. Were there any particular people at DC, who you became very close or friendly too? Do any particular names stand out to you? What did other editors and writers and artists and writers think of your work at DC Comics? Also, can you kindly tell us What other women were working at DC Comics at the time you were there and did you become friends with any of them?
Barbara: The only other women working at DC, at the time were the clerical staff. I was the lone female among the guys. These ladies did not exactly make me feel welcome at their coffee breaks. So, I learned to smoke and drink coffee with the likes of Bob Haney, Arnold Drake, Walter H., and once in a while with Irwin Donenfeld’s daughter. Once in a while we’d all go to a pub called Dawson’s and be met with other staffers like Joe Orlando ( a swell guy) and some freelancers. It was fun.
1st: By the way, Barbara, here is some information that I found online about Harry (the father) Donenfeld, and his son Irwin, and his daughter, Sonia: “Donenfeld was posthumously named in 1985 as one of the honorees by DC Comics in the company’s 50th-anniversary publication Fifty Who Made DC Great. Family. Harry’s son Irwin Donenfeld was born in 1926 and worked for the firm from 1948 to c. 1968, holding the titles of Editorial Director and Executive Vice President. Harry’s daughter Sonia (known as “Peachie”) was born in 1927.” As talented in their job duties as they were, there have been a lot of stories in the comics fan press that 1960’s DC Comics editors Robert Khaniger and Mort Weisinger were hard to get along with. Did you ever have any run-ins with either of them?
Barbara: Yes, it’s true that Bob (Khaniger) and Mort (Weisinger) were tough. Mort was a real meany, and he worked hard at making artists and writers squirm. He would often come into my office that I shared with Jack Miller and Nelson, and he would lace into Nelson to the point of torture. Once in a while, Jack would tell him to lay off, but the chubby man (Mort) was not easily stopped. Khaniger had very little to do with me; he often avoided me, but once in awhile, I’d interact with him, and I think I made him uncomfortable – you could tell by the odd look on his face. The guys did not know what to make of me. I was young and pretty, and at times they may have felt threatened by me, for no reason. These were uncertain times, DC was about to be taken over by Time Warner, and they all felt their jobs were in jeopardy. Nobody really knew where they stood. These were grown men with families to support. Me, I was just another thing to reckon with. I was not a favorite of the pencilers and inkers, who I didn’t work with, but who Jack Miller did. He understood that these artists may not have had the look I was going for, but who had their own special looks. In other words, I was too picky.
1st: What can you tell us about Jack Miller? What was he like?
Barbara: Jack Miller was a kind and generous editor and writer. I recently had a very pleasant lunch with Jack Miller’s Grandson, Peter. Peter is a very fine young man, and I was delighted to tell him how Jack was a mentor to me, and a friend to many young people who were interested in writing, and creating projects. Jack, himself, was an anglophile; he even smoked Player’s cigarettes and wore English tailored suits and ties. He bought first edition books by English authors. His favorite films included ones with Laurence Olivier, Leigh, Coward, and Mills, etc. He loved fine music, and he wrote and directed plays. All this is part of my history, and I have a wealth of knowledge, because of Jack E. Miller. Peter told me about all the DC characters that Jack created, and how Jack’s name appears as a creator in the credits of many films and DC books. Jack was also modest.
1st: I’ve read stories that, when people who work or who have worked for comics companies, are at parties or other get-togethers, and who are, at times, asked what they do for a living, that they at times will fib, and not confess that they work or have worked for comics, especially back in those halcyon years, feeling that comics were not, back then, a really accepted art form. Did you ever come across situations like that?
Barbara: In answer to your other questions, my own three kids had no idea as to my time at DC.
They fully learned and are still learning, when I was on a Mohegan Sun panel about 60-70’s comics, at DC. I believe the year was 2017 or 2018. ” Really, Mom ?” I really had to GOOGLE myself as Barbara Friedlander, to get back in the game again. So, I am looking for love again, and have written several love stories for Ken Wheaton and his group. I wrote a story for a revival of fifties “Jetta Rae” and a story for a comic book anthology. I guess I am back in the game again. My friends and pals think it’s great that I’ve been “recycled.” Call me, I need the work.
1st: At what part of 1970 did you decide to leave DC Comics, and why did you leave? Did it have anything to do with the male culture at DC at that time?
Barbara: I think I left DC when I was about twenty-three. I left to get married. I wanted to have children, and what I thought was a more conventional life. I did freelance work for a while, but I really wanted to raise my three children, and be a PTA mom.
I have found I could have done both, probably, and I guess I should have. Later, as my kids got older, I became an antique dealer.
This I truly loved. Now, I would like to freelance again, because I think I have finally grown into myself. I hope you all can understand that every life is a journey.
1st: At my age, I can completely understand that. And, of course, no one is the ‘same person’, exactly (and most of us, probably, far from it), that we were, at age twenty-three, and at our current age. When I was twenty-one, for example, I was an idealistic, romantic fool, who trusted everyone, including the woman I loved. But something really bad happened in my life, at that time, that made me ‘grow up’ really darn fast, along with a lot of pain; a quick, painful maturity. I learned the world is a lot more complicated than I had thought. Barbara, I want to take a moment to tell you both how much I have enjoyed talking with you about those days of yours at DC Comics, from 1964 through late 1970, firstly. And, secondly, I want to let you know how grateful and happy I am, that you so graciously agreed to this interview For First Comics News, to begin with! Additionally, I hope to be hearing in the future, that you have indeed attended numerous Comic Cons, as is your wish! You are filled with a wealth of information of those early days working in comics, and I just know that you’ll have a lot more to say about it, at those Comic Cons! Again, thank you. It’s indeed been a great pleasure speaking to you!