COMICS FEATURE #10 (July 1981)

E. Nelson Bridwell (September 22, 1931 – January 23, 1987) is a name that should be familiar to every fan of DC Comics’ Silver Age. Starting at DC in 1965 as assistant to Superman editor Mort Weisinger, Nelson would spend the next thirty years helping shape the adventures of the Superman family of characters as both an editor and a writer. Nelson had an encyclopedic mind and was an expert on not only DC’s history and continuity, but the Bible and the works of Shakespeares as well, but we knew him mainly as the company’s Chief Continuity Cop.

Nelson was one of the first professionals I ever met, in 1971 when Paul Levitz and I went up to DC to gather news for our fanzine Etcetera (later The Comic Reader). Later, he would serve as my collaborator or editor on two of my early high profile assignments, 1979’s World of Krypton (comics’ first deliberate miniseries) and 1981’s Secrets of the Legion of Super-Heroes. As a writer on his own, Nelson wrote for Mad Magazine (1956 – 1975), created the original Secret Six (1968), and the humor series Inferior 5 (1966) and the Maniaks (1967), as well as writing the Batman syndicated newspaper strip and Shazam! The Original Captain Marvel (1974 – 1978, 1982 – 1983), the Legion of Super-Heroes, Supergirl, and countless other stories.

For all his contributions, Nelson Bridwell kept himself mostly to the background. He was naturally shy and soft-spoken, a man who I sometimes felt wasn’t ever quite comfortable in his own skin (but who was also a practicing nudist), overwhelmed by his brasher and more bombastic bosses, first Weisinger, then Julius Schwartz, neither of whom, I’m sorry to say, treated him with the respect he deserved not only as a person and employee, but for his contributions to the DC mythos.

I don’t know how many hours I spent in Nelson’s office, either on business or just talking comics. He seldom discussed his personal life beyond the occasional mention of his family back in Oklahoma. I don’t remember many fanzine interviews with him over the years, but recently came across this one in the pages of New Media Publishing’s Comics Feature #10 (July 1981), the same issue in which my and Carl Gafford’s 1973 interview with artist Murphy Anderson first saw print (and which is reprinted in my book Direct Comments: Comics Creators in Their Own Words). The ENB interview was conducted by and is © Margaret O’Connell, transcribed by Paul Dini (pre-Harley Quinn, of course).

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3 Comments on E. Nelson Bridwell Speaks!

  1. After I saw this post, I went looking for scans of the entire run of Comics Feature. Reading through it, I’m struck by the notion that I’m reading a running commentary on the decline of superhero comics, decades before most fans really realized it was happening. There’s a very strong case being made–not necessarily intentionally–by a variety of contributors and interviewees, that fans have essentially been choking the life out of superhero comics since the 1960s. We talk about how comics have deteriorated to the point of extinction today, and we have been talking about it for a long time, but the seeds of all of this are described really well by Len Wein, Donna Ugol, and Margaret O’Connell, among others.

  2. Dave B says:

    Great stuff. Thanks for posting!

  3. macsnafu says:

    E. Nelson Bridwell wrote some good comics. The Super Friends issues with the Elementals were some of my earliest comics that I bought off the rack. I also loved the Inferior Five, although I only picked those up as back issues (I’m not THAT old!). Much later, with the Angel and the Ape miniseries, Phil Foglio handled the Inferior 5 very well.
    Bridwell’s run on Captain Marvel (Shazam!) when it moved to World’s Finest was a great run, too, with that wonderful artwork by Don Newton.

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