Who’s Who Interview with Bob Greenberger

In this special episode, Shag and Rob talk with one of the architects of the WHO'S WHO series for DC Comics -- writer/editor Bob Greenberger!

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21 responses to “Who’s Who Interview with Bob Greenberger

  1. Well done on getting an interview with Bob Greenberger, what a legend!

    Could it be more perfect the 1st dummy entry was Aquaman? And we got the secret origin of the dots, wow. I’d buy that wallpaper for more than a dollar.

    I’m disappointed to hear about Len and Marvel being naughty about royalties. Bob sounds so sanguine.

    I don’t get why the Death entry is so controversial, what the heck could you say otherwise – Death doesn’t have an origin , and you don’t want to ruin Neil’s story.

    So the post-Crisis Suicide Squad came about due to DCs lawyers’ diligence and Bob’s inspiration? I’m going to have to check the Suicide Squad films to check Bob gets due credit.

    Its great to hear that Bob has seen Xum’s Egregious Omissions work. Bob’s homework now is to listen to all back issues of the WW podcast and send comments to the lettercol.

    Oh, I wish there was a gallery entry for this show showing the unused Curt Swan Superman page. And the unused Jerry Ordway and Mike Machlan image. Mind, I do have the Modern Masters book!

    I still don’t know if Shag is is kidding when he pronounces ‘pronunciation’ as ‘pronounciation’!

    Thank you Rob for asking the Sugar & Spike question – I would happily have lost the Don Caballero entry (sorry Bill!). It’s interesting that on the one hand the original Who’s Who was a goodbye to DCs old continuity as the Crisis came along, but on the other, collected editions were bound and given to editorial departments to act as bibles… SUGAR & SPIKE WUZ ROBBED!

    1. “I’m going to have to check the Suicide Squad films to check Bob gets due credit. ”

      I can’t check but I think so. On the second one anyway, I remember seeing the names of at least some of the Legends creative team.

  2. Thanks for a great episode! And a special thanks to Bob for all the inside info.

    I echo Martin’s plea to see the unpublished Superman page!

    It was really great to hear Bob’s thoughts on getting the various artists for entries and later covers since I have always thought that was one of the best and most interesting parts of Who’s Who. The diversity of the art makes it a much more satisfying package than OHOTMU for example.

    And I am glad you were able to give Bob a chance to plug his other projects. If you haven’t checked out the Thrilling Adventure Yarns – I have read both volumes and they are great!

  3. Such a great episode.

    Bob’s name is all over books I love from that era. Even met him once at a con and got him to sign my Superman encyclopedia.

    Great to hear the behind the scenes stuff and echo the need for a gallery page!

  4. I love you got to interview Bob Greenberger! What an amazing interview everyone. I loved Bob’s inside info and look back on something that’s very dear to all of us here. I’m glad you guys got to ask all your questions (Sugar and Spike!) and Bob was up for answering them. Like you mentioned in the episode, some of those letters to Who’s Who get progressively angrier and righteous and I’m glad Bob still enjoys Who’s Who and hasn’t become jaded by the fanboys. It also was interesting to hear what Bob is up to now.

    The one thing I’ve always wanted to know that I don’t know has ever been addressed is why did they try to do Who’s Who during the same time as doing Crisis? Specially since Crisis is changing the entries in Who’s Who as it goes along! I mean, I understand publishing schedules and what DC wanted to do with their characters, but I thought it would have made more sense to have Who’s Who 24 issues done and out before publishing Crisis. To me, like Bob mentioned that was the editorial mandate at the start, Who’s Who is a celebration of DC’s history, pre-Crisis. Then I think you would have been able to get your Sugar and Spike entry, Rob. Then after Crisis, they could have published all the Updates or Loose Leafs (Leaves?) they wanted to “correct” the older, out dated entries.

    This was tons of fun and I would love to see you guys interview more professionals involved in Who’s Who….. or just more conversations with Bob and his memories of DC at that time! You both did an amazing job! Who’s next?!

    Keep up the great work!

      1. Thanks for the link, Isamu! I knew both these projects would have had take time to develop, but I didn’t realize how much! Also, Peter Sanderson had to read EVERY comic in the DC library? There’s the dream job!

  5. Great interview guys! All the behind-the-scenes discussion was music to my ears. I think Bob hit the nail on the head of why Who’s Who still resonates so. I would go even further to say the characters were perhaps at their optimum existence at the time. Right when DC allowed more mature, sophisticated storytelling in, but before some versions of the characters couldn’t be reconciled with their original iterations, for both good or ill, depending on your persepctive.

    I was so delighted to hear Bob was just as wowed by Xum’s Who as we were. What great compliment can you give than that?


  6. Another fine interview. Mr. Greenberger’s insights and behind-the-scenes stories were fascinating. I was worried that you wouldn’t have a chance talk with him about Brenda Pope and her role in Who’s Who, but you snuck her in at the end. Well done!

  7. This was a fantastic episode! Loved the behind-the-scenes glimpse behind this fantastic series.

    Enjoyed hearing how artists were chosen, and how they tried to reach out to so many of the original creators. I wish I could have asked him some specific questions about some of those artists…I was very pleased that Charlton creators Frank McLaughlin and Peter Morisi returned to their characters (Judomaster and Thunderbolt), but really wished that Pat Boyette could have drawn the Peacemaker entry. Was Greenberger unable to contact him, or did they reach out to Boyette and he turned it down? For that matter, I thought it would have been a lot of fun if they could have gotten Bill Fraccio and/or Tony Tallarico to return to comics to draw the Son of Vulcan entry…but I don’t know how easy it would have been to track them down at that point, and they’d both been out of comics for a while by then, so they might not have been interested.

    Appreciated the shout-out to John Bolton’s Shining Knight entry. Of course, the best-known artist on the original Shining Knight stories was Frank Frazetta, but let’s face it, there was no way that Frazetta was going to return to comics, even for a single pin-up…at least, not within DC’s budget for the issue. Bolton was a fantastic choice for the character. And now, a little bragging: The one year I got to go to the San Diego Comic Con was 1988 (going to the convention was my high school graduation present, and the rest of the family got a nice San Diego vacation along with me). John Bolton was one of the guests, in one of his relatively few US convention appearances. I was lucky enough to buy part of the original art to the Shining Knight page (I got the art of surprint imagery, not the figure drawing)! I have the artwork posted in my Comic Art Fans gallery of my original art collection:


    At that same San Diego Con, I met Phil Foglio and bought the original art to the Angel and the Ape entry (two pages, one for the figures and one for the surprint):



    You can see on those pages how the space was set aside for the text column, along with some other production notes.

    Over the years, I’ve gotten my Who’s Who issues (not to mention the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe) signed by many of the contributing artists…of course, not ALL of them, as there have been several who have since passed before I ever had the chance to meet them, and in the case of some of the more prolific contributors, it would have been inconsiderate to ask them to sign EVERY entry, so I limited it to their “trademark” character (Green Lantern for Gil Kane and Flash for Carmine Infantino). (I did get to meet Curt Swan and had him sign a couple of pages, Atomic Skull and Brainiac 5, but I didn’t have the Superman issue at that time, so I missed the chance to have him sign his “definitive” page…) Ah, my dream guest list for a comic convention would be to bring together all the living artists who worked on the series, though I know that’s unfeasible…

    Loved hearing that Greenberger enjoyed Xum’s Who!

  8. Just tried posting a comment, but I think it might have gotten flagged as spam when I tried to link to my Comic Art Fans gallery showing the Who’s Who original art pages I bought from the artists at conventions. I’ll try to reconstruct my post without the links, if I can remember what I said…

    I loved hearing the behind-the scenes workings of the series, and how various artists were approached for it. I enjoyed seeing Charlton artists Frank McLaughlin and Pete Morisi return to their characters Judomaster and Thunderbolt. I wished we could have seen Pat Boyette return for the Peacemaker entry (no disrespect for Keith Giffen’s page). I wondered whether Greenberger had been unable to contact Boyette, or whether Boyette was asked and turned it down. While we’re on the Charlton characters, I always thought it would have been fun to see Bill Fraccio and/or Tony Tallarico draw the Son of Vulcan entry…but I believe they’d both been out of the regular comic industry for so long at that time, I don’t know how easy it would have been to track them down, or whether they’d be willing to return to comics for a single pin-up.

    Appreciated hearing the discussion of John Bolton’s Shining Knight entry. Of course, the best-known artist on the original Shining Knight stories was Frank Frazetta, but let’s face it, there’s no way that Frazetta would return to comics after so many years…at least, no way that would’ve been within DC’s budget. John Bolton was more than a worthy successor to Frazetta. And now, a bit of bragging: I got to meet John Bolton at the 1988 San Diego Comic Con, the only year I’ve ever attended the San Diego convention. (The trip was my high school graduation present, with the rest of my family enjoying a nice San Diego convention as well.) I bought the original art of the surprint imagery from the Who’s Who page; the surprint drawings were done on a separate page from the main figure. (This is where I previously attempted to post the link to my Comic Art Fans gallery, but since that seemed to get flagged as spam, I’ll refrain from including it this time around.)

    At that same San Diego con, I also met Phil Foglio and bought his original art for the Angel & the Ape entry (from the original Who’s Who #26, not the loose-leaf version); it was also done on two pages, one for the main figures and one for the surprint, and he sold them to me as a set.

    Over the years, I’ve brought my issues of Who’s Who (as well as the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe) to conventions and gotten them signed by many of the contributing artists. Not ALL of them, of course, as several have since passed before I ever had a chance to meet them. With some of the more prolific contributors, it would have been inconsiderate to ask them to sign all of their Who’s Who pages, so I only had them sign their “trademark” character (Flash for Carmine Infantino, Green Lantern for Gil Kane). I was also lucky enough to meet Curt Swan and have him sign a couple of entries (Atomic Skull and Brainiac 5), but I didn’t have the Superman issue at the time, so I missed out on getting his signature on his definitive character… Ah, my dream guest list for a comic convention would be to bring together all the living artists who contributed to the series, though I know that would be an unfeasible logistical nightmare for con organizers.

    Loved hearing that Greenberger enjoyed Xum’s Who!

  9. This was great. I also like hearing about behind the scenes stuff now (unfortunately not so much when I’d hear such stories from my Dad when I was younger). I knew about the three-appearance rule, because that came up a lot when I asked Dad why many of his Xum’s Who listings were not considered for the original book.

    I also knew that the Jerry Ordway Q-R cover was rejected because he did it in a collage format rather than having characters interacting with each other. Jerry himself said this on Twitter, noting that other artists started to do collage covers a short time later.

    Tweet from the Ordster

    And thank you again, Mr. Greenberger for the kind words about my Dad and his work on this tribute to this fine series. We are glad you like the book and I am sure Dad would be proud that you have a copy.

    I can also say, we have reserved one printed copy of Xum’s Who each for Peter Sanderson (whom we are attempting to contact) and Brenda Pope (if we can find her).

  10. I always read Robert Greenberger’s name with gravitas. I didn’t really know who he was or what he did, but the name always turned up on “important stuff” like the reference books or the forwards to Millennium Editions. It’s weird to realize that he wasn’t even thirty yet when he did much of the work this podcast is devoted to. In retrospect, it makes more sense, given how seriously he was able to take comics ephemera, though that commitment to integrity remains evident in the interview today.

    As a kid, Comics Scene was the pinnacle to me. A glossy full color magazine available on the newsstand (the expanded mall one, anyway) devoted to comic book media (that mostly never made it out of development hell?) It felt like maybe it was becoming almost as reputable to be a comic geek as a gorehound or Trekkie. I was way too poor to buy more than one or two issues, and it wasn’t even the volume Greenberger worked on, but I still felt this odd sense of peripheral pride in its very existence– like one of the folks in the neighborhood rooting for Akeelah at the Bee.

    It seems pretty clear from the conversation that given how many half-page entries as there were in the earlier issues, that the “less relevant” characters fell victim to artists declining the half-page rate.

    After numerous failed attempts to start an OHOTMU podcast, then finally barely doing it, only to take a years long COVID break, I’m keenly aware of what a different animal it was from Who’s Who. I love both, and I appreciated the respectful “trying to do different things” tone, despite Greenberger undeniably preferring his model. Since I favor DC Comics, Who’s Who is definitely more valuable to me, and more fun to toss through. OHOTMU though is the one I want if I really want to read up on a character. It speaks to the differences in the universes though, that Marvel is fixated on the illusion of a reality, and DC is about relaying the myth.

    I’m usually satisfied with one pass of a podcast interview, but this one was so engaging and jam-packed with detail that I kind of want to immediately start it over from the beginning. See, if I’d have known this was coming, I wouldn’t have given Rob & Shag such a hard time about dragging out the end of the podcast and leaving !mpact
    for nearly last. Instead, I’ll now give Shag & Rob such a hard time about peaking early with this episode and chasing it with a bunch of Archie characters. I wish there was a show where folks like Greenberger could actually go into detail about all those interesting people who were proofreaders and such. One of my favorite single episodes in this history of the network.

  11. Shag and Rob, this was amazing. Thanks to both of you and especially Mr. Greenberger. I won’t have much to say since my thoughts echo those of other commenters (especially Martin), and my analysis pales before that of other commenters (especially Frank). I will say that you could keep interviewing Who’s Who creators, since there have been so many — first about their work on Who’s Who, but then on their other work, also. It would give a whole new meaning to “Who’s next?”

  12. Curt Swan’s pencils for the single-page Superman II entry mentioned in this episode can be seen on page 34 of Back Issue No. 32.

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