To have read both the adventures of Batman in the late 70’s and early 80’s, and more recently, the exploits of NYPD detective Billy O'Connor in Brooklyn Blood, is to have drawn an arc connecting more than four-decades of work in the extraordinary career of writer, editor, and long-time executive of DC Comics, Paul Levitz.
The roots of Levitz’s genius can be traced back to the New York City borough featured in the aforementioned title, and specifically, the dining room table of his childhood home, where he watched his parents piece together bulletins for his school’s parent-teacher association. It activated his imagination, and served as a prelude to the fanzine he created while a student at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan. Levitz attributes the creative freedom granted during these formative years as inspiration to believe in the possible, a prime contributor to his success.
His early mentors were, unsurprisingly, some of the biggest names in the comics industry, including renowned cartoonist Joe Orlando (Tales from the Crypt, Mad, National Lampoon), Jenette Kahn (at the time, DC's publisher), and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and fellow Brooklynite Frank McCourt (Angela’s Ashes).
Levitz worked for thirty years in editorial and business capacities at DC Comics, before becoming President and Publisher, earning a status of “legend” in the industry.
Levitz worked for thirty years in editorial and business capacities at DC Comics, before becoming President and Publisher, earning a status of “legend” in the industry. He was recently welcomed into the Eisner Hall of Fame, sometimes referred to as the comics industry's equivalent of the Academy Awards, for his outstanding work as writer (Legion of Superheroes), editor (Batman), and president of the DC Comics organization (2002-2009).
“It's a lovely recognition to join such a small and illustrious group, and particularly heartwarming because so many of the people in it are great creatives who I had the chance to work with and become friends with along the way,” he says.
Leading such an iconic organization is no easy feat, but Levitz thrived in a multisector environment he seemed naturally destined for.
“On one level, it was massive chaos with me vaguely in charge, and on another, enormous fun because the characters enabled me to be involved with (and learn about) a very diverse range of industries: movies, TV, animation, video games, toys, apparel, amusement parks, and on and on,” he says.
Throughout the years, Levitz has been moved by seeing his stories brought to life by artists whose work he had grown up on. He also finds joy in learning how his work has affected audiences. Levitz has met young readers who have gone on to incredible careers—a New York Times best-selling novelist, jazz legend, priest, and NASA scientist are among some of the more colorful success stories—and he recalls speaking with a mayor from Kosovo during a visit to the White House, who told him that a landmine-awareness comic he created had saved lives.
Since his time at DC Comics, Levitz has returned to writing. His graphic novel, Brooklyn Blood, reflects one of his first forays into the mystery genre, and he recently authored 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking. The award-winning book provides in-depth essays that chronicle the history of DC Comics and its plans for the future as a leading publishing organization.
“For me, [the Dyson Advisory Board is] an opportunity to enter the conversation about how Pace can best serve the students in a rapidly changing world—both the educational world and the real world they'll soon enter”
Levitz began his affiliation with Pace serving on the advisory board of the MS in Publishing program. He became an adjunct faculty member in the program after developing a course on graphic novels, and now he’s looking to expand his support (sans a costume or a cape) as a member of the Dyson Advisory Board.
“For me, it's an opportunity to enter the conversation about how Pace can best serve the students in a rapidly changing world—both the educational world and the real world they'll soon enter,” Levitz says.
Other projects on the horizon for Levitz include more teaching, writing, creating a new comics mini-series called The Visitor, a soon-to-be released graphic novel, and participation in both a number of not-for-profit boards, and the board of a mid-size comic company called Boom.
“Whatever seems amusing,” he says.
Few people have no regrets when reflecting back on their professional life, and Levitz is one of these fortunate ones.
“You can always look back on stories and wish you'd done a better job, but I've had such an amazing run, I could not have wished for more,” Levitz says.
To young people looking to emulate his success in the world of comics and graphic novels, he offers this advice: “Read incessantly, write constantly, and don't get frustrated by rejection.”
Basically, channel your inner superhero.