Julius Schwartz: The Man Who Saved Our Super Heroes
A Bronx native, Julius Schwartz was born on June 19th, 1915, to immigrant parents who came to America from a small village Romania. He described himself as an “literary kid” and lover of science fiction. Upon graduating from Hebrew school, Julius was awarded a gold watch from Elenore Roosevelt. After Graduating from City College in New York he joined Mort Weisinger in establishing the first literary agency to specialize in science fiction. He was the agent to many giants of the genre, like Ray Radbury and H.P. Lovecraft. He was also an organizer for the first World Science Fiction convention in 1939.
Schwartz joined All American Comics, the predecessor of D.C. Comics, as an editor in 1944. Jews were involved in comic books since its first conception. Jews were highly saturated in the comic book field, mainly due to antisemitism that was so prevalent in the early twentieth century. Most art forms that were considered more “highbrow”, like magazines, were essentially closed off to Jews, as employers would not hire any. Therefore, many Jews turned towards comic books as a form creative expression, because it was a less desirable artform and, therefore, more inclusive. Many of these early comic books have a uniquely Jewish perspective, as a lot of their creators, like Julius Schwartz, were first generation American Jews.
Julius Schwartz is credited to starting the “silver age” of comics. Post WWII, comic books’ popularity quickly dwindled, and the superhero genre was facing near extinction. Comic books were also under fire for causing “juvenile delinquency and violence” in the 1950’s. Schwartz saved many house-hold name superheroes by revamping and reinventing them for a new generation. He started with the Flash, which was “mothballed” in 1949. Working alongside Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino, Schwartz adorned the Flash with a new scarlet suit for D.C. comics in 1956 which was met with huge success. He would go on to revamp many other characters like Green Lantern and the Justice League, giving them new costumes and story lines that would appeal to a new audience, and in turn save the characters from termination. It is thanks to Schwartz that many classic superheroes, like Superman and Batman, are who they are today. Julius Schwartz also introduced a new idea to Science Fiction during the Silver Age. In the comic, “Flash of Two Worlds”, Schwartz came up with the idea of parallel universes or worlds. This concept has since become a literary staple in the Science Fiction genre and is seen in many comics and movies.
Colleagues remember Schwartz as a demanding yet generous editor, as he pushed them to produce their very best work. His friends recall him always saying “hakol latovah” translating to “everything is for the good” in Hebrew, which demonstrates his positive outlook on life. In his autobiography “Man of Two Worlds” Julius Schwartz wrote his own epitaph which show cases his humor and personality as it states, “Here lies Julius Schwartz. He met his last deadline”. He passed away on February 8th, 2004, at the age of 88 but his legacy lives on in the worlds he created.
~Blog Written by Elisheva Schuster
“Jewish Comics; Or, Visualizing Current Jewish Narrative”
Royal, Derek Parker. Shofar; West Lafayette Vol. 29, Iss. 2, (Winter 2011): 1-VIII.