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E. Nelson Bridwell Speaks!

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).

Nelson and friend by Kurt Schaffenberger, from THE AMAZING WORLD OF DC COMICS

ENB Superman sketch, circa 1971

"Kinney Kwiz" bu ENB (1969) for Kinney corporate in house newsletter

1970 "A MAD-Type Look Behind the Scenes at Kinney National" by ENB for corporate in-house newsletter

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