Stu Schwartzberg Stat-Man Extraordinaire

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Stu Schwartzberg rests

Stu Schwartzberg rests

Stu Schwartzberg

Stu was the first person I’d ever met at Marvel. Back when I was messengering between Kalish, Quigley & Rosen (essentially Marvel’s off-site advertising arm) and Marvel, it was delivering ad art and taking back photo stats from Stu.

Stu– and I never knew if it was Stuart, Stewart or just plain Stu; Danny Crespi called him “Stuie” — was one of the unsung stalwarts of Marvel Comics. Funny– capital “F” funny, bone-dry humor. (Thick German accent: “Ach! I could have had a V-2!” Ahem, you had to know the V-8 tomato juice ad campaign was in full swing at the time…) When he said anything it was usually funny enough to remember years later (he introduced me to the idea of “skin socks” ahem, or not wearing socks to work…). The word was that he had gone to art school with a former head of Production (The Bullpen), John Verpoorten. Alas Big John died very young back in 1977.

I don’t know when Stu joined Marvel, but he was there when I was a very young messenger boy (1965-66?). This was when the Marvel offices consisted of John Romita Sr., Marie Severin, Morrie Kuramoto who were lined up on one wall, all at taborets. Stan of course and his secretary Mary “Mac” McPherran (whose neon-green micro-mini skirt and blonde hair down to that same hem-line would stay stuck in anyone’s mind).

There was a short hallway just inside the main door and before the stellar line-up mentioned above, in it a doorway with a black curtain instead of a door. At a knock on the frame, Stu would whoosh out much like a stage magician and with all the aplomb. We would exchange envelopes and I was off. On one or two occasions, I accompanied Stu into his awful sanctum. Awful in that is was a statroom of the time. There was the magnificent old-world photo-stat camera — a “steampunk” delight if ever — orange “safe lights” casting a midieval gloom, supplies piled to the ceiling, separate developing tanks and many, many old stats. The thing that made everything miserable was the electric print dryer– a monstrous cabinet-sized contraption that was a very hot metal drum with a fabric wrapper that would dry a damp stat in 30sec. Stu assured me it would also dry out articles of clothing in under a minute. Years later, when Marvel had moved but retained the ever useful drum dryer, he once unrolled a pair of socks and a t-shirt, all board flat and dry as toast!

But that was Stu then, quiet and very busy. Stu and his camera made “safety copies” of artwork. All of the artwork. At one point it was thought they should not keep them once the books were safely printed and in market, but somehow they were not disposed of. So when we look at old collections of stories, it is usually the result of Stu’s labor.

Otherwise, Stu did normal day-to-day production work. If artwork needed to be re-sized or cut up for some advertising purpose, it was Stu making a copy that was used. The cover logos and all the text copy therein was done as artwork first and Stu made a stat of it. The artwork was thus not used.

Stu’s job was made all the more difficult because his stat system only made negatives. To get back to a black-on-white version, he needed to make a stat of a stat, a negative of a negative.

Stu Schwartzberg was also an artist and a very funny, clever writer. He wrote some hilarious send-ups of Poe and movies back when Crazy Magazine and Spoof were in production. A few times I caught him at an after-hours Bullpen taboret and he was laying out a “gag” cartoon. Every once in a Blue Moon, you will run into a “Schwartzerg” in a low-cost paperback filled with gags. One page cartoons of– well, usually “good girl” gags or “battle of the sexes” gags.

The most secrets-behind-the-comics story about Stu that I can tell is this: Magazine Management was the publishing entity that had owned Marvel for decades. But the comic end of that biz was nothing compared to the magazine end. The ‘high concept’ was adventure mags tailored to “returning Korean War vets.” The mag’s titles were all sorts of variations of and including the words: Men, Action, Adventure, Stag, Male (there were some women’s versions, but those came later). To make a long story more so, Stu was in a very different Bullpen at that time (early to mid-70s). He had exchanged his black-out curtain for a more professional rotating light-tight door! But a lot of incidental photos were needed. There were many people there as paste-up and re-touch artists.

And every once in a while, Stu plus other staffers, would make an appearance in random articles as victims or story subjects. Often with odd dark glasses air-brushed onto their faces! The one I best recall was a straight shot of Stu– against his stat equipment! — wherein he was labelled as a troubled young man.

[The “Sheriff” of this “news account” was played by Production Liaison, Milt Schiffman! Who would have made a good central casting sheriff, with his ever-present cigar. But he’s going to get his own story!]

And! I patterned my office “look” after Stu’s ever-present colored, pocket T-shirt and jeans. I did wear socks though.

Stu did not like change. When some fast-talking sharpie from a stat-camera company sold Marvel on the idea of getting a very large camera that could reproduce the “4-up neg flats” version of the old comics in one shot and on film– well his old camera became history and the new monstrosity had a room built around it! Of course it’s more complicated than that. Marvel was making good coin by selling old comics around the world. Prior to this 18×24-inch devil, the books were done almost a single page at a time. Plus they were on paper which was not preferred. Stu’s old camera could do film, but once he switched over from paper, he couldn’t do paper for a while. When the “new” small cameras came in (which is where I come in, to run one of the two Pos-One cameras), they could do film but it was inferior to what was needed. The various foreign markets often needed to do translations or art changes of all kinds.

But Stu was never happy with the new camera. I couldn’t blame him, it meant he was relegated to a steady stream of huge sheets of tightly rolled paper that would fight to stay rolled up or hauling around huge piles of plastic neg film– all day long. It was motorized and the film or paper came in large cassettes. But the chemistry was no less stinky. Ultimately Stu and the entire licensing reproduction department was moved to another building. I only briefly ran into him at a couple of Christmas parties after that.

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