Weisinger, Mort(imer) 1915–1978

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WEISINGER, Mort(imer) 1915–1978

PERSONAL: Born April 25, 1915, in New York, NY; died May, 1978, in Great Neck, NY; son of Hyman and Anna (Bernfeld) Weisinger; married Thelma Rudnick, September 27, 1944; children: Joyce Carol, Hendrie Davis. Education: New York University, B.S., 1938. Religion: "Hebrew."

CAREER: Solar Sales Service, New York, NY, literary agent, 1935–36; Thrilling Wonder Stories, New York, NY, editorial committee, 1936–41; Startling Stories, New York, NY, editor, 1939–41; College Humor, New York, NY, associate editor, 1939–40; Captain Future, New York, NY, editor, 1940–41; Superman magazines, New York, NY, editor, 1941, 1948–70; Superman television series, Hollywood, CA, story editor, 1948–63. Lecturer on nonfiction writing, New York University, Columbia University, and New School for Social Research; instructor in nonfiction writing course for adults, Great Neck, NY. Military service: U.S. Army Air Force, stationed at Yale University with public relations staff, 1942–45; became staff sergeant.

MEMBER: National Multiple Sclerosis Society (member, public relations committee), National Myasthenia Gravis Foundation, Society of Magazine Writers (treasurer, 1949–52, 1961–62), Society of American Business News Writers.

WRITINGS:

Atomic Survival, P. & G. Publishing, 1951.

1,001 Valuable Things You Can Get Free, Bantam (New York, NY), 1955, 12th edition (with Thelma Weisinger), 1982.

(Editor, with Terry Morris and Peter Farb) Prose by Professionals, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1961.

Bonanza U.S.A., Bantam (New York, NY), 1966.

The Contest, World Publishing (New York, NY), 1970. (With Arthur Henley) The Complete Alibi Handbook, Citadel (Secaucus, NJ), 1972.

Mystery in Space, (based on a script by Mort Weisinger, with others), DC Comics, 1999.

Superman in the Sixties (includes material by Mort Weisinger), DC Comics, 1999.

Contributor of articles to Science Fiction Digest, Fantasy Magazine, Fantasy Fan, and other fanzines. Had short stories published in Wonder Stories, Thrilling Mystery, and Startling Stories. Contributor of more than 300 articles to Saturday Evening Post, Reader's Digest, This Week, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, True, Holiday, Family Circle, Better Homes and Gardens, Argosy, Colliers, Science Digest, Esquire, and other publications.

Mort Weisinger's papers were donated to Syracuse University.

SIDELIGHTS: Mort Weisinger's writing career began at the age of fifteen when he joined a fledgling group of New York science fiction fans called the Scienceers. Beginning in July, 1930, the Scienceers published a magazine called The Planet, with Weisinger as associate editor.

The Planet lasted for six issues and was replaced in January, 1932, with The Time Traveller, which Sam Moskowitz in Seekers of Tomorrow called "the first fan magazine devoted entirely to science fiction." The Time Traveller merged with Science-Fiction Digest in October, 1932, which was renamed Fantasy Magazine in January, 1934. Throughout these changes Weisinger remained an editor of the magazine and was the key idea man, contributing articles and columns, and conducting insightful interviews with authors, editors, and artists. The editorial knowledge, writing skills, and contacts he developed during this time would serve him well in his career.

With numerous contacts in the science fiction field, Weisinger uncovered the pseudonyms of many well-known authors and used this information in the article "Why They Use Pen Names," published in the November, 1934, issue of Author & Journalist. In lieu of payment he was offered free advertising space in the magazine. Weisinger used this opportunity to form and promote the Solar Sales Service, a literary agency specializing in selling fantasy that he ran with Julius Schwartz, another Fantasy Magazine editor. Their client list grew to include many of the major authors in the field.

Weisinger left the agency in 1936 when he was hired by the publisher Standard Magazines as an editor for the revived pulp magazine Thrilling Wonder Stories. He made the magazine a success by targeting it for the teenage market, instituting a policy of action covers that featured monsters so frequently that the phrase Bug Eyed Monster (BEM) was coined to describe them. Despite this juvenile slant, Weisinger was able to keep the magazine's traditional readers by using his knowledge of the field to obtain and publish works of many popular authors. Because of his success with Thrilling Wonder Stories, he was also picked to edit the new pulp magazines Startling Stories and Captain Future. He also wrote a number of short stories for the pulps during this period.

Weisinger stayed with Standard Magazines until March, 1941, when he was hired away by National Periodical Publications (DC Comics) to edit the Superman comics. The position soon ended, however, with the advent of World War II.

During the war Weisinger was assigned by the U.S. military to Special Services, and he worked in New Haven, Connecticut, as an associate editor on the Yale newspaper The Beaver. Upon his discharge shortly before the end of the war, Weisinger tried writing nonfiction for the popular magazines. Using his experience writing for the fan magazines he was soon selling articles to magazines such as Coronet, Reader's Digest, Collier's, Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal, Esquire, and many of the other leading American magazines.

During this period Weisinger was asked to return to his former position editing Superman comics for National Periodical Publications. He was initially reluctant to give up his freelance writing career, but finally yielded when offered an all-expense paid trip for him and his family to Hollywood to work on the plotting of a Superman movie. Upon his return to New York Weisinger used his background in science fiction plotting to invigorate the Superman comics, revising Superman's background to make possible new, more captivating adventures.

Under Weisinger's guidance the comics grew and prospered, until by 1950 he was supervising editor of the Superman Group of comics. This eventually included the titles Superman, Action Comics, World's Finest Comics, Superboy, Adventure Comics, Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen, and Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane. Weisinger was also picked to serve as a story director for the "Adventures of Superman" television series.

For the next two decades while working at DC Comics, Weisinger also wrote in other areas. He continued writing freelance articles for popular magazines and wrote books such as 1,001 Valuable Things You Can Get for Free, Bonanza U.S.A., and The Contest. By the end of the 1960s Weisinger was burned out on the comics, and in an interview conducted by Guy H. Lillian, III, called writing for them "an eternal graveyard." In 1970 he left DC Comics to become a full-time freelance writer.

Weisinger is most famous for the role he played in the development of the Superman comics. Taking the character created by Jerome Siegel and Joseph Shuster, he continually reinvigorated the story lines by introducing ideas from his science-fiction background. In addition he should also be recognized, claim critics, for his contributions to science fiction fandom and to the SF pulps, both of which benefited from his skills and knowledge as a writer and editor.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Clute, John, and Peter Nichols, editors, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1993.

Miller, Stephen T., and William G. Contento, Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Weird Fiction Magazine Index: 1890–2002 (CD-ROM), Locus Press (Oakland, CA), 2003.

Moskowitz, Sam, The Immortal Storm: A History of Science Fiction Fandom, Atlanta Science Fiction Organization Press (Atlanta, GA), 1955, Hyperion Press (Westport, CT), 1974.

Moskowitz, Sam, Seekers of Tomorrow: Masters of Modern Science Fiction, World Publishing Co. (Cleveland, OH), 1966.

Tuck, Donald H., The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Volume 2, Advent Publishers (Chicago, IL), 1978.

Tymn, Marshall B., and Mike Ashley, editors, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Weird Fiction Magazines, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1985.

PERIODICALS

Amazing, August, 1964, Sam Moskowitz, "Mort Weisinger: The Superman behind Superman," pp. 53-65.

Best Sellers, December 15, 1970, review of The Contest, p. 410.

School Library Journal, August, 1980, Phyllis Ingram, review of 1,001 Valuable Things You Can Get Free, p. 72.

ONLINE

Superman through the Ages, http://theages.superman.ws/ (August 2, 2005), Guy H. Lillian, III, interview with Mort Weisinger (July, 1975).