Sunday, July 23, 2017

Flo Steinberg RIP

Flo Steinberg was a private person who didn't like to be in the spotlight. She probably wouldn't have wanted the attention I afford her here, but I hope she'd forgive me (and for you Flo, I'll be brief). 

        Flo's photograph first appeared in Marvel Tales Annual # 1, 1964.

Flo began her employment at Magazine Management in March, 1963, working for Editor-in-Chief Stan Lee as his "Corresponding Secretary" (what would be known today as an Administrative Assistant) during the early years of Marvel Comics' superhero period. Flo not only worked directly for Lee, but also assisted production manager Sol Brodsky. Her duties in the office included making appointments, taking phone calls, handling freelancers and reading incoming mail; in addition she was directing traffic for production, making sure the artists, inkers and letterers were getting their jobs in on time; sending the stories to the Comics Code for approval and checking in with the printing plant. There were a lot of balls to juggle, but according to all accounts Flo's patience and professionalism were outstanding.      

Another aspect of Flo's job was dealing with fans in their various manifestations; those who came in off the street; responding to letter requests and writing to the many fanzines that were sent to Marvel. Stan Lee took the fan press seriously and made sure there was communication between them, not only through the letters pages but also by personal replies, often written by Flo, samples of which I've posted below.  

                                 Jeddak III, November 1963.
                        Yancy Street Journal # 4, September 1964.

                         Yancy Street Journal # 5, November 1964.
                         Yancy Street Journal # 6, December 1964.

                          The Web-Spinner # 2, August 1965.
  Yancy Street Journal # 11, September 1965. This issue also announced Roy Thomas joining Marvel as writer and editorial assistant. Thomas is noted as "...presently aiding Flo Steinberg in the corresponding department. He now holds the job of reviewing the amateur comic-zines and related publications which are sent into the bullpen for comment." Having written for and published fanzines Roy would soon take over that chore from Flo.    

                          The Web-Spinner # 3, November 1965.

                   Yancy Street Journal # 11, November 1965

Flo became a familiar name to fans due to the many letters she wrote to fanzines from 1963-65. On a larger scale Stan Lee recognized her in the comic books, mentioning her in letters and editorial pages, where he bestowed the title "Fabulous Flo" on her. It was highly unusual in those days for anyone outside of the creative talent (and even their names were often anonymous) to be recognized, but Flo was an exception. 

In addition to letters, Flo also provided a few scoops for the fanzines, including the announcement of the Giant-Man feature being dropped for the Sub-Mariner in Tales To Astonish. Yancy Street Journal # 7, undated but likely January 1965. 

I've never heard a harsh word spoken about Flo by anyone working for Marvel (or elsewhere), including the many freelancers who came into the office to deliver work. In her position Flo had to be part Baseball manager/part psychiatrist; her temperament was such that she could handle sensitive creators; straight-forward business people, messengers, fans and anyone else who walked in the door during working hours with charm, tact and toughness when needed.

Flo was employed at Marvel from 1963-1968, when the company was growing and expanding in popularity. She returned in the 1990s, working as a proofreader, which she continued on a part-time basis until her passing. 

Flo occasionally gave interviews but discovered that some in the fan press were only interested in "getting the dirt" on company affairs and individuals - something she was vehemently against. Flo could easily have succumbed to writing a "tell-all" book and profiting on her notoriety, as so many have done, but she was a person of character and integrity.    

Flo once mentioned to me that there were no "prima donnas" at Marvel in those days. Everyone was professional and pitched in with one goal in mind - to get the work done. Deadlines were met with almost 100 % accuracy. In public she refused to badmouth anyone. Flo was frank in explaining that while she enjoyed what she was doing there was no glamour involved and she certainly didn't see herself as a celebrity - it was a job. Like anyone in a business setting I'm sure she liked some people and didn't care for others, but she had no interest in gossip. 

Flo's one and only foray into publishing occurred In 1975. Big Apple Comix included contributions from a number of her friends and associates, including Marie Severin, Herb Trimpe, Ralph Reese, Linda Fite and the great Wally Wood.   

In the past decade or two I've had the pleasure of spending time with Flo at lunches and dinners, often accompanied by Michael J. Vassallo and Barry Pearl (part of that notorious group of scholars and wiseguys known as the Yancy Street Gang). I think she enjoyed our company because we didn't pester her with questions on what went on in the office on a certain day, or what Stan Lee was "really like," instead we often spoke about everyday concerns. Flo appreciated the fact that we treated her like a person and understood that her days at Marvel were part of a long-ago past. 

Flo garnered attention not because of a manufactured familiarity through the pages of Marvel Comics; that fragile illusion could never hold up this long. The many interactions she had with fans over the decades, both in correspondence and in person, belied a sincere, concerned and thoughtful person. 

I can vouch for that.  

Flo Steinberg passed away on July 23, 2017.

I'll miss you, Flo.