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.  

11 comments:

Barry Pearl said...

Thank you for publishing this, Nick. It was always a joy when the three of us went out with Flo. I know that you're right when you say that she liked being with us because we didn't talk about Comics. Are only about Comics. I think fans can learn from that too. That is we saw her as this wonderful person and not just this comic book insider. Gosh, I will miss her and my heart just hurts.

Nick Caputo said...

Thanks, Barry. We'll all miss her.

Kid said...

Such a shame to learn of this, Nick. A little (but also big) piece of Marvel has died with her.

Nick said...

Kid,

Flo was part of Marvel when it was a small operation consisting of Stan, Sol and a handful of freelancers. Its like will not be seen again.

John Pitt said...

Really sad to hear this over on Kid's, Nick. I've got to confess I had a bit of a crush on her after hearing her voice. A lovely girl, went out of her way for the fans.
Rest In Peace, lovely Flo.

John Pitt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nick Caputo said...

John,

Many fans (and a few professionals) had a crush on Flo! She was indeed a lovely lady and I'm glad to show share some of her correspondence to fanzines here. I suspect there are many more letters that she wrote in the 1963-65 period.

Mike said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
george leedom said...

A kid (in 1966) remembers Flo for her kind letter and concern when it was sorely needed.

MMMS 29,591

Michael Tuz said...

Sad news indeed. Does anyone know whether Flo was the one who sent out the No Prizes to fans in the sixties? It sounds like something she would have done. The two that I have are invaluable to me.

On a related note, I just recently learned of the passing of Stan Lee's wife Joan earlier this month. I can't imagine what a loss that must be for Stan after nearly seventies years of marriage. My heart goes out this man who brought me so much joy.

Nick Caputo said...

Michael,

Since Flo handled all the mail I'm sure she also sent out the no-prizes.

I can't imagine how devastating it must be for Stan to lose his wife after all those years.