Gary Cohn & Dan Mishkin

From the letters page of AMETHYST, PRINCESS OF GEMWORLD No. 3 of 12 (1983):

Sixteen years ago Dan Mishkin and I used to sit around talking about all the great things we'd do if we wrote DC comics. Everyone who reads comics talks like that, but very few ever get the chance to fulfill the fantasy. Our route to that goal was more circuitous than most.
Dan was, in addition to being a great buddy, valuable in another very important way. He bought ever comic that came out! Being his friend meant never having to buy another comic, a great boon since I just threw them away when I was finished with them (And still do! Whoah--calm down everyone! Put down those rocks! Stop tying that noose! I was just kidding! Honest!).
Well, the time came when we went off to college, Dan to Michigan State University, me to Plattsburgh State in the blustery wilderness of upstate New York. Dan and I spent ridiculous sums of money on long distance phone calls, and most of the time we spent discussing comics and our own original characters (the more things change...).
But Plattsburgh was not all I'd dreamed the college experience could be (then again, where else would I have had the opportunity to see soap bubbles freeze?), and by the next year I was Dan's roomate at Michigan State.
The early Seventies were a pretty wild time. We lived in a dorm that was the central pool of educational and social radicalism at MSU, and we both immersed ourselves (as I recall, Dan waded into the shallow end and paddled about, while I plunged into the deep end and nearly drowned).
We both attended the Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop at MSU, I in 1972, Dan in 1974 when I was secretary to the workshop director and got to run off endless photocopies of stories. What fun! We took our lessons from the likes of Damon Knight and Kate Wilhelm, Harlan Ellison, Thomas Disch, Theodor Sturgeon... at Clarion we were taught the essentials of storytelling.
After that we followed our separate paths, Dan to North Carolina and every Jewish mother's dream, marriage to a doctor; I to the rooftops of New York (no, I hadn't become the Batman--I was a construction worker).
I bought a Triumph Bonneville motorcycle and a leather jacket, but somehow I just didn't meet enough dangerous women to justify the life I was living. My boss on the building site noticed this. Whenever I was at my sweatiest, grimiest, tiredest and most miserable, he would amble over and say, "When ya goin' back to school, kid?"
Eventually I took his advice, saddled up the Triumph and rode out to Bowling Green Ohio and a teaching assistantship in the master's program in Popular Culture Studies. I met a lot of tame women there, but they looked at my bike and leather jacket and decided I was dangerous, so it worked out pretty well. And then I met Betsy...
Meanwhile Dan's wife, Karen, decided to fulfill her residency in the Midwest. I convinced Dan that the Pop Culture program was more fun than working in a bookstore, and soon we were together again.
The next year Betsy and I were married, Dan and I taught Pop Culture classes and shared an office, and once again we talked about comics and how we would write them. Dan began a correspondence with Paul Levitz, who referred us to Jack Harris, and Jack bought our first story, a three pager for TIMEWARP #3.
That was a few years ago. After grad school we spent a couple of years in close proximity, Dan and Karen in Flint, Michigan, Betsy and I in Ann Arbor, then Lansing. Dan and I continued to sell stories to DC, and eventually decided that it would help if one of us moved to New York. Betsy had always wanted to live in the Big Apple anyhow, Karen was committed to healing the sick in Michigan, so Betsy and I packed up cats, motorcycle, typewriter and toys and came to Brooklyn.
Since then Dan and I have continued to make real our boyhood dream, and AMETHYST is the latest and most important step. We've done a lot of work together and each has done some work on his own, such as Dan's scripting chores on WONDER WOMAN, and my back-up series in WARLORD, "The Barren Earth".
But we both agree that our best work is [d]one in tandem, haggling over the fine points of plotting and characterization, wrestling each other's clumsy lines into cleaner, more eloquent shape, "blue-skying" new characteres and projects.
Dan lives in Lansing now with Karen and a beautiful little daughter, Grace. I live in Brooklyn, with Betsy, two cats and a Honda. Our phone bills are still ridiculous.

Well, this information is slightly more than twenty years old by now (which would probably make Dan Mishkin's baby daughter only slightly younger than me--how time flies, don't it?), and I couldn't personally tell you how much has changed since, but it's still more than I know about most comic book creators. What I like about Cohn & Mishkin is that they are, above all else perhaps, fans of the comic book, and this passion for the form seeps into a lot of the work they have done. During the 1980s they pushed the envelope on what a mainstream superhero could act and be like. But more than that, they were clearly having a lot of fun in the process. And whenever the people behind a project are having fun, it pours through the pages and becomes infectious to the reader. The letter columns (remember letter columns?) in their books were rife with missives from readers who never expected to be interested in their characters, but were nevertheless drawn unescapably within the worlds and minds of these two writers.

A number of years ago right about the time I first uploaded this web site to the Internet (we're talking 1998 or 1999), I managed to locate Dan Mishkin's personal web page ("Heroes Welcome", sadly no longer available), and e-mailed him about my site. Not only did he e-mail back, but he was remarkably gracious and even mailed me a preview of CREEPS No. 1, which hadn't found a publisher at that point, but which was eventually picked up as a four-part miniseries by Image--all too short, I would say. There were too many good ideas to squeeze into that number of issues. I regret that I lost any e-mails we exchanged owing to a harddrive reformat in 2003, because he was always candid and always had something interesting to say.

I haven't noticed much from these two lately, but I keep my eyes and ears open for any projects on which they might happen to be working. As I understand it, Gary Cohn has been teaching for the most part, but he pops up now and then. You can be sure if you see their names attached to something that it won't be the same old, same old.


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