It is an honor to have Paul Levitz serving as the David Pecker Distinguished Professor for the 2014-2015 academic year. Mr. Levitz is a comic fan, editor, writer, and executive. He formerly was president and publisher of DC Comics and presently teaches Publishing Comics and Graphic Novels and Publishing Transmedia at Pace University. He is currently working on a book on Will Eisner and the birth of the graphic novel for Abrams Comic Arts.
To read Professor Levitz full biography, click here.
His first lecture will take place tomorrow, Thursday, October 30, 2014 at Pace University, 163 Williams St, 18th floor, from 6-8p.m., where he will be discussing how we as publishers define our mission in an era when our own audiences are constantly connected: to each other and to the flow of raw data, old and new.
Professor Jane Denning had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Levitz as he assumes his new role. The pair discussed what he hopes to accomplish as the David Pecker Distinguished Professor as well as some advice he has to offer to current Pace M.S. in Publishing students.
Prof. Denning: Hi Paul, thank you for agreeing to do this interview! Congratulations on being named the Visiting David Pecker Distinguished Professor for the 2014-2015 academic year. What do you hope to accomplish this year at Pace?
Prof. Levitz: Thanks, Jane. I’d like to extend my reach to the students who aren’t able to take my two courses. I haven’t had the courage to do online teaching, so I miss out on a fair number of the program’s students, and hopefully the lectures will be available to them.
Prof. Denning: As the Visiting David Pecker Distinguished Professor, you are expected to give two lectures throughout the course of the year. What do you want students to take away from these lectures? Any pearls of wisdom you can impart for us now?
Prof. Levitz: I don’t know if they count as pearls of wisdom, but I’m exploring the future of publishing models in my first lecture, since the world around us is changing so rapidly. One of the points I make is that publishing has to move from a banking model to more of a venture capital approach…but to make sense out of that you probably have to listen to the whole talk.
Prof. Denning: Many of our students here at Pace have varied interests within the world of publishing. When you were first starting out in the industry, what prompted you to pursue the publishing of comics and graphic novels?
Prof. Levitz: Comics is a very unusual field in its accessibility, and even more so when I was a kid. Because of the structure of comic conventions and the zine world, I was able to get to know most of the industry’s creative people while I was in high school. That’s not possible today, and would have been impossible in the ‘70s if I had made a similar effort in other publishing worlds that I loved, from sf to mysteries to the magazine field.
Prof. Denning: As the President and Publisher of DC Comics for eight years you have a unique perspective on the industry, are there any recent developments/trends in the comic book industry that you’ve noticed? Where do you think comics and graphic novels are headed given that so many beloved characters are being brought to life on the big screen (i.e. The Amazing Spider-man, Man of Steel, Thor: The Dark World)?
Prof. Levitz: The movies bring a lot of fresh capital to the comics field and its creators, but it’s much more interesting to me to watch the explosion of new subjects and genres that are being explored in graphic novels. In Japan, the manga market is about a third of their publishing industry, compared to the 2% of ours that is comics-driven. The wide range of subjects for manga is part of that, and I’m hopeful that as our subject range continues to increase, so will our share of publishing.
Prof. Denning: If a student is interested in the comic book industry, what is the best way to break in? Should they be attending Comic Con?
Prof. Levitz: Comic conventions are great places to learn about the field, and you don’t have to start with the giant shows. Smaller events like MoCCA Fest, here in New York, or Comic Art Brooklyn, are great ways to get a taste of the avant garde of comics…and full of young people with so much in common with our students. The energy is amazing. And another approach is simply to hit a great comic shop, and start talking to the folks behind the counter. Even more than indie bookstores, comic shops tend to have passionate fans of the field working there.
Prof. Denning: As our students gear up to enter the workforce, what sort of skills should they really develop while in the program so they can embark upon a successful career in publishing, whether in editorial, marketing, sales, or production or any other aspect of the business?
Prof. Levitz: Learn all the technical skills they can: photoshop, in design, programs for e-book creation, and enough accounting for self-defense. Use your social media time to see how publishers and authors function in that space, and think about how it can be done better—so many of our students’ first jobs are social media-related now. Learn how publishing companies think: that’s one of the virtues of having professors who have functioned in the industry. Develop the habits of a publishing person: don’t browse looking for books you like, stalk a bookstore for knowledge, paying attention to which companies are publishing which titles, what seems to be selling, and watch how people make their selections. And develop networking skills: the people you meet in this program will include folks whose career paths will intertwine with yours.