Please go to THIS POST by Mark Evanier, who actually knew and worked with Mr. Connell, for more and better detail than I could ever provide. Also, read the links within Evanier’s post for some of the best information I’d ever seen on Connell… including a quote from Vic Lockman!
With the retirement of longtime editor Chase Craig, Del Connell became editor of the Gold Key Comics line (in its final years) and the later Whitman Comics line. This would be somewhere between 1975 and 1978. I used to know this precisely, but I’m afraid the more exact data has retreated to the recesses of my memory, and is likely to never find its way back out.
Back in the eighties, when I was an enthusiastic, twenty-something fan, I established mail correspondences with as many of the persons who worked for the Dell / Gold Key / Whitman comic books as I could. My correspondence with Mark Evanier yielded more valuable information (which Mark was happy to provide) than I imagined possible – and remains the basis for the information I’ve gathered over the years on the subject… long before there was a handy-dandy Internet to answer all your questions.
Most of the people I contacted via mail were pleased to engage in either a long or short term dialogue with me. Del Connell was one of two exceptions – the other was Paul Murry.
I wish I still had Connell’s exact words handy, so that I might not misquote him, but the gist of his one and only brief response to me was puzzlement over why anyone would have any interest in his work. He offered no more than that, and no invitation to continue. Being a non-pesty sort, I left it right there, and concentrated on those who had more information and stories to share.
At the time, I thought that Connell simply did not want to be bothered but, reading Evanier’s description of the man’s great humility, perhaps he REALLY DID believe that no one could possibly have any sort of interest in his work.
From this perspective, it is a shame that Del Connell did not participate in a postal exchange with me, as very little insight into those strange and unusual “Whitman years” appears to exist anywhere. For anyone who lived through it, as I did, it was anything but “standard-comic-book-operating-procedure”.
On this we can all agree, the Whitman comics were inferior to their Gold Key and Dell predecessors in both quality and (especially) distribution. I’d sure like to have known some of the reasons why, but that, alas, was not to be.
One area in which I will give Del Connell BIG PROPS is that, once the comics no longer ran interior advertising – and ran 32 pages of story, we began getting issues like THESE!
In the post Gladstone / Gemstone days, getting stories like this may not seem very unusual… but in the early eighties, seeing stuff like this was a DREAM COME TRUE!
Unfortunately, they found themselves alongside issues like these.
I can’t imagine there was NO “new blood” out there that might have improved the story and art of what looked to be a tired old comic book line. Gladstone certainly found some, and might have found still more, if finances were less of a factor. I felt this was something Whitman could have attempted as well.
We’ll never know, of course, but I wonder if Del Connell might have taken the time to trade letters with an occasional fan of the product he presided over, might there have been a difference in the overall look and feel of the books? Probably not, as Western seemed fiercely loyal to the remaining few writers and artists that hung with them for years (regardless of the current quality of their work), but it’s nice to think about.