Milton Griepp, Capital City and nearly naked television

In the comics hey-day (at least for me) of the late 1980s/early 1990s there were a number of companies distributing comics. Distributing meant that these companies put out catalogs, collected orders from retailers and then shipped the new releases to the shops. As the industry grew, more and more focus was put on the “business” of the business. I’ve mentioned here before how these distributors started sponsoring get-togethers, bringing their customers and suppliers together.

Dave Scroggy, Brian Talbot, JOHN DAVIS, Bob Burden, Jeff Smith

Dave Scroggy, Brian Talbot, JOHN DAVIS, Bob Burden, Jeff Smith

One of the best … and always strangest … was the Capital City Trade Show in Madison, Wisconsin. Capital City Distribution was owned and operated by longtime comics professionals Milton Griepp and John Davis. They provided high quality service and had a well-deserved reputation for putting the interests of their customers first. 

comicsbusinessEven though I correctly claim the bragging rights for being the first publisher/editor of a comic book industry trade business publication called Comics Business, a truly terrific little magazine was delivered by Capital City to its retailers every month by the name of Internal Correspondence. It is my understanding the Internal Correspondence was produced under the direct guidance of Milton Griepp. Internal Correspondence, while clearly and obviously a “house organ” for Capital City distribution, was a smart piece of business journalism and helped retailers (and publishers) see collected industry information put into a useful context. 

Internal Correspondence lives on today, at least in part, by a great website called ICv2.com (get it … Internal Corrrespondence version 2) that to this day is managed by Milton Griepp. In many ways, in my mind, Milton is one of the unsung heroes of the comic book business. 

MILTON GRIEPP

MILTON GRIEPP

In the spring, just as the last of the snow was melting in Madison, Capital City would invite all of its retailers and all comic publishers to come together for their annual Trade Show. It may have had more than one location during its history, but the only one that I remember is a large Holiday Inn on the outskirts of Madison. 

As is common with large hotels in colder climates, especially those that promote convention facilities and services, this Madison Holiday Inn was built in a large cube-ish shape. The hotel rooms formed the outside of the cube, with the windows in the rooms facing the outside and the hallways and doors to the rooms facing a large open area that would feature the hotel restaurants, shops, lounges, etc. You could walk out of the door of your room, step to the railing at the other side of the hallway and look directly across the “common” area to other rooms hundreds of feet away. Or you could look down on the people eating, drinking and shopping below.wisconsinmap

One of the “benefits” of getting into the comic book business is the lax dress code, even among the top executives. Anyone who has been to a comics convention can tell you that comic book retailers are not big on business attire either. It was a pretty motley crew that showed up for these trade shows, but who were we trying to impress … each other?

After the day’s business was over, every kind of publisher representative and comic shop owner could be found hanging out in the big open area bar or restaurant seating, surrounded by a towering square of hotel rooms. Remember at the beginning of this missive, I mentioned that the show was strange. You see, inevitably, the Capital City Trade Show always seemed to be scheduled the same weekend as many of the high school proms in the area. 

madisoncardA quick look around this Madison hotel, you would see the strangest mix of young comic book turks, old school retailers, guys in oversized Hawaiian shirts or well-worn superhero t-shirts … all side-by-side with young beautiful high school kids in tuxedoes and fancy evening gowns. I wish I could write a better picture of this odd visual, but instead I’ll close with a quick story.

Having either given a sales presentation during the day or required to sit through one, having either visited publishers booths all day or manned the booth all day, nearly everyone gathered for food or drink in the Holiday Inn common area when the work day was over. One year, a bunch of us were sitting around “enjoying” the expense account of a man named Jim Prindle. For a few years, Jim was one of the most popular and influential guys in comics. Why you ask? Jim Prindle was responsible for sales and marketing for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Turtles #1

Cover: Turtles #1

As the night grew late and a reasonably large volume of alcohol had been consumed, Jim Prindle suddenly became impatient with the hotel’s choice of programming on the large projection television in the bar area. Jim decided that as the common area was nearly empty, our beer-ful group was entitled to enjoy some pay-per-view soft core porn on the television in the bar. We all hooted and hollered, sure that he couldn’t do it. 

Jim called over our waitress and explained to her in a most persuasive way what he wanted. He explained that he had a credit card backed by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We all watched in stunned silence as she grabbed his credit card and departed to change the channel as requested. Soon, the images on the TV were switching from channel to channel.  We were amazed. Then suddenly it turned to snowy static. 

Panel from Page 1 of TURTLES #1

Panel from Page 1 of TURTLES #1

Seconds later, the hotel night manager was at our table explaining that he appreciated our business, but the bar was closing in a few minutes. And then he admitted that our waitress had gotten very close to fulfilling our request to naked television programming when he figured out what was happening.

We laughed and laughed. And woke the next day quite hung over. 

That’s my version of the story.

P.S. Finding illustrations for this story was extremely difficult. Sometimes what’s funnier than what IS on the internet, is what isn’t.

           — David Olbrich (DWO) Wed. Jan. 14, 2009

10 Comments

Filed under Behind the Scenes, Road Warriors

10 responses to “Milton Griepp, Capital City and nearly naked television

  1. Michael J. Martens

    For many years I was the VP of Customer Service at Capital and often hosted publisher presentations at the Sales Conference/trade show. Not sure if it was the year you’re talking about but, one morning I was scheduled to host a 9 AM presentation by… you guessed it, Jim Prindle.

    Jim walked in a little late looking like he had been up all night, slammed a paper bag with a number of $100 bills poking through the top on the lectern, and declared, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie coming this Summer! Gonna make you all a big bag of money! Any questions?

  2. Dave Olbrich

    Micheal –

    What a great delight to “see” you here. Hope to see you in person soon. And thanks for posting a comment and adding to the forgotten legend of Jim Prindle.

  3. Martin Stever

    Dave —

    I very much enjoyed your story from the Holiday Inn in Middleton, Wisconsin. (Middleton is right next door to Madison.) I was the Capital City Sales Conference manager for all of the Middleton shows. I remain quite proud of them. Two interesting factoids about the shows:
    1. The first year in Middleton we were the hotel’s very first convention. I booked it while the hotel was still under construction. There was a period of about a week during which is was iffy whether or not the hotel would be ready. My assumption was that if it wasn’t ready I’d get fired. Fortunately the hotel was complete in time. There were only two issues that I noticed. They hadn’t finished their hiring, so managers from other nearby hotels were coming over and acting as maids. You’d see folks in business suits pushing around the maid carts cleaning rooms. Second, if you looked in any service hallway, you could see where construction was not quite complete.
    2. Ever year we were in Middleton, we were at capacity. There would always be some retailers and publishers who wanted to attend for whom there was simply not enough room. I think this gave the Conference a great feel, because every meal (except the breakfasts Michael hosted) were full. That gave most presentations some real energy. The limited capacity meant participation meant only retailers with real fixed location stores who were regular Capital customers got in. Although there were a lot of Hawaiian shirts, I think the fact everyone was in comics as their primary business raised the level of dialog at the show as well.

  4. Dave Olbrich

    Marty —
    Thanks so much for stopping by and adding additional subtext to the story here. I really appreciate it. Drop by more often. Or send me a little story of your own … I’ll bet you’ve got a bunch.

    I was really surprised how hard it was to find ANY pictures of John Davis or Capital City in general on the internet. I wanted to use a Capital City logo, but couldn’t find one.

    There is probably a whole additional post on this, but up until a year ago I was using the softsided Capital City “briefcase” that I got as a gift one year. I also regularly use the leather garment bag for quick overnight trips.

  5. Martin Stever

    Now I’m bitter that you got a garment bag, as I was not VIP enough to receive one! :)

  6. TRhe Collector

    I just received an e-mail from Marc Hansen regarding the Platinum prints set issued for the Second Annual Capital City Sales Conference in 1989. Marc insists that he signed all his prints. I purchased a boxed set about ten years ago and NONE of them are signed. I have been taking them to conventions to get the prints signed.

    Were signed sets distributed to retailers at that conference and does anyone have a set that they would be willing to sell?

    Michael

  7. Martin Stever

    I’m on the road this week, but I’ll check mine this weekend. Ms. Marks did all the work on those portfolios. It was a monumental bit of logistics. She probably remembers better than I what the score was. I’m pretty sure there were not signed sets put together, as there wasn’t enough time to send them out and get them back and boxed before the convention, and with that many artists, there’s no way it would have worked, but again Super-C would have a better recollection.

  8. Jeff Everette

    No the portfolio was not signed, a lot of people where at that trade show who could have signed many of the prints but there was no complete signing at the show. I worked for Milton & John at their Houston location and was there. It was a great tradw show and truely a great job. I worked for them until the last days of the company.

  9. Sad when Capital City stopped being a Comic Distributor. Shortly after I closed my doors to my comic shop Ninth Nebula. Paid in full. Ten great years. Still don’t know why they went away. Strange thing was getting a $100,000 check in the mail which I reluctantly returned. Yardsellr and my website is where Ihave been selling Yardsellr announced today they are going away …no longer to be as they currently are: http://yardsellr.com/yardsale/Rob-Gustaveson-736187 see my stuff and buy it while you can..once I put it away it’s hard to find. :) Or feel free to buy directly from me. I love comics and I love selling them.

  10. p.s. I’m looking for an image of the cover from a Capital City Dist. catalogue where some rats are waiting under a grating on a city street for trickle down economics to work for them…Would make a great political cartoon.

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