Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

Fanatic Friday at Comic-Con 2013 (part 1)

A quick shout out to my favorite blogger, Paul O’Connor. He plugged my convention “coverage” on Twitter … so thanks. Check out his blog at: http://www.longboxgraveyard.com.

The glamorous hours spent at SDCC doing portfolio review. Truth is ... I love it!

The glamorous hours spent at SDCC doing portfolio review. Truth is … I love it!

Another early morning as my daughter Maggie needed to be in line for Hall H and she wanted it to happen before 6:30am. It is what you have to do for “Walking Dead/Game of Thrones day. I was a little afraid that wouldn’t be enough … as people were camped out last night before we called it a night. (Special note: we turned in early last night … or at least early for Comic-Con.)

Tom Mason and I both had breakfast meetings this morning, so we were on the trolley by 8am. For those keeping score Tom, Maggie and I all came to the convention together, as we have done for the last several years. We have worked out a system that works for us. Oh yeah, your scorecard should include the fact that Tom & I work together now at Space Goat Productions, plus we worked together in the past at both Malibu Comics and Fantagraphics Books.

Tom had breakfast with current Portland, Oregon resident Mickie Villa who got her first job after college working as a production assistant at Malibu Comics. More about her later.

I had a breakfast meeting with Carl Reed from comic publisher Lion Forge Comics. Carl and I met briefly at Wonder Con, but this was our first chance to talk at our leisure about how we can work together. Can’t wait to get started helping him after I return from the show.

Because of the enormous crowd here, finding a place to meet and eat can be a frustrating challenge. So far I’ve had three meals at the restaurant across the street inside the Hilton Hotel, because at least so far the convention crowd has yet to discover it. Old regular haunts like Dick’s Last Resort have an hour wait and the line at The Tin Fish is crazy long with no place to sit. Such is life in the age of “sold-out” Comic-Cons.

The energy from over 130,000 people in a relatively small place is incredible, but it also creates headaches … and allows for less spontaneous behavior. You almost have to plan EVERYTHING, which to my way of thinking is definitely less fun.

(I apologize if you are reading this as I work to update it … somehow I’ve managed to lose almost an hour worth of brilliant prose that I will now have to re-create. Just know that I will finish it. But I have to go lick my wounds for a little while … maybe get a cookie.)

Come back soon.

-dwo

Leave a comment

Filed under Behind the Scenes

Fanatic Thursday at Comic-Con 2013

This just in … a surprise presenter for this year’s Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards will be … wait for it … Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, James Marsters. Anyone with a convention badge can attend the Eisner Awards, so change your plans for Friday night Buffy fans.

20130718-232211.jpg

The sea of people upstairs under the “sails” at SDCC 2013 Thursday

Day started dropping off Maggie, my daughter, at Old Town station before 7am so she could catch the trolley to the convention center to get in line for Ballroom 20. She needed to get in line for the panel for the BBC TV series SHERLOCK at 2:00pm. Such is the life of a con-goer who wants to see the big auditorium TV and movie presentations. Wish I could join her (because I REALLY love the show), but such is the life of a working comics professional.

Tom didn’t have any con obligations until after noon, so he peeled off on the train ride to the convention center to visit a local Euro-Cafe with great WIFI. I went straight to the con, towing around the banner signage for Space Goat Productions that I’m going to use during portfolio review. I think I am going to HATE being responsible for this SGP sign, it is bulky and there isn’t a really good safe place to put it between review sessions. And then getting it back home again …

First thing this morning was the panel talking about the 25th anniversary of the Will Eisner Comics Industry Awards, which i started with Will Eisner when the Kirby Awards died. If you want to read my account of that, I’ve already written about that in another blog post … just use the “search” function. Jackie Estrada was the MC and panelists included Bongo’s Bill Morrison, Denis Kitchen, Todd Klein and Maggie Thompson. I sat in the audience and contributed when asked. A fine way to spend an hour chatting about this thing I started that Jackie has built into something amazing.

After, I met Maggie Thompson in the hallway as she was being interviewed for a blog aimed at comics fans who happen to be girls. And Maggie introduced me to the guy responsible for NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour. Maggie says its is great so I plan to check it out.

One great thing about Comic-Con, if you have been in the industry a while are the happy surprises that occur along the way, like catching Maggie Thompson in the hall … and meeting her new friends … or like what happened to me next.

My cell phone let me know I had a text … from some of my favorite people … Debra & Dean Rohlfing. i thought they were at home in Texas. Instead, through a series of unique circumstances they were downstairs in the exhibit hall. Before the crash of the comics biz in the mid-90s, Dean and I had become friends, first when he worked for Diamond Comic Distributors and later we both worked for Marvel for a short time. Dean & Deb brought the whole family, which included their two very cool daughters and the future son-in-law. I hope to catch some more time with them before the show is over.

Next on the agenda was a quick meeting with Bob Schreck, a guy with a legendary comics career who now produces comics for Legendary Pictures (responsible for both Pacific Rimand Man of Steel summer blockbusters). Space Goat even contributed to the Pacific Rim comic that was just released. Bob and I have been competitors and acquaintances for a very long time … and as old guys who know all the same comic people and survived all the slings-and-arrows of staying in this crazy business, we come to be friends. We talked shop, we talked business and we talked about life. Just a couple old warriors comparing stories and battle scars.

At 2pm, I started two hours of artist portfolio review for Space Goat. I saw an unusually large number of good artists ready for their first job. Very encouraging. I never take anything from the artists I see. I give them my card and ask them to contact me. It is the first test to see if they are ready to take a pro-active approach to their comics career.

And those are the highlights of my day … after hours Tom and I attended the Scholastic Books party (where we saw Stan Sakai and Scott McCloud) … then it was off to the Hilton for a drink. We couldn’t find the Comixology party that Chip Mosher invited me to, but we did run into editor/entrepreneur Andy Schmidt (who has started a new business), comics vet Steven Grant (who wrote the comic that spawned the movie 2 Guns), as well as publishers Ross Richie (Boom) and Will Christianson (Avatar) both of whom are much smoother operators than most people give them credit for.

Dave Olbrich

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Behind the Scenes

Fanatic Wednesday of Comic-Con 2013

Wednesday Preview Night of Comic-Con 2013 is in the rearview mirror.

Miscellaneous notes.
1. We arrived later than usual on the trolley that drops us off in front of the convention center. The good news that San Diego had changed its trolley route was pointed out to us by an employee of the trolley system working at the trolley stop (thanks for that San Diego). In past years, unless you were riding the “convention special,” you had to change trains if you were going from Old Town to Comic-Con. Not any more, all trains go direct. Hooray!

2. The definition of “professional” at Comic-Con sometimes seems to include nearly everyone. Yes, I know that is a gross exaggeration, but when we arrived the line from professional pro badges went from Hall E to Hall A outside on the sidewalk … about 2/3 the length of the entire convention center. But the organizers get a round of applause because despite the VERY long line, the wait was short and the pro-reg volunteers handled an enormous number of pros quite efficiently.

3. While standing in line (with my daughter Maggie and long time buddy Tom Mason) we met Space Goat Productions’ head honcho Shon Bury and we also saw actress Molly C. Quinn (she plays the daughter on Castle) who had stopped on the sidewalk to take pictures with a fan.

4. Kudos to the Warner Bros. Marketing department, the bag given to pros (and I assume everyone else) at registration is a well-designed … the adjustable straps allow you to carry it like a bag or throw it over your shoulders like a back-pack …very nice indeed.

People I saw and talked to:
1. First stop was the booth of artists Aaron Lopresti & Terry Dodson, who we plan to have dinner with Saturday night.
2. Next we coordinated (via text) a meet with writer Gerry Jones, who I first published in 1987. Maggie wanted to get her copy of Jones’s book Killing Monsters signed. Mission accomplished. Always good to see Gerry and his traveling comapnion Joe Felice.
3. DC’s Comic-Con booth is a favorite pro meeting spot. Marvel’s booth seems openly hostile to the kind of socializing that goes on at DC. Met Shon Bury again, plus …
* Space Goat artist Attila Futaki
* DC’s Jack Mahon
* DC Editors Bobbie Chase and Jim Chadwick (friend and former Malibu-ite)
* Space Goat artist Fernando Argosino
* Silo (animation) head honcho Sean Hart
* and I’m sure I’m forgetting something.
4. Former Malibu marketing dude and current Exec at IDW Alan Payne spent some time catching on with Maggie and me at the IDW booth. While we were standing there, we saw a girl (Lauren) that we had seen on the TV show Catfish the night before. And as we were leaving the booth, we saw someone in a purple wig who looked EXACTLY like Maggie Gyllenhaal.
5. Fellow So. Cal. comics business pro Chip Mosher gave me an invite to Thursday Comixology Party. It helps that he works there.
6. After walking through my second favorite section of the convention hall … where they sell old comcis and graphic novels, Maggie and I re-united with Tom Mason and headed over to FUNKY GARCIA’S for drinks and food with a bunch of the Space Goat crowd before calling it a night.

dwo
from a secret location just outside San Diego

1 Comment

Filed under Behind the Scenes

Touched by a man (I barely knew) on my birthday!

Yeah.  OK.  Calm down.  Yes it is my birthday. But no …

MenInBlack1cover

The comic title that I published
that “non-comics” people know

The suggestive headline is true … but it is also a joke and doesn’t mean what it seems to mean. I was trying to come up with a clever headline for this (mostly self-serving) post … and this amused me. So sue me. And please accept my apologies in advance Marty.

Facebook is a terrific tool to stay in touch, especially if you are part of community or family separated by geography. Such is my life, both personally and professionally. I live in Southern California. My family (and extended family) mostly live in the Midwest. Many others are scattered to the four winds.

Comics professionals are distributed all over the globe. When my birthday rolls around friends and acquaintances use the opportunity to check-in and say “howdy.” It is really great to hear from people I like and love on my birthday.

Prime11cover

The ULTRAVERSE is how most comic
fans would know my work.

It is better yet, when someone you’ve only met a small number times uses your birthday as an opportunity to say something really thoughtful. So this is me sharing a private message I got from comic industry stalwart, writer supreme and all-around good guy Martin Pasko.

Bday2013 from Pasko

I fully admit this is self-serving. But I wanted to share. I did what I did in comics for a number of reasons. Let’s see how many I can name on the spur of the moment. (1) I love comics and have for nearly as long as I can remember (2) I have wanted a career in comics since my early teens (3) I went to college hoping to find a career path into comics (4) I needed a paycheck to feed my family (5) I wanted to provide for my employees as well as myself (6) I wanted to make a positive impact on the comic book industry and be “in the club” (7) I wanted creators who trusted me and worked with me to be glad that they did and (8) I wanted to do the right thing and be able to look at myself in the mirror.

Grade: B- (mostly successful, but with huge and noticeable shortcomings)

Getting this message from Martin Pasko was an amazing surprise and warmed my heart. It touched me. I wanted to say THANK YOU in the most public way at my disposal. And if I’ve violated your privacy by publishing your message to me, please forgive me.

That’s my version of the story.

2 Comments

Filed under Behind the Scenes, Point-of-view

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU ………. JOHN ROMITA Sr (Jan.24)

John Romita Sr.

John Romita Sr.

The comic industry owes you such a huge debt of gratitude for everything you have done to make our careers and lives better … in addition to your jaw-dropping pictures and cover designs.

Thanks Mr. Romita … from the farm town boy who loved the way you provoked his imagination … to the aspiring comic pro to whom you showed such grace … to the comics vet who appreciates you now more than ever.

John Romita_GwenStacy

Spider-man’s girlfriend Gwen Stacy

Previous mentions of John Romita Sr can be found numerous spots here at Funnybook Fanatic: HERE and HERE and HERE just to tease a few.

And that is my version of the story for today.
(January 24, 2013)

Leave a comment

Filed under Behind the Scenes

All the news that’s fit to print!

As most people reading this blog already know, I was (once upon a time) the publisher of Malibu Comics. The company did okay for a while and then for a while, it did much better. Getting press coverage for our titles was always a strong point of Malibu Comics. This is NOT a story about that. Below you’ll find a newspaper clipping from 1989 (at least that is my best guess).

Malibu news story 89 fixed

The photograph below was used to illustrate the story.

Malibu news photo 1989 fixed

Look, I’m not going to discuss the apparent mullet. Ain’t gonna happen.

Malibu sold its comics through the world-wide direct market. The first fan letter we ever received was mailed from Germany. We did not solicit this story. The newspaper reporter called Malibu through some personal contacts we made in the community. Just to be clear, this story was NOT the result of Malibu’s savvy marketing efforts.

Let’s talk about this literal snapshot from the history of Malibu, especially for those of you that only remember Malibu as the company that either helped launch Image Comics or the company that published the Ultraverse & Bravura comics.

1. Assuming I’ve got the date right (1989), this story was written just before the company’s second anniversary of releasing comics. Malibu’s first titles were released in June 1987. In 24 months, we had geared up our production from 3 titles per month to 30 titles per month. With sales relatively low per title, we needed that kind of volume to keep the lights on, the doors open and make payroll each month. YEEK!

2. If I ever get around to writing The Secret Origin of Malibu Comics Part 5, you will learn about the days when we ran Malibu from my “back porch.” It is absolutely true. The office we were using at THIS time was only about 1,000 square feet and very cluttered AND it had no heat. Most of the year in California this wasn’t much of problem, but there were definitely times when the temperature would dip into the high 30s and low 40s. That is awfully cold to sit around and do office work all day. We got by with space heaters and weight-lifting gloves.

3. WAIT A SECOND. Did I just type “weight lifting gloves.” Yes. We were doing most of our work on early Macintosh computers. We wore the weight-lifting gloves because they could provide a small amount of warmth for our chilly hands, but they did not cover our fingertips. We needed free fingertips to allow for all the typing we did all day. I’m not the least bit ashamed to admit, I still own a pair of weight-lifting gloves that I wore during those early, chilly days.

4. We did a lot of newspaper strip reprints in those days, focusing on properties that people our age might recognize. Why they mentioned Charlie Chan instead of Sherlock Holmes, I will never know.

5. I’m proud that we published Dinosaurs for Hire, proud to this very day. It was fun in a way that almost no comic is fun these days. If you look around, you can find copies of this lost gem in a dollar box somewhere. Make the investment. I do not believe you will be disappointed.

6. I’m less proud of Scimidar. To say that the book was PG-13 is being generous. It was a title about a sexy girl assassin in a grim future (written by longtime DEAR friend R.A. Jones). It was a book ABOUT sex and violence. It was often gratuitous. I’m not “less proud” of Scimidar because of what it attempted to be. It sold quite well in comparison to a lot of our other titles, but it simply didn’t achieve its goals very well. What is was trying to say ABOUT sex and violence sometimes got lost in the content.MalibuLogo001big

7. This newspaper story was published at a time when there weren’t any Malibu titles, at least no comics carried Malibu as its imprint. The company was called Malibu Graphics Publishing but the imprints that we promoted and put on the covers of the books were either Eternity, Adventure or Aircel. These were imprints that readers and retailers were already familiar with and that helped sales. Our job in those days was to achieve the highest sales possible, both for our own benefit but also for the benefit of the creators.

8. Yes. In 1989, 20th Century Fox was working on relaunching Planet of the Apes in some way. Needless to say it never happened. Malibu published the comics anyway and we did very well with it. Exactly why a relaunch of a movie series failed, I don’t know. Perhaps we may never knew.

9. If Malibu was a top five publisher in 1989, we were mostly certainly no higher than #5 … and we probably were not in that position every month. But to make it to #5 in two years of publishing seems like an achievement we should be proud of.

10. Yes. I decided on a career in comics when I was sixteen years old. I wrote about that HERE.

11. The story says that we had nine employees. I cannot for the life of me can figure out how nine of us worked in that little tiny office. I’m not sure where that number comes from.

12. The picture was taken outside our offices as I sat on the asphalt parking lot among a bunch of Malibu titles we spread out on the ground. I’m holding our best-selling title at the time: Robotech: The Sentinels. Surrounding me you can see Three Musketeers, War of the Worlds, and another one of bestsellers, Ben Dunn’s Ninja High School.

AND … just for the record. In Paragraph one, the newspaper misspelled Spider-man. In Paragraph three, the last name of Chris Ulm is spelled wrong. Paragraph six has a whopper of a typo, when the word “said” is spelled wrong.

So now comes my appeal to others reading this blog. Do you have scans or clippings similar to this one hidden way somewhere, a local newspaper who came out to a local small comic publisher to cover their “success.” If so, please send them along … I would love to see them and with your permission I will post them here for the world to see.

That’s my version of the story.

4 Comments

Filed under Behind the Scenes, Fanatical History, Malibu Comics Origins

In honor of reaching 50,000 page views, we take a trip down memory lane.

As I write this post, this humble funny book blog (started in November 2009) has finally reached 50,000 page views. I’m not sure if that is a very small number, but I’m okay with it. Funny Book Fanatic certainly isn’t a high traffic site … and I have not been able to update it very often. I’m sure the infrequent updates has slowed traffic.

Scott & Dave setting up at American Booksellers (1991?)

Regardless, 50,000 page views in 15 months means that I’m averaging more than 110 page view per day.

Dave, Scott, Chris and Tom at American Booksellers Convention in 1990

As everyone who reads this probably knows, from 1987 to 1995, I was the publisher of Malibu Comics. Originally it was called Malibu Graphics, but we changed it. We published comics under a variety of imprints, Eternity, Aircel, Adventure, Platinum Editions, Bravura. Malibu was even the publisher of Image Comics for the first year of its existence.

Malibu started out as four guys, two working in the back porch of a trailer in Newbury Park, California and the other two working from an enormous warehouse in Commerce, California. For the record that means me, Scott Rosenberg, Chris Ulm and Tom Mason.

Scott Rosenberg and an unsung hero at Malibu Comics, Dan Danko.

By the time Marvel Comics bought Malibu Comics, we had over 100 employees … including a color department that worked three-shifts plus a division that made video games and a “movie” division.

I’ve already posted four pieces of the formation of Malibu Comics.
The secret origin of Malibu Comics (part one)
The secret origin of Malibu Comics (part two)

The secret origin of Malibu Comics (part three)
The secret origin of Malibu Comics (part four)
I plan to do more than will detail as best I can the trials, tribulations, mistakes, failures and hard work that we all put into Malibu.

Tom, Dave & Chris waiting for an elevator to go to the SHOW.

Malibu could not have been successful without the hard work of a large number of dedicated employees. Some came and went quickly. Others came and stayed and made enormous contribution. Some became like family. Our first two editorial employees were Dan Danko and Mickie Villa. Dan stayed to the very end. Mickie might have, but she found love at a comic book convention and moved to be with her new husband (who worked at Marvel).

A few months ago, one of the many former Malibu Comics employees set up a Facebook group for Malibu Alumni. It is full of all sorts of pictures from back in Malibu’s heyday, most of the pictures seem to have been taken when groups got together to either make funny faces … or to eat. If the pictures were any kind of indication, the gang at Malibu was out eating most of the time (and dressing in the bad costume styles of the day).

Then the other day, Mickie Villa from the wilds of Washington state, posted a number of the pictures featured here from her personal collection. I liked them so much that I buckled down and posted them here.

Author (and friend) Gerard Jones with the radiant Mickie Villa (at a comic convention)

Thank you Mickie. It inspired me and reminded me how sad I am that I have so few photographs of my days at Malibu Comics. These are great memories. An enormous reminder that time stands still for now one … squeeze every ounce of enjoyment out of every day.

*** AND TAKE MORE PICTURES ***
You’ll never be this young again.

For those of you who know any of us personally, I hope you find these pictures entertaining. For everyone else, just Marvel at the fashion sense of comics folks from the late 8o’s and early 90’s.

That’s my version of the story.

–Dave Olbrich (DWO) Fri. Jan. 29, 2010

6 Comments

Filed under Behind the Scenes, Fanatic General, Fanatical History, Malibu Comics Origins