Tag Archives: Tom Mason

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.

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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

 

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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

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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.

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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

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Brevoort, Anderson, Marder and other FANATIC name dropping

Since launching FUNNY BOOK FANATIC at the end of November 2008, this blog has seen its fair share of comic book fans and comic book professionals stop by and give it a read. I work hard to make sure that readers feel like bookmarking my humble efforts here have something interesting to entertain themselves with for a few minutes.

Malibu's first release, DARK WOLF #1

Malibu's first release, DARK WOLF #1

I’ve always been a little bit surprised by the distance my work and efforts can travel and who can be effected. I remember during the early days of Malibu, we had a post office box instead of regular postal delivery. When I get around to part five or part six (or part seven) of the Secret Origins of Malibu Comics I’ll get around to explaining that. I remember (future Malibu Comics editor-in-chief) Chris Ulm and I were sitting at the kitchen table when (future Malibu marketing chief) Tom Mason walked in the door after a run to pick up the mail.  Continue reading

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Malibu Comics Secret Origin (part 4)

In the first part of this “series” I talked about the state of the comic industry that Malibu was born into. In the second part I talked about my personal path prior to the birth of Malibu. In the third part, I talked about 1986, the year that Malibu was born and some of the things that came together at Sunrise Distribution that would be instrumental in Malibu’s success.

Kevin Nowlan's cover to one of the first AH issues that Tom and I worked on together. (issue #5: featuring The Inferior Five)

Kevin Nowlan's cover to one of the first AH issues that Tom and I worked on together. (issue #35: featuring The Inferior Five)

In part four, I’m going to talk mostly about Tom Mason. I’d met Tom the first day I worked at Fantagraphics Books. I had been hired to be the managing editor of Amazing Heroes magazine. That first day on the job in Connecticut, I was introduced to Tom, who was the art director for Amazing Heroes. We worked together closely. We became friends in Connecticut and when Fantagraphics Books move to Sourthern  California, both Tom and I were along for the ride (and keeping our jobs).

STARTIN’ FROM SCRATCH WITHOUT ANY SCRATCH Continue reading

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Malibu Comics Secret Origins (part 3)

askthedwo1Before we get started with this Fanatic installment of the earliest days of Malibu Comics, let me remind everyone reading this that I encourage blog reader participation. Post a comment, start a dialog, ask a question. We even have a special feature to get your questions answered called “Ask The DWO.”  My name is David W. Olbrich and so, DWO is both my initials and a nickname that I’ve used since the it was given to me by Tom Heintjes during the time we worked together at Fantagraphics Books. I’ve grown to like it. So ask me any question that you might have. I can’t guarantee the quality of the answer, but I can promise an answer.  Just label it “Ask The DWO” in some way and I’ll turn my attention to it … now on with the show.

THE FIRST TENTATIVE STEPS IN THE MALIBU SAND Continue reading

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