Malibu Comics Secret Origins (part two)

malibulogo2In this post, I’m going to begin to go over my personal path to becoming Publisher of Malibu Comics. Maybe others will be able to relate to my personal travails, we’ll see. But first (as they say in the trade) some housekeeping.

This is a good time to remind all readers (and there seems to be a bunch more now than there were a few weeks ago) that Funny Book Fanatic has a standing offer for readers to ask me questions.  I call it “ASK THE DWO” and in the past I’ve managed to answer some interesting questions about: comic characters with fur, the Comics Code Authority and Dale Keown’s work at Aircel Comics. If you want some tips about what you might ask me, check out the Background page.askthedwo

There are also a lot of activities for fanatics visiting here, especially if you page down, reading all the cool stuff in the right hand sidebar.

    Click the VOTE FOR ME button just above my lovely picture (by artist Matt Busch).  ——–>

     Click your favorite 2nd String Character in the voting box, just above the photo of me and my Facebook link. There are more details about this purely subjective and not-entirely-fair competition on the 2nd String Hall of Fame Page. Vote soon, the time limit is running out for this particular group. Want to nominate a favorite of your own … let me know.

    I’m open to posting stories, anecdotes and reminiscences of adventures in the comic book business from other professionals. Just send me an e-mail.

    Plus I’m also looking for creative fanatics who want to change the Hawkeye header for this blog to something else of their creation. (Stealing blatantly from a regular practice at Mike Sterling’s Progressive Ruin.) Size: exactly 770 pixels by 200 pixels.

     • And it goes without saying that you should check out the other links in the sidebar from our various nominees for Blog of the Month and Blog of the Year, but you can also find a lot of the previous posts there.


* * * * * * *      housekeeping ends / Malibu Origin begins here      * * * * * * * 

amazing_heroes97Less than a year after graduating from college, I was working as the managing editor of fan magazine Amazing Heroes for the guys at Fantagraphics Books. My fiance and I were living in Stamford, Connecticut and planning our wedding for September 1984. Sometime in the first quarter of 1984, Fantagraphics honcho Gary Groth announced that he was moving the entire company to California and we were all welcome to come along for the ride.

Subsequently, I found myself driving from Wisconsin to California in early October 1984 with a U-Haul full of wedding gifts, while my new wife played navigator from the passenger seat. Once located on the West Coast, I started contributing more and more to the sales, marketing and distribution efforts of Fantagraphics Books, but the cost of living in California started to take its toll. 

I took a second job delivering pizzas for the local Dominos Pizza to help make ends meet. One night, on deliveries, I was even robbed by a kid with a hammer. Then we got the news that my wife was expecting our first child, which really turned up the heat on our financial “pinch” as we had no health insurance.

dominosstorefrontWhen the owners of the Dominos franchise offered me a management position, family health coverage (and a huge salary increase over my income at Fantagraphics), I was forced to make the hard decision to leave behind my career in comics behind for the good of my expanding family.

My daughter, Maggie, was born in February 1986 and the hospital got paid with minimal damage to our finances, but working at Dominos Pizza slowly transformed from “interesting challenge” to “painfully frustrating exercise.” Turns out, the franchise owners were just as frustrated as I … and I was fired.

My daughter Maggie and my dog Roxy (from 1994)

Two of my loves: My daughter Maggie and my dog Roxy (from 1994)

By then, my wife had a great job in recreation, so we struggled along barely making ends meet while I looked for work. I put together a long, detailed proposal when I applied to be the hired executive for an organization called IADD, the International Association of Direct Distributors. Even though they were competitors, the major comic book distributors had formed IADD in 1981. The decision about hiring the IADD executive was to happen at a meeting in Hawaii. I sent my proposal to a friend in the organization. 

I couldn’t afford to fly to the meeting, but David Scroggy could … and he got the job. As you probably know, David Scroggy has been Vice President of Product Development at Dark Horse for many, many years now. Broke and desperate, I started thinking of any possible way to get back into the comics business, which was difficult then, because I wasn’t ready to uproot my family and move from Southern California. I may be a funny book fanatic, but I love my family more. Finding a comics job on the East Coast would have been easier.

David Scroggy (present day)

David Scroggy (present day)

I sent a resume to a comic distribution company in Los Angeles called Sunrise. It wasn’t long before I got a call from Sunrise head honcho Scott Rosenberg inviting me for an interview. After hiring me as a lead customer service representative, Scott Rosenberg admitted the reason I got an interview was the diligent way I had handled his company (and other distributors) when I exited Fantagraphics Books

I didn’t love the one hour to one-and-a-half hour one-way commute to the Sunrise Distribution warehouse in Commerce from my home in Ventura County. One Halloween night, it took me almost four hours to drive home. I really loved being able to make a modest living in the comic book business and helping retailers get the titles they needed for their customers. 

Scott Rosenberg (post-Malibu)

Scott Rosenberg (post-Malibu)

Then one evening after “distribution day,” over pizza and beer, Scott Rosenberg asked me the fateful question. “What do you want to be doing in five years?” he said.

“I’d like to get back into publishing,” I told him. I didn’t know it then, but I had started the ball rolling for a wild ride that would seal my future. 

That’s my version of the story.



         — Dave Olbrich (DWO) Fri. Jan. 30, 2009



Filed under Ask The DWO, Malibu Comics Origins, Point-of-view

19 responses to “Malibu Comics Secret Origins (part two)

  1. Pingback: Malibu Comics Secret Origins (part two) « Business Health Insurance

  2. DWO–

    Nice recap of events, but I think you’re off by a year. The move from Connecticut to California was announced and took place in 1984, not 1985. I graduated from school in May 1984 and began at Fantagraphics a week later, and we moved that fall. I felt fortunate not to experience even a single Connecticut winter! And I recall you left to get married at the same time as the move (conveniently sticking us with all the work, you dog). And that would mean that Lori was not “in the family way” when you got married, right?

    And cut it out with the “the” in “Ask the DWO”! It should just be “Ask DWO”!

  3. Here’s a question for ya- does the IADD (or anything comparable) still exist, in any form? Or did the dominance of the big three distributors in the early to mid 90’s kinda nix that?

    And lord knows many a comic pro has been employed by the pizza delivery industry. If it’s good enough for Jim Lee…

  4. Paul O'Connor

    You were robbed by a kid with a hammer?

  5. Cory Strode

    Dave Scroggy…I remember him from his work at Pacific, one of my favorite comic companies of the 80’s. Their output was always worth reading, even if it was pretty damn strange at time.

    As for Domino’s, when I first moved to Minnesota, my wife at the time was working for them and it was a case of a great job when she got it, and a terrible job six months later. I think ALL of them are like that.

  6. Love it. Want more ‘Bu info.

  7. Tom Mason

    “You were robbed by a kid with a hammer?”

    Never bring a pizza to a hammer fight. (Just curious: Was the kid Brent Anderson and did he want his $30?)

  8. Kara

    Wait, so when I started at Malibu in 1992, Maggie wasn’t even ten? I had no idea you had young kids at home. No wonder you had to listen to Howard Stern at the office.

  9. Dave Olbrich

    T. Heintjes –
    You’re absolutely right about being off by a year. I’ve edited the story, correcting the dates.

    Regarding “Ask the DWO” … while you may have started the ball rolling, it is unrealistic to expect that you’ll always have control over which hills and valleys it rolls through. The situation has evolved … roll with it dude.

  10. Dave Olbrich

    Richard —
    There is no current equivalent of IADD, because Diamond would be the only member. I was reading some IADD memories from Chuck Rozanski the other day and it reminded me that one of the primary reasons that IADD existed was to form a united front when negotiating terms with Marvel and DC.

    As soon as the industry’s biggest publishers went “exclusive” with their distribution, IADD was as good as dead. So Marvel buying Heroes World was the bullet that killed it.

  11. Dave Olbrich

    Paul —

    Part of the training of all Dominos Pizza delivery drivers is “give the guy the money” … the same training that they give a bank teller.

    Being robbed by a teenager with a hammer was absolutely surreal … and it took me a second or two to realize (1) it was real and (2) what exactly he wanted.

    The kid(s) ordered a pizza for a house where it was clear no one was home on a secluded dark street. I went to the door, rang the bell, no one answered. As I walked back to my car, I realized someone was coming up from behind me. I turned and he was shouting at me to give him my money and holding a standard claw hammer poised over his head ready to strike. He got less than $60.

    And I’m reasonably sure it wasn’t Brent Anderson in disguise. Okay, Tom?

  12. Dave Olbrich

    Kara –
    How sweet of you to stop by.
    In February of 1992, my daughter Maggie turned six. I’m not sure what her age has to do with my appreciation for Howard Stern, but I definitely feel like I missed out on a lot of fun and enjoyment during my Malibu days because I had a family. All you young kids our carousing and enjoying your youth … I was so jealous.

  13. Pingback: Malibu Comics Secret Origins (part 3) « Funny Book Fanatic

  14. Pingback: Malibu Comics Secret Origin (part 4) « Funny Book Fanatic

  15. Pingback: In honor of reaching 50,000 page views, we take a trip down memory lane. « Funny Book Fanatic

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