In 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.
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 * * * * * * *
Less 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.
When 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.
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.
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.
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.
— TO BE CONTINUED
– Dave Olbrich (DWO) Fri. Jan. 30, 2009