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).
The photograph below was used to illustrate the story.
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.
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.