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)

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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.


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

CAPTAIN AMERICA #140 – My favorite covers: Part 1

If I could own only one piece of original art, this might be it. I can’t even imagine what the price would be. (Perhaps someone can tell me.) John Romita Sr. really knocked it out of the park on this one, in my humble opinion.

Yeah, okay, I admit that part of it is nostalgia. It was released in August of 1971, the end of summer vacation when I was 11 years old. This was no doubt a sweet spot for the fantastic adventures of costume heroes to entrance of young Minnesota farm boy.

Written by Stan Lee and interior pencils also by Romita, this issue had A LOT to like: a cool looking villain that I’d never seen before, Nick Fury on the Helicarrier, Sharon Carter (who never looked better than when drawn by Romita), Cap trying out a secret identity as a policeman, the Falcon’s “radical” girlfriend Leila (who hated cops), the Falcon in his original green-and-gold costume, and a new threat to the world destined to fall into the hands of the Gargoyle, Element X. Thrills and chills in the Mighty Marvel Manner.


And don’t miss my personal story of attending a party in Hawaii with both Stan Lee and John Romita Sr. HERE.

That’s my version of the story.

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The Ultraverse television commercials (enjoy!)

Featuring Larry Bagby Jr., Chris Ulm and the future former Mrs. Scott Rosenberg.

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The Jonny Quest song I play for myself at least once-a-week.

I don’t have the time this evening to write a long diatribe about my deep and abiding love for all things Jonny Quest. I’ve written of it many times here before.

This animated classic got under my skin as a young fan who depended on television to be both my friend and my window into the worlds of the fantastic. And then as an adult my interest continued. I was beside myself with fanatic GLEE when Comico got the rights to publish comics featuring the further adventures of Jonny, Race, Hadji and Co.

As luck would have it, at that time, I was working at a fan magazine called Amazing Heroes, back when comic fans actually read fan magazines. The offices for the publisher of Amazing Heroes was less than fifteen miles from the home of Doug Wildey, the man responsible for the creation of Jonny Quest. Exercising my editorial prerogative, I assigned myself the job to get an interview and write a feature about Doug for the launch of Comico’s series. Besides being amazingly talented, Doug Wildey was soft-spoken and incredibly generous with his time. Doug even did a painting that we used for the cover of Amazing Heroes.

Then, he gave me the painting. And it hangs on the wall of my office where I can enjoy it every day.

At the bottom it reads, "For Dave, a fine writer and a nice human being.  - Doug"

At the bottom it reads, “For Dave, a fine writer and a nice human being. – Doug”

Many years later, I got a CD (we still have those, right?) called Saturday Morning, it featured many songs from my television-polluted youth by popular bands (of the time). If you enjoy this blog, you should own this CD. Then something happened this evening that drove me directly to my blog to write this new post.

I found a video featuring Reverend Horton Heat’s version of the Jonny Quest theme song. It segues in the middle into “Stop The Pigeon,” the theme song from Dastardly & Muttly, but I still play this song for myself at least once a week. If I had a guarantee that the good Reverend would play this song live in concert, I would travel across a time-zone or two to hear it in person. Now you can ENJOY!

That’s my version of the story.

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Filed under Fanatic General, Product Plugs

The Avengers Conquer the World

It is already late as I write this. And it is days after every entertainment news organization has declared Marvel’s The Avengers movie the all-time box office champ.

I honestly wish I had the time at the moment to pontificate at length about my thoughts about The Avengers. Trust me, I will someday. I will someday soon. But for now I simply want to share the following piece of video with the fans of this blog. As we stood in line to enter the theatre for the Marvel Movie Marathon, at approximately 8am on Thursday May 3rd, a man approached us with a microphone and tiny camera.

He asked us some questions and then said the video would be on-line sometime in the next 24 hours or so. Below is the result of his work. Maggie (my daughter) and I appear at about the 20 second mark or so. Also with us former Malibu Editor-in-Chief Chris Ulm and his daughter. And if you watch closely, we appear twice more later on in the video. Enjoy.

If you want a really nice recap of the day, written by a friend (Paul O’Connor) that sat just a few seats away from me.

Check out his blog: Longbox Graveyard.

That’s my version of the story … for now.


Filed under Fanatic General

The coolest thing I saw at WonderCon

I LOVE COMC CONVENTIONS. I like big ones, I like small ones. I like busy money-making ones. I like the ones where the organizer is clearly losing his shirt. I like them with or without celebrities. I can always find something to like. Something odd or fascinating. Something new or something that tickles my sense of nostalgia. And just to go on the record, I really enjoyed the most recent incarnation of Wonder Con held March 16 – 18 in Anaheim. More about that later.

At Wonder Con this year, an old friend of mine challenged me to start posting to this blog again. So I’m going to go slow. Slower than I would like. Slower than any dedicated blogger would find acceptable. But I’m accepting the challenge. I’ve been away a long time, but I’m back … sort of.

The coolest thing I saw at Wonder Con this year was a tiny 10X10 booth manned by an artist by the name of Alex Wer, The Pumpkin Geek. Let me say that agian to let it sink in … THE PUMPKIN GEEK. Feast your eyes on this.

Hawkeye has always been a favorite of mine

BIG STAR Nathan Fillian as FIREFLY's Malcolm Reynolds. I remember when he was Johnny on TWO GUYS, A GIRL AND A PIZZA PLACE

Finally, the amazing Peter Dinklage has a role worthy of his talent, wit and charisma. Thanks GAME OF THRONES!

If you told me in my 20's that I'd be a DR. WHO fan, I would have laughed in your face. Now I am a convert.

Alex has taken the carving of artificial pumpkins to an amazing level. I told him when I saw his stunning work that I would post pictures on my blog, so now I’ve killed two birds with one stone. A new Funnybook Fanatic post and providing a little free promotion to a guy I only met once, but loved his work.

I hope he keeps coming to conventions. I hope he makes a lot of money. I hope to own one of his cool creations one day … as soon as I can commit to one that I must have for years and years to come.


So with one plug out of the way … I have another very important one. If you aren’t reading the fabulous blog called LONGBOX GRAVEYARD. You are missing something really special. So as soon as you are done reading this … go read Paul O’Connor’s truly entertaining achievement in blogging aimed specifically at guys like me. CLICK HERE!

And now a few words about this year’s Wonder Con.

I hope that the organizers find a way to make it … or something like it … or something exactly the same with a new name … a regular event. The people who organize Wonder Con are the same fine people who run Comic-Con International in San Diego each year. The gathering in San Diego has grown in size, attendance and reputation to a degree I don’t think anyone imagined 10 or 12 years ago. San Diego Con is too big in a lot of ways.

I’m not one of those “old timers” who pine away for the days of yore when San Diego was smaller or more focused on actual comic books. I think San Diego is an truly colossal and tremendous event. Like I said at the top … I LOVE IT.

WonderCon in Anaheim this year was very well attended. I believe that it proved that Southern California can support TWO great conventions every year. San Diego attendance sells out in hours. That is a lot of demand and it also speaks for a possibility of a lot of unfulfilled demand. Perhaps those frustrated by their inability to attend San Diego could be serviced by another show in Los Angeles or Anaheim. Perhaps holding the conventions approximately six months apart would also serve the needs of the wide variety of publishers, vendors and media companies that use conventions to promote their work to fans.

WonderCon has been operating in Northern California (first in Oakland, then in San Francisco) for a long time. I don’t have any idea what the long term growth prospects are if the show returns to point of origin. If it was going to provide a “release valve” for the crowds in San Diego, it seems to me that it would have happened already.

It must also be said that other convention organizers have tried their luck in Southern California in recent years with only limited success. WonderCon was proof that the people will come, especially to a well-run, well-promoted event. I’d love to see it happen again.

That’s my version of the story.


Filed under Fanatic General