Posts Tagged ‘FantaCo Enterprises’

roger2
My old buddy Augustus (who you FantaCo customers might have known as Matt), put this together for my birthday. Pic on the left is from the cover of the FantaCon 1988 convention program, drawn by the late Chas Balun. The image is on the right was John Hebert’s rendition from Sold Out #1, c. 1986.
This is about me because: It was so cool. And he wrote: “Thank you for turning me on to a world of literature far beyond science fiction and fantasy. Your are still an influence on this boychik. Long may you arrange. (books in order).” And you thought I couldn’t blush.

Now Jaquandor KNOWS how to celebrate my birthday. He added me to his sentential links here. He answered my question about football.
This is about me, obviously. (Sidebar: some highly educated person wrote “As is my want” recently in a mass e-mail I received. You have NO idea how difficult it was for me NOT to correct him. Jaquandor would NOT make this misteak, er, mistake.)

Tom Skulan of FantaCo is being interviewed for Theater of Guts.
This is about me because: I worked at FantaCo for over eight years I took the photo of Tom, and also the pic of the late Chas Balun looking towards the ceiling. I find it interesting that my photos of the store Read the rest of this entry »

1977: host Mike Douglas, Phil Seuling, Wendy Pini, guest cohost Jamie Farr

Phil Seuling invented the direct market for comic books. From the Wikipedia: “The evolution of the comic book specialty shop (or “direct-only stores”) in the early 1970s created a whole new system for delivering comics to customers. Before the advent of the comics retailer, most comics were found in grocery, drug, and toy stores. The specialty shop presents a number of competitive advantages over those other venues.” If it weren’t for Phil, there would not have been a proliferation of comic book stores in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Chuck Rozanski of Mile High Comics, once a customer and later competitor of Phil’s, Read the rest of this entry »

As I may have mentioned, I went to the FantaCon comic book and horror film convention in September. If you were not in Albany from 1978-1998, or were not purchasing merchandise from FantaCo’s mail order catalog, including the books and magazine it published, you might not know the significance of that. Until going to FantaCon this year, I’m not sure *I* understood the significance of that place, and I worked at FantaCo for eight and a half years.

FantaCo, nominally a comic book store, especially in its early incarnation, was a hub of the local popular culture. When I recently went through the T-shirts that the late artist Raoul Vezina, who worked at FantaCo, had designed, they represented a certain segment of the life of the Capital District in the early 1980s: Q-104, the best radio station in the area, where FantaCo advertised; minor MTV sensation Blotto, whose records the store carried; World’s Records, the store next door; J.B. Scott’s, THE place to hear live music.

The store became relatively famous nationally from publishing the work of cartoonist Fred Hembeck and magazines about some Marvel superheroes, the Chronicles series.

At the same time, though, the store/mail order was developed its bona fides in the horror market. I remain convinced that those ads in every issue of FANGORIA magazine built the audience’s confidence that FantaCo was not some fly-by-night operation. It helped that Tom Skulan, the owner of the store, would travel to England and ship back items not easily found on this side of the pond.

I realized that people must have thought the mail order, which I ran, must have been some massive operation in some gigantic warehouse, which was hardly the case. I remember clearly, though, c 1986, some tween or young teen boy who was waiting outside the store at 10 a.m.; I got much of the shipping done before the store opened at 11. When we finally let him in, I discovered that he had come from Belfast, Northern Ireland, in the midst of The Troubles, and insisted to his family that he had to make a pilgrimage to FantaCo to get his horror book and magazine fix. He spent a LOT of money, even after we discounted some items.

It was that FantaCo experience that let me know about the importance of customer service, from keeping the sidewalk clear during the winter, to deciding to accept Diners Club cards when we had only a couple customers who used it. It has given me an appreciation of the issues entrepreneurs face daily, which I try to bring to being a small business librarian.

One of my responsibilities was to make the deposit every weekday. I’d walk the half block to the Key Bank. The worst part was getting across Washington and Lark, an intersection that is STILL treacherous. One time Tom, the owner, went to the bank to take out a loan, and the bank employee asked if it were all right with Roger, since I was the face she recognized. Tom wasn’t happy.

Ultimately, though, I left in November of 1988 because I was all “horrored out”. It was never my thing, and I needed to do something else. For years, I thought that was that, end of the chapter. Then I heard about FantaCon 2013, the first convention in nearly a quarter century.

Some guy was supposed to do a bibliography of the FantaCo publications for the program. He knew about the horror pubs, but less about the comics-related items from the early days. I knew that stuff. As it turned out, I did the listing for 1979-1988, which appears in this program (available for Kindle) with the rest scheduled for the next FantaCon program in 2014 or 2015. Physically holding all of those items, some of which I contributed to as writer or editor, made me feel like Paul McCartney when he thinks about the Beatles. He’s not part of the Fab Four anymore, but it is part of what he called his “ever present past.” He’ll ALWAYS be a Beatle; likewise, FantaCo will always have some hold on me.

Seeing old friends at FantaCon, some of whom I had not seen since 1988, such as Steve Bissette and Rolf Stark was tremendous. We all looked EXACTLY like we used to.

As I have noted, I’m not one much for nostalgia. I don’t long for the “good old days.”

Also, I used to think in terms of time being linear. You do this; this is over. You do that; that passes. On to the next thing. I’m more likely now to see things as parabolic, with events somehow coming back to re-inform one’s life periodically.

I do have a sense of history, though. That is why my friend Steve Bissette and I tried to fix some of the more egregious errors on the FantaCo Wikipedia page a few years ago. I worked at the comic book and film paraphernalia store/publisher/mail order/convention place at 21 Central Avenue in Albany from 1980-1988 Read the rest of this entry »

ER and FDR

For whatever reason, I wasn’t sleeping well a couple weeks ago. When I booked our hotel for our trip to the Mid-Hudson for the first weekend in August, in my fatigued fog, I totally forgot that my wife had told me to secure a place for TWO nights, and that she had even arranged for a cat sitter. I was just so happy that I finally remembered to book it at all. We had made this sojourn a couple hours south a few times, and it had always been one night. This time, though, we had added a couple elements, so the extra time would have been helpful.

Instead, we headed out Saturday and went to Val-Kill, Eleanor Roosevelt’s home. There will be much more on this.

Then to Hyde Park to visit the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. Read the rest of this entry »

Dustbury noted that he and I have something in common: we are both magpies. As he put it: “The Eurasian magpie… is wicked smart, especially for a bird… I am not quite sure how “magpie” became a descriptor for humans who flit from topic to topic, unless it has to do with the bird’s tendency to be attracted to Shiny Things, but I’m pretty sure I fit that description, and I have several readers who seem to do likewise.”

The problem with that is that I often move onto the Next Thing, less out of boredom, but the need to find something mentally Shiny, I suppose. Intellectually, at least, the phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none” is pretty true of me. I know very few things in depth, but I know a little about a lot of things.

Sometimes, people have suggested Read the rest of this entry »


FantaCon, once an Albany tradition for fans of comic book, fantasy, and in its latter incarnations, horror films, is returning after a brief, two-decade hiatus. FantaCon 2013, operated by its original creator, Tom Skulan, will be held Saturday September 14 and Sunday September 15 at the Marriott Hotel on Wolf Road in Albany. Ticket for the related Three Nights of Horror at the Palace Theatre on September 11-13 in Albany, will be available from the Palace Theatre box office, starting on February 13.

FantaCo, the store/mail order company Tom started, operated from 1978 through 1998 at 21 Central Avenue, Albany, NY. I worked there from May 1980 to November 1988, worked at the first five FantaCons and attended the sixth.
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Even before I started working at FantaCo, I bought from FantaCo this single by the Spastic Phono Band , a parody of some Beatles and Paul McCartney songs. The store carried some Japanese EPs of the Beatles. How important to you were The Beatles specifically, and music generally?

The Beatles were and are very important to me because they represent a group of individuals who against ALL odds did exactly what they set out to do. That’s a powerful example to learn from.
Musically they are sublime. My Beatles CDs are the CDs I play the least because I just enjoy them so much I never want the magic to wear away. The Beatles (White Album) is my all time favorite. Not only because it has so many songs but because there is a slightly ominous tone to the whole thing. And yes- I love Revolution #9 too. I always look forward to dissecting all the sounds.

Early on, the store also sold some records of some local bands such as Blotto. How much did you follow the local music scene?

When I lived above FantaCo I went to JB Scott’s on a regular basis and saw all the local bands opening for the national acts. It was a fun time “living downtown”. I followed most of them at the time.

The 1980 FantaCon was the one with the Berni Wrightson artwork on the cover. It was labeled FantaCon 2, to avoid the confusion of the previous event. What are your memories of that show?
Read the rest of this entry »

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