The inimitable Alan David Doane, with whom I spent much of last Saturday afternoon, along with John Hebert, Rocco Nigro and Fred Hembeck wrote: I have five questions, which if you answer them all, I will steal your responses and put on my blog, because that’s just the kind of guy I am. And he is. He really is. He’s also a guy who hates his cell phone but keeps it charged, whereas I often don’t know where the phone and/or the charger are.
What is your favourite comic book story?
Yeesh. I must admit a fondness for the Defenders when Gerber was writing it, and I love a good origin story (Spider-Man, Hulk), but ultimately, I end up with Giant-Size Man Thing #1.
When reading comics, do you focus on the writing over the art, the art over the writing, or both about equally?
Serviceable art will allow me to read a well-told story. The most beautiful art will not save a terrible story line. One of the comic books I hate the most has to be Spider-Man #1. The McFarlane art was tolerable at best, but the story was so gawd awful, I stopped buying the title after 3 or 4 issues. Given the fact that I LOVED-LOVED-LOVED Peter Parker/Spider-Man, it was painful, but necessary. This was NOT the Peter I knew. The Spider-Man was more like Spawn. Loathsome.
When the Pinis used to come to FantaCo to do Elfquest signings, Richard used to rail against the comic fanboys who cared about art to the exclusion of story, and I thought he was absolutely right.
That said, sometimes the art DOES move me. I was buying Sub-Mariner during Bill Everett’s second run, and I loved the look.
Who do you think is the greatest comic book artist still alive today and why?
Well, besides Fred G. Hembeck, who should be considered just based on the sheer number of characters he’s drawn? I’ll cop out and say Art Spiegelman because he helped bring the comic form out of the comic book ghetto.
What’s your happiest memory of working at FantaCo?
I almost always loved when our publications came in, but I’m going to pick something rather arcane.
There was a graphic novelization of the Stephen King’s Creepshow drawn by Berni Wrightson in the mid-1980s. Having connections in both the comic and horror markets we knew, both instinctively and from comic and horror film stores we dealt with that there was still a demand for this title. The publisher, we ascertained, still had many copies of the book. I wrote to the publisher- nothing. I called the publisher – I was told the book was no longer available, which I knew to be untrue. Finally, I reached someone who acknowledged that they had copies but that it was not worth it for them to send it out only to deal with a huge percentage of returns.
So I said, “What if we bought them non-returnable?” I thought the guy’s teeth were going to fall out. “Non-returnable?” So, we took 100 copies of it at 70% off the $6.95 cover price, put them in the store and listed them in a Fangoria ad, and blew through them. So I called again and said, can we have another 100?” By this point other stores were clamoring for this book, so we ordered an additional 500, and sold it to these horror book stores, and a few comic book stores, at 40% non-returnable. The stores got to sell a book they could otherwise not get, we made a decent profit even wholesaling someone else’s book, and we kept the Wrightson book from just being remaindered. My persistence in dealing with this publisher was, strangely, my favorite FantaCo moment.
Here’s another: I just came across in the past week a letter that one of FantaCo’s mail order customers sent to me. Why it should resurface now, I have no idea, since we’ve only been in the house since 2000. (A 1989 article about the comic book Shriek was also in the pile.) This guy worked for Ryko, and he would send me, his mail order purveyor, free music.
Good to speak to you on the phone today (1-26-88)…I’m finding Ryko fans in the strangest places.
Hope you enjoy these guys – I chucked in a couple 3″, too. The one with no writing is “They Might Be Giants”, a couple of guys from Hoboken, NJ. I like this not for the swag, but because apparently I was giving him service worthy of him sending me free stuff. Still have that unlabeled TMBG disc.
What do you think is the single best publication FantaCo released in its history?
While I have a strong affection for the Spider-Man Chronicles, which I edited, I’m going to say Gates of Eden, which Mitch Cohn edited. No, I’m NOT going to pick the Amazing Herschell Gordon Lewis and his World of Exploitation Films, no matter how much you beg, Alan.