The 1987 San Diego Comic Book Convention

The San Diego Comic Convention starts today, or maybe started yesterday. I’m not going, but I have gone in the past, on behalf of the retailer/publisher FantaCo. For the first of two times I attended, the details had left me. However, I seem to have written it down in painfully precise detail, only some of which I will share with you now. If the details are wrong, it’s not from a failing memory, as much of this is verbatim from my journal. [The stuff in brackets are asides from a more current perspective.]

Day One (August 11)
The first session I attended was for retailers. It was called “Fear and Loathing in San Diego – the Chain Store is Coming!” It was about how to survive the onslaught of regular bookstores carrying comic books and how to position comic stores to look more like “regular bookstores.” [I was thinking that as long as FantaCo is selling horror comics, this model won’t work for the store.]
After lunch, I went to an exhibit room and talked to a number of distributors. I kept coming back to the Marvel Comics table because Lou Banks, Dale Kanzler, and Ann Eagan were such a fun bunch. [Hey, they were!] I helped the Marvel crew learn how to run a cash register.
I saw Denis Kitchen of Kitchen Sink Enterprises, and I’m afraid I thoroughly gushed when I talked to him about the Chronicles.
I got into a debate with Bob Wayne of DC over the $2.95 Dark Knight format going to $3.50. His point was that if we knew our customers better, we wouldn’t have a problem. [This really ticked me off.] I also complained about the Millennium and crossovers.
Met Mike Friedrich, who is very instrumental in supporting the comic industry’s self-examination. Talked Chronicles with him as well. The Malibu people acted as though they were on the beach – lawn chairs, and laid back. I took an immediate dislike to Ron Turner, who owns Last Gasp, especially when he said, referring to FantaCo, “You still around?” But he bought three cases of The Amazing Herschell Gordon Lewis.

Day Two
Met the people from Comico, CBG (Ann Goetsch, who had just recently married John Koenig). They’re both charming. I also met Chet Krause, who was in San Diego for a car show. He indicated that CBG was a lot bigger project than he thought it would be. He suggested that he probably paid Allen Light too much money for TBG and that CBG was losing money until two years ago. He has nothing but admiration for Don and Maggie, who I unfortunately didn’t meet, and Ann and John. I had just missed meeting Billy Mumy [who I wanted to meet not so much for Lost in Space, but for a couple episodes of The Twilight Zone}.

Day Three
Talked with Cat Yronwode and Dean Mullaney (Eclipse Comics) and Walter Wang (comics distributor) and others. Also met artists like Tina Robbins, Steve Leialoha, Scott Shaw! Hung out a little with Cat’s bored 16-year-old daughter. Saw bits of a couple of movies, and went to a panel on how to break into comics, which was really lame.

Day Four
Caught a snatch of a panel on social relevancy in comics.
Went to Stan Lee’s soapbox. He and Tom DeFalco had an embarrassing interlude when DeFalco reminds Lee that Lee and Jack Kirby DID sign some papers when Marvel was sold in the early 1970s.
Met Steve Webb, who used to write for the Knick News in Albany but who now writes the entertainment insert for a Phoenix newspaper.
There was a panel on gentrifying the ghetto of comics narrated by Gerald Jones. The panel included Joyce Brabner (Real War Stories, Harvey Pekar’s wife), Max Allen Collins (Ms. Tree), Carol Kalish (Marvel), Art Spiegelman, Heidi MacDonald. It occurred to me, and I told Art later, that it is the ghettoization which has allowed these good things in comics to flourish unobserved, and that the good stuff will show through. [I had forgotten this, but I had talked with Art before because FantaCo was buying RAW comics, this oversized comics he was involved with.]
Gerald Jones then moderated “Black and White Comics: The Gray Future.” with Denis Kitchen, Scott McCloud, Gary Groth, David Olbrick, Wendy Pini, Stan Sakai, and Will Eisner, who took exception to the observations (including mine) that the marketplace should have some standards. [I was in an argument with Will Eisner?] Groth and Collins were defending the standards when I left. Other people I saw at the convention: Leonard Rifas, who I met back in ’83 when he was traveling the country – he gave me some African comics; Tom DeFalco; Ward Batty (he and I hit it off instantly).


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