S is for Phil Seuling

FantaCo wouldn’t have thrived without Phil Seuling.

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

Phil Seuling invented the direct market for comic books. From 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, wrote a lengthy Evolution of the Direct Market. Naturally, he mentions Phil straight off:
“Phil began Seagate in 1972, long before selling to comics shops was economically viable. He was a schoolteacher at the time and was well known in the New York area not only as a dealer in comics and original artwork but also as the operator of the huge 4th of July convention in NYC. As I’ve heard the story told, Phil brazenly walked into DC, Marvel, Warren, Harvey, and Archie in 1972 and convinced them that their future lay in selling comics directly to comics specialty shops. He also convinced them to give him a special deal by which they would pay the costs of packaging and shipping all of the books ordered by his accounts. In exchange, he promised them that he would purchase all books from them on a non-returnable basis. Returns had become a very big deal in the early 1970s, as comics were no longer selling in the percentages of previous decades.”

Chuck also describes Phil the person, and this I can verify from meeting the man himself: “If you ask anyone who knew him, one of the first things they will tell you is that Phil was a person who epitomized the concept of an individual being ‘larger than life.’… Chuck describes Phil’s place quite well. I was there a few times myself when Phil was throwing lavish parties.

More to the point, the store I worked at, FantaCo, wouldn’t have thrived – if it would have existed at all – without Phil Seuling. Not only was Seagate FantaCo’s initial distributor, but Phil also bought sufficient amounts of FantaCo publications to distribute when they were unproven commodities.

Unfortunately, Phil Seuling died of liver cancer in 1984 at the age of 50. Tom Skulan, the FantaCo founder, wrote a nice piece about Phil in the FantaCon 2013 program.

Enjoy this video of Phil Seuling on the Mike Douglas Show in 1977, from which the above picture was taken.

ABC Wednesday – Round 13

FantaCon 2013 update

Haven’t seen Steve Bissette in person since 1988.


As some of you know, I worked at FantaCo, the comic book and film book store/publisher, et al in Albany, NY from May 1980 to November 1988, the second-longest job I ever had. (The current one is #1.)

There will be a FantaCon in September 2013, the first one since 1990. I’ll be there, Allah/Yahweh willing.

You’ll note that Tom Skulan, the creator of FantaCo and FantaCon, has dedicated the show to the memory of three individuals. I KNEW THEM ALL.

Phil Seuling was one of those people that the term “bigger than life” was designed for. He essentially invented the direct sales market for comic books, and his Seagate Distributors was not only FantaCo’s primary supplier in the early years, but the fact that he took a chance on FantaCo’s largely untested product line helped permit FantaCo to become a successful publisher. He threw some of the most lavish parties I’ve ever been to, in Brooklyn, NY.

Not only did Raoul Vezina work the front counter at FantaCo, he also designed the FantaCo logo, Smilin’ Ed. He drew the duck character that graces this blog. One of my favorite memories ever was co-plotting a Smilin’ Ed story with him for the X-Men Chronicles. He also was friends with more folk than anyone I knew, and would often get us into the J.B. Scott’s nightclub for free when some band he knew was playing.

Chas Balun was this gentle giant of a man. Had a great sense of humor, which showed up in his horror film writings. He lived on the West Coast of the US, so I didn’t meet him that often. Since I shipped most of the FantaCo publications, I got to speak with him on the phone regularly. My buddy Stephen R. Bissette was speaking fondly of him on his Facebook page earlier this month.

Speaking of Steve, I’m looking forward to seeing him in person, at the only show he’s doing outside his native Vermont in 2013. He’s the artist probably best known for his collaboration on Swamp Thing, though he’s done a lot of other great stuff. Haven’t seen him in person since 1988.

Also haven’t seen Michael T. Gilbert in a very long time, probably since before Raoul died, in 1983. On the other hand, Fred Hembeck, who Tom and Fred have confirmed is coming, though he’s not noted on the site yet, I got to see on November 11 of this year.

I have two tasks in re: this, and some of you may be able to help me. I’m interviewing Tom Skulan, sending him a bunch of questions by the end of the year, which he has agreed to answer. If YOU have questions you want me to ask, please let me know. I’m also working on a FantaCo bibliography for 1978-1988; if you happen to have any of those items that I could borrow – and that would include FantaCon programs, FantaCo catalogs, and Splatter Movies T-shirts, I would appreciate that. Contact me at the e-mail on this blog.

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