Category Archives: Richard Pini

Dealing with Stuff

Saw a couple people yesterday that reminded me about my war with stuff. There was a period, once upon a time, when I coveted stuff – new music, new books, pretty much what every good American has been trained to do. Yet at the same time, I admired people who had a better handle on stuff. I knew this couple from my former church who lived in a small house, and they had a rule that for whatever came into the house, something of equal size had to go out. Music, books, magazines were purchased, but something else had to be passed along.

This is why I have rules about playing music; if I own it and am not playing it, what’s the point? To “have”? (Whereas I’m keeping my Warner Brothers’ Loss Leaders LPs for a reason.)

Alan David Doane, noted comics blogger, and former FantaCo customer, came by my house yesterday morning and took a comics magazine-sized box of periodicals out of my house. It included early Amazing Heroes (back when it WAS mag size), about 30 Comics Journals, and various and sundry other bits of comics journalism from the early 1980s. As I looked through the box, I had a twinge of nostalgia, especially for a square-bound CJ featuring the Pinis and Elfquest. But an even stronger sensation was this: I will never read these magazines again. ADD will enjoy having them much more than I at this point. And, if he finds any FantaCo-relevant info in there, ADD will tell me, making it a win-win.

Less than an hour later, I had lunch with Mitch Cohn, who used to work at FantaCo and edited 2/5 issues of the Chronicles, Gates of Eden and Deja Vu. (Mitch says hi to Fred and Rocco.) In the course of catching up on our lives – he’s teaching English in NYC – Mitch wondered whether Tom Skulan, former FantaCo owner, still had this copy of Abbey Road purportedly signed by all four Beatles. I said no, he gave it to me for Christmas or my birthday in 1984 or ’85. Here’s the weird thing about that; I often forget that I have it. There was a show of Beatles memorabilia to which I had contributed some pieces, but the Abbey Road, which was/is NOT with my Beatles’ materials, totally slipped my mind. So,I’m thinking that I probably should just sell it. Of course, this would probably involve authenticating the signatures. The Beatles were notorious for letting their surrogates sign on their behalf. But having it to “have” it just isn’t making sense anymore.

It’s not that I’m immune to wanting stuff altogether. Sure I’d like a stereo HDTV some day. But my now 21-year-old, pre-SAP, pre-V-chip TV still works, and I’m not throwing it to the curb (probably not literally; there are rules in this city against that) for something I want but just don’t need.
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Things that are bugging me:
*the way the US Census discounts, or more correctly, uncounts married gay couples
*this cartoon featuring Barack Obama; I think it’s racist. No, it’s not the New Yorker cover.
*and I feel rather callous about this one, but after Martha Raddatz, the ABC News White House correspondent reported on the death of former White House press secretary, who died of colon cancer at the age of 53 earlier this month, anchor Charlie Gibson thanked her, adding “I know how hard this story was for you.” Undoubtedly, some affection develops for someone one talks with on a near-daily basis, but hearing “how hard” it was for Martha, who was showing no visible signs of emotion, made me wonder how aggressively the network was in dealing with the Bush administration. (No, that’s not the ONLY thing that made me question that.) And it made Martha’s reaction part of the story, which made me uncomfortable.

Roger Answers Your Questions, ADD

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.
Roger-
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.

ROG

What Hast Moss Wrought

Lynn Moss, the wife of Fred Hembeck, has posted pictures of the second FantaCon back in 1980, before she WAS the wife of Fred Hembeck, if I’m remembering correctly. (EDIT: I wasn’t remembering correctly: they were married the year before.) The convention was put on by FantaCo Enterprises, the comic book store I worked at from 1980 to 1988. The pictures feature Fred, Lynn, Bill Anderson, Joe Staton, Wendy and Richard Pini, Dave Simons, and John Caldwell, plus FantaCo artist/front man Raoul Vezina, FantaCo employee Mitch Cohn and FantaCo owner Tom Skulan. The pictures also feature the “art jam” drawing done by Fred, Raoul, Wendy Pini, Berni Wrightson, Jeff Jones, Simons, Caldwell, and Staton, a drawing Fred described on November 28, 2003.

BTW, 21 Central Avenue, Albany, which was FantaCo’s location for its 20 years, has been several things in the years since it closed in 1998. Currently it’s a bazzar (their spelling), a convenience store that sells halal meats and other items.
***
R: You really ought to plug Fred’s upcoming book again.
R: Well, I have all of those FantaCo publications in the Smilin’ Ed and Hembeck series. In fact, just came across them in the attic this weekend.
R: Yeah, but there’s over 600 MORE pages, some of which you’ve never seen.
R: Really?
R: Yeah, and all for about $25.
R: WOW! But I need a new angle.
R: How’s that?
R: I need a new way to plug the book again.
R: How about the cover, with the color scheme they chose NOT to use?

R: That’d work.
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A bunch of Jack Kirby stories that have allegedly never been reprinted. (Thanks, Dan.)
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Fred and Rose talk about commerce, of a sort.

ROG