Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 55


In the mid-1980’s the average customer of my comic book store was a male between the ages of twelve and fifty. My store was in a rough section of the big city of Worcester so not too many women came to the area. My main product line was comic books and not too many women read comic books in those days. But occasionally we had some female collectors. Marvel Comics published a comic book of The X-Men that appealed to men and women alike and we had two teen-age female fans that shopped at my store each week. They almost always came to the store together and they’d laugh and joke with us. They were very outgoing. One of the girls, Christine, had purple hair. Paul Dinsdale, my good friend and customer, noticed her right away. Paul spent a lot of time each week visiting me and hanging around with some of the other “regulars” at the store. He loved getting beaten by me in Chess and the strategy game of Risk so we’d try to play a few days a week. He’d listen to my employees, David Lynch and Pat Donley, as they interacted with Christine. He knew she had a good sense of humor and he liked the idea that a woman was enjoying comic books. Paul wasn’t dating anyone at the time and it was obvious that he was “interested” in Christine. He was just a little bit too shy to ask her out on a date.

One day, after Christine paid for her comic books and walked out of the store, Paul Dinsdale remarked that he’d like to ask her out. I said, “ Watch the store for a minute!” I ran outside and caught up with Christine before she drove away. I told her that Paul was the tall thin guy in the store. I told her that he was kind of shy and explained that he’d like to take her out on a date. I also assured her that he was a “gentleman” and he’s relatively harmless. She agreed to give him a try. I gave “Dins” her phone number and they began dating. Paul and Christine began dating in 1987 and got married in 1993. For some reason, they invited me to be part of their wedding.

At home, my wife and kids were busy with school for Adam and dance lessons for Cassandra. During the summer months Mal would take them to a local town pool in Clinton for swimming lessons. They’d be there four or five days each week and both of our kids loved to swim. I’d join them after work. Although Mal enjoyed taking the kids to the pool, we both agreed that it would be much nicer if she didn’t have to pack up all of the stuff and drive all of the way to Clinton to cool off. We started planning to have a pool installed at our home in Bolton. We hired our friend, Paul Weatherbee, to clear about half an acre of dense trees to make room for our new pool. We also hired our friend, Allan Traylor’s brother Danny, to prepare the area by leveling the ground and removing the tree stumps. We hoped that we could afford to have the actual swimming pool installed the next year.

Our friend, Debbie Traylor had been fighting cancer for quite a while now but she had reacted well to a new chemotherapy and seemed to be winning the battle. In 1988 we all decided to go on a cruise together. We were such good friends that we thought we would be comfortable enough to stay in the same cabin together. We had vacationed together for years and we always had a great time. This trip was no exception. This was the first cruise for Allan and Debbie and they had a good time but Debbie seemed exhausted. She would sleep late and frequently take a nap. We didn’t mind because we were just happy that she was going to beat the cancer and we were glad to all be together.

When the trip was over Debbie went to her doctor and found out that the cancer had spread again. Eight weeks later, Debbie died. Mal lost her best friend. Allan lost his wife. Five-year-old Peter lost his Mom.

Picture: Our final vacation with our friend, Debbie Traylor

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 54


There are hundreds of comic book stores all around the United States and I’ve always wanted my store to stand out as something different. Most comic book stores sell old and new comic books, trading cards, and comic book related action figures. I consider “That’s Entertainment” to be a combination comic book and collectable store. The term collectable can be used to cover almost anything that someone is interested in “collecting”. We sell magazines, posters, action figures, board games, strategy games, model kits, records, movies, trading cards, toys, sports memorabilia, and much more. The key to making our store stand out from most other stores is our diversity. Our inventory is constantly changing and we’re always interested in buying stuff that we don’t already have in stock. We strive to always have ample money available to purchase interesting collectables from vendors and customers.

My wife Mal and I were out shopping one day and I noticed that a hobby store had a big sign in their window advertising a “clearance sale”. They had lots of classic board games like chess and checkers, dartboards and dart supplies, Othello games, Parcheesi, and a bunch of craft supplies. I talked with the owner and I could sense that he just wanted to get rid of this inventory so I made him a ridiculously low offer that he accepted! Even though this was not the kind of inventory that I’d normally sell in my store I felt pretty sure that I could sell some of it. I paid the storeowner in cash, loaded the stuff into my car, and brought it to my store. I set up some display tables close to the entrance of my store and made some “cheesy” looking hand-made signs offering this new inventory at half-price. To my surprise I sold most of the items within two weeks. I realized that my customers are normal people who play darts, chess, Parcheesi, and more. It ended up a very profitable deal for me and a good deal for my customers too.

One of my strangest purchases happened in the mid-1980’s. A man was hired by a local homeowner to clean out a big barn. The man was told that he could keep (or sell) anything that he found as he was cleaning the barn. He brought me a lot of old magazines and books from the 1950’s that he found and he was very satisfied with my offers. I gave him a list of the types of items that I would be interested in buying from him and he continued to bring in more items as the week went by. Finally, when he was done cleaning out the barn and he had nothing left that he thought I’d be interested in buying, he thanked me for doing business with him. Almost as an afterthought, he asked, “Do you know anyone who would be interested in old milk bottles?” I knew that there were some people who collected milk related items so I told him that if the price was “right” I’d buy them from him. He explained that he had over one hundred different glass milk bottles and they all had different pictures or logos silk-screened on them and they appeared to be from the 1950’s. He said he’d like to get $140.00 for the lot and since it seemed reasonable to me, I agreed to buy them from him. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to sell milk bottles in my comic book store but I knew that I’d be able to sell them through Skinner’s Auction Gallery that was in the small town of Bolton, Massachusetts, where I lived.

It didn’t make any sense for him to carry all of the milk bottles into my over-crowded store because I’d just have to carry them out at the end of the night, so I gave him the keys to my car and asked him to put the bottles into the trunk of my car. He loaded them into my car and I paid him the money. I was really busy for the next week so I didn’t get a chance to go to Skinner’s Auction Gallery. The milk bottles were still in the trunk of my car. A man stopped by my store and looked around but didn’t seem to find anything he wanted. I asked him if I could help him and he said, “Is there any place in Worcester that sells milk-related collectables?” I laughed and handed him the key to the trunk of my car. He went outside and looked at the milk bottles that were still in my trunk. He came back into the store and asked, “How much do you want for them all?” I offered him the whole lot for $400.00 and he was thrilled to pay that. He paid me and then he went back out and loaded the boxes of milk bottles into his car. He returned my keys and left. I sold the whole collection and I had never seen or touched them at all! The “odds” of a collector coming to my comic book store looking for milk bottles was so slim but it really happened! It’s one of my favorite purchases.

My store has been open for over twenty-three years now and we have always been able to buy any collection that’s offered to us. Money has always been available. Except for one brief period. Normally, I try to get all of my “end of the year” tax information to my accountant early enough for her to begin calculating my tax liabilities in early January. This one year I was late with the information. I pay very large quarterly estimated tax payments to the federal government so that my full tax due will be more easily budgeted. By the time my accountant finished my tax return it was only a few days before the April 15th filing deadline. She called me with the good and bad news and said, “The good news is that you were very profitable this year. The bad news is: You know that vacation you were planning? Forget it.” I owed over $60,000.00 more in taxes! This was in addition to the high quarterly estimated payments I’d already made during the year! I didn’t have that much money available. Most of my money was invested in CD’s and I couldn’t get it out. I decided to write the IRS a check that I knew I didn’t have the funds to cover, but I knew it would probably take four or five days for the check to get to them and at least another four or five days to get to my bank. I explained the situation to my employees and decided that we could not buy any new product for the next three weeks. I used my existing credit terms with Diamond Comic Distributors so that I’d have the full thirty days before I had to pay for the weekly comic book shipments. I could “catch-up” with Diamond later. With this “belt-tightening” and the money that I did have available I was able to pay the full tax bill on time. It was the only period of time in the past twenty-three years that my store wasn’t actively seeking new inventory to buy.

Next chapter: Two comic book collectors fall in love at my store!

Monday, February 22, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 53


My Uncle Jim owned a successful convenience store and gas station with a large customer base. One of his customers knew that Uncle Jim was a spontaneous guy and he offered Jim the opportunity to go to Las Vegas as part of a chartered group tour. Uncle Jim called my wife, Mal, and I because he knew we’d probably also enjoy a quick trip to Vegas. The deal was almost too good to pass up. If we agreed to send the casino a check for $3000.00 for them to hold in the “cage” (their vault), then we’d get our hotel room, airfare, and all of our food for only $300.00 per person. Obviously, the casino hoped you’d gamble away the $3000.00 but they didn’t require you to gamble any of it. We had no intention of risking that much money. I was excited to go because the Marvin Hagler-Sugar Ray Leonard fight was the same weekend and I thought it would be fun to see a major fight in person. Our good friends, Allan and Debbie Traylor, took care of our two children while we were on this trip. My employee, David M. Lynch, took care of running the comic book store for the five days I was gone.

When we got on the airplane at Logan Airport in Boston we realized that everyone on the plane knew each other except for us. They all seemed to be good buddies and they were all men. After the plane took off we were introduced to a large man who had been sitting in the back of the plane. It was evident that he was the man in charge. When we were introduced it suddenly became clear. This guy was the head of the Irish Mafia of the Lowell-Lawrence area of Massachusetts. Everyone on this airplane was involved in the “mob” except for the three of us! While Mal and I were nervous about this situation, these guys were all very friendly and courteous to us. My Uncle Jim seemed a little embarrassed about this turn of events but there was nothing we could do about it now. We might as well make the best of it.

When we arrived at the hotel we were issued badges that would identify us as part of this “elite” group of people. We were treated like royalty while we were there. The “pit bosses” (the gambling supervisors) would make it a point to frequently ask, “How are you enjoying your stay?” and “Is there anything you need?” They all must have assumed that we were part of the mob.

I was disappointed to find out that all of the tickets to the big Marvin Hagler-Sugar Ray Leonard fight were sold out. I could get a ticket if I wanted to buy one from a “scalper” but I wasn’t willing to pay them the $700.00 that they wanted. I discovered that Frank Sinatra was performing at The Golden Nugget Hotel in downtown Las Vegas. Tickets were outrageously priced at sixty dollars each. In the mid-1980’s that was a lot of money for a concert ticket! Mal had seen Sinatra in concert a couple of times before and she didn’t want to pay that much money but she knew I’d enjoy seeing him in Vegas so she convinced me to go. I called and reserved a ticket.

When I arrived at The Golden Nugget I was surprised to see that Frank Sinatra was going to be performing in a room that only held 300 people! The show was “general admission” so there were no reserved seats. I gave my ticket to the maitre-d and he sat me in the very back of the room. I thought it was strange that he gave me such a lousy seat because I was the first person in the line. Then I noticed that the people coming into the room were tipping him and getting better seats than I had. I went up to him and said, “I forgot to give you this”, and I handed him ten dollars. He said, “Right this way” and brought me to a seat right down front. I had to sit through a “comedy” act with Jan Murray but it was all worthwhile when Frank Sinatra came out. In such a small, intimate setting, Frank felt comfortable telling stories of his old mafia pals and the Rat Pack days with Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. His voice was in top form. It was like having Frank Sinatra in your living room. Eventually I’d see Frank perform seven times but this was the best Sinatra concert of them all for me.

We all arrived home safely and our “association” with the mafia was done.

Next chapter: An unpleasant tax surprise!

Friday, February 12, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 52


In October of 1987 I was “investing” in index options. Gary Cohen, of Merrill Lynch, assured me that he would personally monitor my account so that I wouldn’t lose any more than $2500.00 on any option position. If he saw that one of my options had lost $2500.00 he’d sell it to prevent further loss. He was the senior broker in a major national firm so we trusted him.

Early one morning in October of 1987, Gary Cohen called me to explain that the stock market opened substantially lower. In fact, the market was now so low that I had already “lost” $4500.00 on my index option. He couldn’t have gotten me out of this with only a $2500.00 loss because by the time the stock market had opened, I had already lost more than that. He assured me that it was just a momentary drop in the market and he was confident that the stock market would rebound in a few hours. I asked him to keep me informed of the situation. Gary called me about an hour later and explained that the market was still dropping. He thought it was just nervous sellers. I had now lost almost $17,000.00. By noon he told me that I had lost almost $30,000.00.

I decided to drive to his office to formulate a new plan. By the time I arrived I had lost $49,000.00. I was expecting to see his office full of depressed brokers but I was stunned by what I saw. Many of the brokers were joking and laughing! I overheard Gary calling a client and saying, “Hey, do you have your seat belt on? Well, you’re going on a wild ride!” When he got off of the telephone I saw him laughing. The brokerage was going to make a fortune in commissions for selling the stocks and options while their customers lost a fortune and the brokers were laughing.

I called my wife to tell her about this huge loss. She asked if this was going to “change” our lifestyle in any way and I told her I’d do my best to see that this loss wouldn’t adversely affect us. She knew there was nothing I could have done to prevent this loss, (other than not invest in the stock market at all) and she was quite understanding.

In the early afternoon the stock market had a little up-turn and I was able to sell my option and “only” lose $34,000.00. At that point I was just happy to be finished with this nightmare. I would try to avoid investing in things that I have no control over. Manipulators and brokerage firms control the stock market with only their own interests at heart.

My father and my Uncle Jim also lost a lot of money in these index options. We all learned a valuable lesson and we were all able to laugh about our losses a few months later. This doesn’t mean that we were happy about the lost money but the three of us now realized that we shouldn’t have been risking our hard-earned money in such a phony manipulated market. Although this experience wasn’t as much fun, we now had another “gambling” experience in common. I’ll tell you about my previous gambling story with my Uncle Jim in the next chapter. It was much more fun!

I was now going to concentrate on my main business to earn my money. My business is selling comic books and collectables.

Next Chapter: Gambling with The Mob in Las Vegas.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 51


We got the word from Gene Simmons (of the rock band KISS) that NBC-TV was sending a pre-production crew to Canada to scout for locations to begin filming the two-hour TV movie based on the “Delta Tenn” comic book series that we were publishing. Filming would begin within a few weeks. If this TV movie got good ratings it could possibly become a weekly television series and the creator of “Delta Tenn” would make a fortune in option fees and merchandising. The creator, Mark Marderosian, was one of the nicest guys I’d ever worked with and he deserved all of this success. I was happy to be publishing the comic book series because I knew that we’d sell more comic books once the TV show was broadcast. Then we heard the bad news. A few days before the pre-production crew was scheduled to leave, NBC-TV had a visitor to their offices. Steven Bochco, creator, writer, and producer of popular TV shows including “Hill Street Blues,” “Doogie Howser MD,” and “L.A.Law” pitched a strange idea for a new television show to the network called “Cop Rock”. The idea for the show was that it would be a serious police drama that had many of the characters spontaneously break into song! It sure was a different idea for a show! The network certainly didn’t want to upset Steven Bochco so they agreed to do his show. They dropped “Delta Tenn” and produced “Cop Rock.” “Cop Rock” turned out to be the biggest flop of the season.

Gene Simmons and Shannon Tweed decided not to renew their option on “Delta Tenn.” Sales of the comic book series weren’t high enough for me to justify continuation, so Mark Marderosian “self-published” a few issues. The “Delta Tenn” series ended with issue #11.

With my comic book publishing ended, I knew I’d need to come up with some other way to earn extra money so that my goal of early retirement could be achieved. My father had just recently been experimenting with investments in the stock market, primarily in “index options”. He had read some books about this type of investment and although there were risks involved it seemed interesting. It was basically “betting” that the stock market S+P Index would rise or fall. I really don’t understand how this worked, but at the time it seemed to make some sense. I thought it would be fun (and probably profitable) to try this type of investment with my father. I always enjoyed spending time with him and this would be something we’d have in common. My uncle Jim (my Dad’s brother) also decided to invest in these index options. We met with Gary Cohen, a broker at a local office of Merrill Lynch and we opened our investment accounts. He assured us that we could limit our potential losses by placing a “stop-loss” order with his firm. If our losses ever reached $2500.00 he would “automatically” get us out of that particular option. At that time my wife and I had saved $100,000.00. I didn’t want to risk all of that so we opened the account with $50,000.00 and began the index option trading.

In the first few weeks I profited about $12,000.00! My Uncle Jim and my Dad were also making money. This seemed pretty easy. Certainly easier than working at my comic book store.

Next chapter: The big stock market crash of October 1987.

Picture: Shannon Tweed as Delta Tenn

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 50


In 1987, I was publishing a comic book series created by Mark Marderosian titled “Delta Tenn” when we received an inquiry from Gene Simmons, the lead singer of the rock band KISS. He was interested in buying an “option” to produce a feature film or television movie about Delta Tenn. Gene’s girlfriend was actress-model Shannon Tweed and he thought this would be a perfect role for her to play. An “option” is purchased to acquire the exclusive right to use the character and ideas in a movie or television show for a specific period of time. The amount of money is negotiated between the owner of the property and the interested buyer. In the case of Delta Tenn I was merely the publisher.

Mark was the creator and our agreement was that he would own the film rights and merchandising rights to his character. Mark negotiated a reasonable six-month option fee with Gene Simmons and had an attorney draw up the legal documents. Through some smart negotiating, Mark was able to keep the merchandising rights for himself so that if this Delta Tenn project ever got made he’d be able to market trading cards, t-shirts, posters, toys and action figures and keep the money for himself. Initially, Gene wasn’t too happy with this but he finally agreed. I was eager to continue publishing the comic book series because I knew that sales would jump if there were a movie or television show of Delta Tenn.

Gene approached some of the networks with the Delta Tenn concept and although there was some interest, none of them seemed eager to offer the substantial amount of money necessary to produce a film or TV show. Gene Simmons and Shannon Tweed continued to search for an interested network and when their option on Delta Tenn expired they paid to renew it for another six months. Shannon had recently been a guest star on “L.A. Law,” “Hooperman,” and “Cagney and Lacey” and was a more recognizable actress. She believed that they would eventually find someone to produce this film. She even made an appearance on “The Late Show” starring Ross Schaeffer to promote the idea.

During this second option period, Mark was approached by Sybill Danning’s “people” expressing an interest in Delta Tenn. Sybill Danning was a beautiful actress who worked in numerous science fiction films in the 1970’s and 1980’s including one of the “Conan the Barbarian” movies starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Her agent was sure that Delta Tenn would be a great movie for Sybill to star in. Mark explained that the option was now owned by Gene Simmons. Sybill’s people contacted Gene to see if the option could be bought out, but Gene declined their offer.

Mark also received a call from the management of Brigitte Neilson, the wife of Sylvester Stallone. They had written a short “treatment” for their version of a Delta Tenn movie and it was typical Hollywood! Mark’s version of Delta Tenn was set ten years in the future in New York City. Delta was a tough, leather-clad policewoman. Hollywood’s version changed the whole character. They wanted it to be set in current time and she’d be a jeep-driving, bikini-wearing Malibu beach cop! All they really wanted to keep was the name, “Delta Tenn!” They were willing to pay thousands of dollars to buy out Gene Simmons option and then spend millions of dollars on the feature film but they wanted to change almost everything about the character. They claimed that they could be ready to begin filming within a few months if Gene would accept their offer. Before a deal could be arranged, Brigitte was diagnosed with cancer and the project was off.

Gene paid for a third option period. He assured us that a deal was being considered by a major network. It wasn’t long before we got the good news. The project was going to be a joint production of Touchstone Pictures and NBC-TV. Touchstone was a highly respected film company and NBC-TV was the number one network at the time. The script was being written as a two hour TV movie by the author of the hit movie, “Two Men and a Baby”. If the TV movie did well in the ratings it would become a weekly television series. Mark would be a wealthy man when this project was finished.

NBC-TV was preparing to send a production crew to Canada to begin scouting for a filming location. Filming could begin within a few weeks.

Next chapter: More Hollywood craziness!

Pictures: Mark Marderosian with Gene Simmons of Kiss

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 49


In 1987 my wife, Mal, and I went on our first real vacation without our two kids. We were on a seven-day Carnival cruise to the Caribbean and we both thought that we’d have a great time without Adam and Cassandra. We were surprised to find that we couldn’t stop thinking about them. We kept thinking about how much fun they’d have in the swimming pool and on the water slide. We knew they would love the great food because they both enjoyed trying different things. We watched young kids playing and actually wished that our children were with us! When we got home we immediately booked a cruise for the whole family and six weeks later we were cruising to San Juan, St. Thomas, and Bahamas. We didn’t book this trip through AAA because we were unhappy that they charged us “full brochure price” for our first cruise. We found a travel agent who got us a price for all four of us that was cheaper than the first cruise was for just Mal and I. Our kids loved this vacation. They got involved with the supervised kids program that Carnival offers and each morning they were excited to get together with all of their new “friends.” They would play all day and we would all get together as a family for lunch and dinner. When the ship would dock at an island we’d tour old forts and historic sites, swim in the ocean, and go shopping together. Cruising is a great family vacation. For years, even though we all loved to go to Disney World, when we’d ask the kids what they’d like to do for a vacation, they’d chose a cruise. (Usually we’d go to Disney World each year too!)

In the last chapter I told about the beginning of my comic book publishing of The Man From Uncle. What I neglected to mention were the other comic books I published. Two customers from my store approached me with an idea for a three issue “mini-series” titled “Forever Now.” Chris Coleman and Dan Courtney had previously written and drawn some issues of our “in-store” amateur comic book of “Insect Man” and I liked their style so I agreed to publish this new series.

David M. Lynch and Skip Simpson had an idea for a comedy super-hero series called “The Bird.” I loved David’s writing and I knew that Skip was a very talented cartoonist so I agreed to publish this comic book.

My cousin, Steven, introduced me to Mark Marderosian. Mark was a writer and artist who had come up with an idea for a new comic book series that would feature a strong female character named “Delta Tenn.” She was a big city policewoman whose adventures were set ten years in the future. Mark was very talented and professional and he offered to present me with a new issue all ready to be printed once every two months. It required almost no work on my part so I agreed to be his publisher.

My agreement with each of these creators was a fifty-fifty split on all profits. I would handle all of the marketing, printing, shipping, and billing. They needed to deliver their work on time and they all did. Especially Mark Marderosian. Mark also helped me with my “main” comic book series, “The Man From Uncle” by doing the mechanical layout of many of our front covers. Beginning with issue number seven of The Man From Uncle we started using photographs from the old television series and Mark hand-colored old black and white photos for us. This was before computers made this an easy task! He was a great guy to work with.

We worked with a lot of writers and artists on our Man From Uncle series and most of them were able to meet their deadlines. We would always ask them to set their own schedule. Some artists could draw an entire issue in thirty days but other artists worked a little slower or were doing this while they worked a “real” full-time job so they would agree to finish their issue within sixty days. I was agreeable to the artist’s time schedule because I had several writers and artists working on issues all at the same time so I could wait and publish their work when it was finished. Things were going fine until I hired a good friend of mine to draw issue number five.

Kevin Burns was a customer of my comic book store and he was a lot of fun to be around. We’d spend hours laughing together when he’d stop by the store. He was a serious toy collector and had a love of old classic television shows including “The Munsters” and “Lost In Space.” He worked full time at Twentieth Century Fox and he was a very busy man but he assured me that he could draw the entire issue within sixty days. He drew the cover first and I was “blown away” by it! It was (and still is) my favorite cover for the entire series. He perfectly captured the look and style of Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin that we wanted for our series. They looked like the original actors but with a slightly updated sense of style. I now knew that Kevin was capable of turning in our best issue yet.

With his repeated assurance of completing the project on time I paid Kevin in advance and eagerly waited for the finished artwork. I sent in the information and a picture of Kevin’s gorgeous cover artwork to all of the distributors so they could begin the two-month process of getting the orders from the retailers. When the order came in it was for only 10,000 copies but I knew that when the retailers saw the finished comic book they would be encouraged to order more of our future issues because the quality had improved so much. I also knew that the Man From Uncle fans would love Kevin’s work. But for some reason, Kevin was unable to deliver the artwork on time. Months went by. Finally the comic book was so late that the distributors required me to cancel their original orders and resolicit new orders. When the new order came in it was for only 8000 copies.

After about five months I received the artwork from Kevin and it was great. I was proud to publish this and I thought it was our best-looking issue to date. It was our lowest selling issue so far but the fans loved it and we got quite a few complimentary letters. I learned a lesson with this experience. I would no longer assume that artists could reasonably predict how long it would take them to complete the project so I’d just wait until it was completely done before I would solicit orders from the retailers.

I decided to go to “Spy-Con,” the biggest television and movie spy-related convention in the United States. I flew to Chicago and spent three days mingling with friendly Man From Uncle fans and spent some time promoting our comic book series. I wanted this publishing venture to be successful. I even ran advertisements in the major comic book retailing publication offering hundreds of free copies of our publications to try to stir up interest. I hoped that if the retailers gave these free copies to their customers, a portion of the readers would enjoy the series enough to buy the new issues. This publishing idea was part of my plan to accumulate enough money so that I could retire before I was forty years old. Despite my efforts, sales did not increase enough.

Over the two-year period that I published The Man From Uncle comic book series I worked with several writers and artists. Issues #1-2 were written by David M. Lynch and Skip Simpson and drawn by Ken Penders. Issues #3-4 were written by Stan Timmons and drawn by Ken Penders, Larry Juliano, and Tom Cuda. Issue #5 was written by Glenn A. Magee and drawn by Kevin Burns. Issue #6 was written by Glenn A. Magee and drawn by Ronn Sutton. Issue #7 was written by Stan Timmons and drawn by Paul Daly. Issue #8 was written by Skip Simpson and drawn by David and Dan Day. Issue #9 was written by Paula Smith and drawn by Wayne Reid. Issue #10 was written by David M. Lynch and drawn by Ken Penders, Bruce Meservey, and Edwin Brady. Issue #11 was written by Paula Smith and drawn by David and Dan Day. Every issue was profitable but when it came time to renew our contract with MGM-Turner, they wanted to double the fees so we sadly made the decision to stop publishing the series. It was fun for a while but the profits from the sales of the comic books were now too small and it wasn’t “worth” the time, energy, and stress to continue.

Next chapter: Hollywood buys the option to produce a movie based on our comic book series, “Delta Tenn!”

Picture: The Cover of The Man From Uncle comic book # 5, drawn by Kevin Burns

Monday, February 8, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 48


In early January of 1987, the first issue of my new comic book series of The Man From Uncle was released to retailers in the United States and Canada. I was hoping to sell 15,000 copies but we sold 12,000. Unfortunately the printer had surprised me by printing 21,000 copies so I was now stuck with an extra 9,000 comic books. I planned to be more careful for future issues.

In the first issue of The Man From Uncle, David M. Lynch wrote a column to explain to our readers what we were trying to do with this new series. He wrote:

“How many of you watched the recent A-Team episode, The Say Uncle Affair, just to see the reunion of Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, remembering perhaps, 1983’s “real” reunion of their characters from the 1960’s, Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin? Okay now, how many of you younger readers don’t know what I’m talking about?
Listed as a “spy spoof” by TV Guide, who usually knew what they were talking about, The Man From Uncle premiered in 1964. Inspired primarily by the popularity of the James Bond films, Uncle was designed as a dramatic series about the exciting, glamorous, and often dangerous life of the secret agent. James Bond creator Ian Fleming was peripherally involved in the series’ beginnings, although ultimately, his only contributions were the names Napoleon Solo and April Dancer. Solo pretty much became the “man” in The Man From Uncle (at least at first) and as for April Dancer, lead character in the eventual spin-off, The Girl From Uncle, well…the less said about her, the better. (and I know I’ll get letters about that!)

Uncle ran four seasons on NBC-TV, dying a slow death after being poisoned in its third season by the “camp” craze (inspired by the success of the Batman TV show). It made many of the manufacturers of licensed Uncle toys, books, models, and other products wealthy, or wealthier, anyway. It made a somewhat obscure Scottish actor named David McCallum become firmly entrenched in the public mind-perhaps too firmly, as McCallum himself has lamented-as Illya. It made it much easier for what seemed like dozens of imitative spy shows, some quite fine in their own right, to make their TV debuts. Shows like “I Spy” and “The Wild Wild West” hit the American airwaves even as we received British imports such as “The Avengers” and “Secret Agent”, and that list is far from exhaustive.

It also made me, as a young boy, very happy. When I was eight years old or so, I thought Illya Kuryakin was really cool! (Nowadays, watching old Uncle episodes, I identify more with womanizer Napoleon Solo, but that’s not important right now.) I wore turtleneck sweaters, like Illya did. I even had my hair cut like his, for cryin’ out loud! I was, I’m sure, the biggest Uncle fan in my hometown. And my mother, in her infinite wisdom, bought me all of the James Bond toys she could find. Even as an eight year old, I wondered about that. I still do.

Anyway, it was this nostalgic element that convinced me (as well as my co-writer, Skip Simpson) to write some stories for Entertainment Publishing’s new Man From Uncle comic book. And I can safely say that Paul Howley, the new book’s publisher, is doing it primarily for the same reason. And as for our approach to the book, we’ve decided to “first season” it all the way. We’ve placed the 1964 show in our editorial time machine and moved it to 1987, bypassing (among other things) the aging process real actors go through, indefinitely postponing the 1983 TV reunion movie “The Fifteen Years Later Affair” and avoiding, in a sense, the unfortunate death of Mr. Waverly, actor Leo G. Carroll.

This project is as important to all of us as it is to you, if not more so, because we really care about the material, and we hope that caring comes through in the finished product. I’ve read some issues from the late 60’s Gold Key Man From Uncle series, when they first came out as well as recently, but even as a child, I felt cheated somehow. These comic characters were different; they weren’t my “friends” from the TV show. I, for one, don’t want you to feel the same way now as I did then, as corny as that sounds, so hopefully, whether you read this issue as an old Uncle fan, a new convert (thanks to syndicated television) or even somebody who is unfamiliar with Solo, Waverly, and that “other guy”, you won’t.”

By the time we released the second issue in early February of 1987 we had already received quite a few letters from fans of the Man From Uncle TV show. Some loved the new comic book series but some people complained that the characters in our comics didn’t look like the actors who played them in the television series. Ken Penders agreed to work harder to make the characters look more like the original actors from the television show. Every letter we received commented on how well written the stories were. But for some reason that I couldn’t remember, David M. Lynch only wrote the first two issues and he later wrote issue #10. I recently contacted David to find out what had happened. What follows is David’s reply.

“Okay, I'll try to just keep this to the bare facts (or how I perceived them), and not try to impress or entertain you with my wonderful writing skills.
As I saw it, the publication of the U.N.C.L.E. series presented a problem for you. Not exactly a moral issue, but close. Paul Howley the eternal kid and funny book fan suddenly butted heads with Paul Howley the businessman. According to everything you'd
told me while I was writing the amateur comic book, Insect Man, you really liked my stuff. (You'd even told customers that the story titled "Mummy Dearest," in Insect Man #98, was one of the best six comics you'd read that month.) But U.N.C.L.E. wasn't Insect Man. U.N.C.L.E. was going to be an investment, and there was a lot of money -- licensing, printing, advertising, etc. -- involved.
I think you felt awkward. And my feeling was (and I realize I may be wrong) that you were forced to think along the lines of, "Gee, I like David's Insect Man stories, but I'm just one fan. Maybe my judgment is clouded by the fact that he's a friend & employee, and it's kinda cool that someone else cares about Insect Man. But U.N.C.L.E. is a professional assignment. What if the rest of the world doesn't like his stuff?"
Anyway, by then Ken Penders was the chosen artist, and he'd also submitted Shadow Blade to you. The writer of Shadow Blade, Stan Timmons, had a two-part U.N.C.L.E. script under his belt, and my feeling was that you accepted it primarily because you
feared that I might submit a script that wasn't good enough to publish. (Skip's co-authorship doesn't count, except possibly in a negative way, because you'd never seen anything written by him!) Quite honestly, I understood that decision from a purely business standpoint. Skip's attitude wasn't so charitable, but then again, he was still smarting from being told his artwork was too cartoony for a serious superhero or adventure comic. (And from a purely marketing standpoint, you were right, of course. You had learned something about what would and wouldn't sell!) Besides, once you'd seen the first few pages of script, you seemed to relax and trust me (and Skip) a bit more.
However, as Skip and I moved from the plotting stage for #s 1 & 2 (both of which we co-plotted pretty much 50% each) to the scripting stage (which technically, I typed 100% of, meaning the script itself -- along with any 11th hour changes -- was more "mine"), I re-learned something I'd forgotten since high school. The closer I get to a deadline, the closer I get to meeting it. (I used to do term papers the night before they were due... but I'd get a B!) This is a nice way of saying that I generally get things accomplished at the
very last minute. This drives publishers and editors nuts, understandably. (I also recall that a couple of weeks or so before the deadline, the computer at That’s Entertainment literally ate the floppy disk, destroying my work up until then. At the time, I felt that you didn't believe me, and that you thought that I was stalling. But it really happened.)
Anyway, you may have been worried that I -- or Skip and I -- would miss future deadlines. Coincidentally, everybody in U.N.C.L.E. fandom seemed to want to be part of the legend, and script or art submissions were coming from all over. I remember that one fan in particular wanted my help in re-writing a treatment, and I finally told her she should do it alone. Skip and I each wanted to do an issue on our own. Kevin Burns had submitted an idea. And there were more...
Again, this was business. And you were smart to build up a backlog of submissions. Also, since the pressure was off of me to churn out U.N.C.L.E. ideas, I felt free to work on other projects with Skip, like what ended up as The Bird.
So, from my end of it, there was no problem with any of your business-based decisions.
Guess that's it for now. Hope it meshes with your own memories. I also hope you give me credit for the endless phone calls with Lois Sloane at MGM/Turner. As I recall, I handled all the negotiations UNTIL the time came to talk money. Then you took over!”

I’m glad David could help me fill in those memories because I couldn’t for the life of me remember why he didn’t write ALL of the issues we published.

Stan Timmons wrote issue #3 of our Man From Uncle series and Ken Penders drew it. This was released in April of 1987. At the same time, my sister-in-law, Madeline got married to Armand Paladino and they went on a cruise for their honeymoon. They were the first young couple I knew that went on a cruise. In the 1970’s my wife, Mal, and I were asked to “house-sit” for the parents of Steve Ruth, one of my boyhood friends. His parents were considered to be quite wealthy and cruising was mostly for the rich in those days. When they returned from their trip they told us about the elegance and exciting adventures of their cruise. I never dreamed that we’d ever be able to afford to go on a cruise but after my young sister-in-law went on one and told us how much fun it was, we called our local AAA Travel Agency to see if we could afford to go. The agent was very courteous and “helpful” and she booked us on a Caribbean cruise. (When we got on the cruise ship we felt pretty silly because we paid full “brochure” price for our trip. That’s really stupid. Discounts are easily available) My parents had offered to take the kids for the week and this was our first real vacation without them. We were really looking forward to spending a week without Adam and Cassandra.

Next chapter: We miss the kids! (Crazy right?)

Friday, February 5, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 47


I now “owned” the publishing rights for The Man From Uncle comic book for the next two years and it was my intention to publish as many issues as possible during that time. We decided that it would be smart to make the first issue part of a continued story so that the readers would be likely to buy the second issue of the series. One of my employees, David M. Lynch, was writing the stories for the first two issues as fast as he could and Ken Penders began penciling, inking, and lettering the first issue. He was also drawing the front cover. Skip Simpson, one of David’s friends, offered to color the cover for the first issue.

In order to have these comic books sold all over the United States and Canada, we contacted as many of the comic book distributors as we could. We contacted Diamond Comic Distributors, Capital City Distribution, Alternate Realities, Heroes World, and about a half-dozen smaller distributors. All of them expressed interest in helping to sell our new comic book series. Having decided to establish the suggested retail (cover price) at $1.50 per issue, the distributor would buy each issue for sixty cents (sixty percent off of the cover price) and they would sell them to the retailers for seventy-five cents. The comics could be printed and shipped for about thirty-five cents each, leaving me with a gross profit of about twenty-five cents each. A lot of that money would be used to pay the artist and writer and I’d keep whatever was left. Based on our projections of selling 15,000 copies of each issue this would give me a net profit of about two thousand dollars each issue.

Each distributor needed a three month lead-time before each issue was released so they could publish their ordering catalog with a description of our comic book and allow enough time for the individual retailers to decide how many copies they wanted to order. The distributor would then total all of the retailer orders and submit a purchase order for as many copies as they needed. This project was really meant to be mostly fun for me personally so I had a chance to add certain “personal” touches to the series. For example, I wanted to release the first issue on my birthday in January. We’d need to work fast.

Ken drew the cover of the first issue right away so I could send a copy to all of the distributors. As soon as the cover was done he worked hard to finish the twenty-four pages of interior art. He finished it all within the thirty days that he had promised me. Ken was a man of his word and a nice guy. We sent it to MGM-Turner and they gave us their approval. Ken started on the art for the second issue. Ken was also working on a new comic book idea that he wanted to develop with Stan Timmons, a writer, titled “Shadow Blade.” Ken and Stan wanted me to publish this new comic book series for them. Meanwhile, Skip Simpson finished coloring the front cover of The Man From Uncle #1. This was done in the early days of laser scanning and Skip didn’t really understand the process. We thought it would look okay but we would be very disappointed when we saw the final printed product.

We found a company in New York that promised to print the comics and do all of the shipping for us. One of the managers of the company was a fairly famous comic book artist so the promises seemed credible. As we got closer to the actual release date we began to worry that we chose the wrong company to print the comics. Their terms suddenly changed. They wanted more money in advance of the shipping date. Then they decided that they didn’t want to ship the comics to all of the different distributors. I decided to drive to New York and pick up the comic books myself. I had ordered 16,000 copies of this first issue but when I arrived in New York they had printed 21,000 copies and demanded the money for them. I reluctantly paid them and loaded them in my car. I’d certainly never do business with them again!

My son, Adam, had many episodes of Strep throat when he was growing up. His doctor recommended surgery, so while I was trying to coordinate all of the various writers and artists for our Man From Uncle series, my wife and I decided that we should have Adam’s tonsils and adenoids removed. We knew he’d probably be afraid to be left in the hospital overnight, since he was only seven years old, so Mal and I decided that I should sleep in his hospital room in the chair next to his bed. It was scary for me to see him being wheeled into the operating room even though it was a simple operation but everything turned out fine.

Things were not fine for our friend Debbie. Her cancer had returned and it was in multiple parts of her body. Her son, Peter, was only three years old, and Debbie was determined to beat this disease. She began a program of a new chemotherapy and responded well. The tumors seemed to be under control.

Next chapter: 1987: The beginning of our big vacations.
Picture: Adam get his tonsils out.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 46


In 1986 the comic book industry was in the middle of an explosion of “black and white” comic book publishing. After the immediate success of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, many people wanted to release their own comic book. It seemed as if anyone who could scrape up a couple of thousand dollars was drawing and publishing their own black and white comic book. Some of these were good but most were not.

My employee, David M. Lynch, was a talented writer. He was the “regular” writer of our amateur comic book of “Insect Man.” Insect Man was officially recognized in 1986 as “America’s longest running amateur comic book” with over 100 issues published from 1965-1986. For a brief time we considered publishing Insect Man in a full sized professional comic book but we decided that there were already enough superhero comics in the market.

One day, as we were talking about our favorite television shows from the 1960’s we discovered that we both enjoyed the “The Man From Uncle.” We both used to pretend we were secret agents when we were kids. David said, “I wonder why no one is publishing a comic book about The Man From Uncle. That show must still have a lot of fans that would get a kick out of new adventures.” David knew he’d have some fun writing the stories and he had a good friend, Skip Simpson, who could draw the comic books. We agreed on the amount of money that I would pay for him to write each issue. After we discussed the possibilities of storylines and some of the difficulties of publishing a professional comic book I told David that I’d put up the money if he could get the rights to publish a comic book about The Man From Uncle.

After a week or so, David had made contact with MGM-Turner, the owner of the Man From Uncle. MGM-Turner was willing to sell us a two-year license to publish the comic book series for an initial up-front payment of five thousand dollars plus eight percent of the cover price of every issue we sold. They would also have complete script approval and final art approval for all of the issues. I agreed to all of their terms.

While David began writing the first two-part story, his friend Skip Simpson drew a sample page of art to show me what he could do. Although it was very clean and professional, I decided it was a little too “cartoony” for the Man From Uncle comic book series I had envisioned. David and I were disappointed because Skip was a very reliable artist and we didn’t know of any other competent artists.

We started asking our customers if they knew any artists and were surprised when a man named Ken Penders offered his services. Ken brought in his portfolio and we were impressed by his layouts and use of perspective. He even was a talented inker and letterer. Most importantly, he was willing to work for the lower than professional rates that we were offering.

Next chapter: My son, Adam, goes to the hospital

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 45


It was beginning to be a tradition that once each year I would plan a major auction at my comic book store. These were extremely popular with my customers but I was desperately out of space in my small store so I needed to find someplace else to hold the auction. I found The Yankee Drummer Inn, a local hotel that had a large function room that was available for about $250.00. I booked it for a Friday night and sent out flyers to everyone on my ever-expanding mailing list and I passed out flyers in the store to every customer who came in for a month before the event. I began selecting individual collectibles and runs of back issue comics to be auctioned. I had a few very valuable comics left from the complete Marvel Comics collection that I had acquired earlier in the year including an almost perfect copy of The Incredible Hulk #1 that I decided to offer at auction. I invited my cousin Steven to bring some of his store inventory to sell at the auction. As I would finish auctioning off an item, Steven would start auctioning off one of his lots. This kept the auction moving quickly. My wife, Mal, came to take care of recording the results of each auction and to handle the cash-out procedure. My son, Adam, worked as a “runner” to deliver each item to the high bidder. My daughter Cassandra came but she was only two years old so she was just an observer. To complete the “family affair,” my mother and father came to help.

My mother asked if I would auction a group of collectible, stamped, first-day covers that she had bought at a yard sale. I decided that I’d play a joke on dear ol’ Mom. When she left the room for a moment I quickly explained the joke to the audience of over 200 people. I told them to bid like crazy on the stamp lot and I wouldn’t really make them pay for the lot. When Mom came back into the room I started the auction of the stamps. “Do I have any offers on this lot of first day stamp covers?” The audience played their part perfectly. The opening bid was 25 cents. Another customer bid $1.00. Then it went to $2.00. Then it was $10.00. My Mom was perking up. “Do I have $20.00 anywhere?” There was a hesitation. “Yes, I have $20.00.” Suddenly the audience started bidding faster. Within a minute the bidding was up to $200.00! My Mom was giddy with excitement. Then I stopped the bidding and revealed the joke to poor Mom. The audience thought it was pretty funny but I’m sure Mom didn’t. She was already mentally spending all of her proceeds. We did eventually auction the lot off for around $25.00. She was happy with that but not as happy as she would have been if the lot really went for $200.00.

My auction policy was that it would be a real auction. I hate it when auction companies have minimum bids in their auctions. To me, that’s like saying, “I’m willing to sell this item for $10.00 but if you want to pay me more for it, I’ll take it.” All of my items were sold with no minimum bid! Sometimes this would be scary for me but it always made it more fun for my customers. At this auction I would be offering the gorgeous copy of The Incredible Hulk #1 that was worth about $700.00 at the time. The opening bidder offered one dollar. The bidding slowed down around one hundred dollars and seemed like it would end when it finally reached one hundred and fifty dollars. I was saying, “Going…going…gone” when someone new jumped into the bidding and bid two hundred dollars. Within a couple of moments the comic book sold for six hundred and ten dollars to a man I had never met. He certainly got a great deal on that comic book. It’s now worth over $15,000.00.

By not having the auction at my store location I lost the potential of my customers spending any unused money on other product but because everyone had fun, I still considered it a success.

After the death of Mal’s mother, we had decided to begin to seriously plan for a very early retirement from the day-to-day involvement in the comic book and collectable business. It was my intention to make as much money as possible over the next eight years before I turned forty years old. I needed to somehow increase our store’s business very quickly. My employee, David M. Lynch came up with a great idea one day while we were shooting the breeze. ( I’ll tell you about his idea soon.)

In 1986, my sister Sharon and her family decided to move to New Hampshire because her husband Greg had a new job opportunity there. Sharon and Mal were very close so it was difficult to think of Sharon not being nearby anymore. Her kids and our kids loved to play together so we were all sad to see them move over one hundred miles away.

Around that time our good friend Debbie was also told that her cancer was back.

Next chapter: The Man From Uncle returns.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My Life With Comic Books; Part # 44


My wife, Mal, and I are both from very large families and we had been fortunate that most of us were quite healthy. Mal had tumors in her left eye that eventually left her blind in that eye but other than that every one seemed healthy. Mal’s father, Richard, had a major heart attack when he was only forty-eight years old but he had recovered and he seemed to be doing okay. Most of our close friends were young and healthy too. That all changed in the mid-1980’s.

Our close friends, Allan and Debbie Traylor, were told that Debbie had cancer. We were all shocked because Debbie seemed to be in such great physical condition. She took good care of herself. She exercised and ate the “right” foods. The way Allan and I ate you’d have assumed that if someone were going to get sick, it would be one of us. But not Debbie. Debbie went in for surgery to remove the cancer tumor in 1986.

Mal’s mother, Madeline, had to find a new doctor because her regular doctor was retiring. So on a Friday she found a new doctor because she needed to refill her blood pressure medication. This new doctor found that Madeline was retaining fluids and her blood work came back abnormal. He wanted to admit her to the hospital on the following Monday for additional testing. The day before she was to go to the hospital Richard suddenly had another heart attack and was admitted to the intensive care unit of Marlboro Hospital. His condition was serious but he was stable. The next day we brought Madeline in for her tests and it was discovered that she was actually quite ill. She began bleeding from her esophagus. The doctors considered her condition very serious. We were all told that she probably wouldn’t live for more than a week. We were advised to not tell Richard that his wife was in serious condition because the doctors were afraid that it could trigger another heart attack. We all felt bad that Richard wasn’t aware of Madeline’s condition. Eventually the doctors decided to tell him. Richard had more heart attacks. Almost miraculously, Madeline responded to some medication and survived. She was released but she was still very sick.

Richard was finally released from the hospital and he came home to begin the long process of taking care of his wife. He still had to work so it was up to his children to care for Madeline as their schedules allowed. Most of their children were grown up with families of their own and they either lived far away or had the responsibility of full time jobs. Madeline’s two youngest children, Carol and Maddy, were still living at home so they were able to take care of her at night but they both worked full time jobs during the day. Madeline’s oldest son, Dick, lived nearby with his wife Diane. Diane and Mal were “stay at home Moms” so they worked together to take care of Madeline.

Madeline’s condition worsened and in January of 1987 her doctor recommended that she should go into a rehabilitation center to regain her strength. He thought that she’d only be in the nursing home for a couple of weeks. We all looked forward to her coming home. We visited her almost every day during her first two weeks. She was very alert and talkative but she was in a lot of pain. Then we got the phone call. She had slipped into a coma. The doctors didn’t know why. She remained in the coma for almost three weeks until one day, when the whole family was at her bedside, she woke up! Even though she was in pain, she spoke with everyone and told all her children that she loved them. A week later she went back into a coma. She died on February 18, 1987.

For the entire fifteen years I had known my in-laws they had been looking forward to retirement together. They had lived a very simple life. All they wanted was to buy a small home in Maine, buy a new Cadillac, and get a dog. Richard had retired from his union truck-driving job three months before Madeline died. This profoundly affected me. Mal and I decided that we wouldn’t “put-off” enjoying life for some future time that may never come. I began to develop a long-range plan at my comic book store so that I could stop working by the age of forty. I loved working at my store but I knew that I wanted to spend more time with my wife and children if it could be arranged.

Next chapter: Our dear friend Debbie has a relapse.
Picture: Mal's mom and Dad

Monday, February 1, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 43


As a twelve-year-old, my favorite rock and roll bands were The Beatles and The Monkees. I know that seems strange since these two bands were very different. The Beatles were very creative and wrote their own music. The Monkees were really only actors pretending to be musicians. But there was something special about The Monkees. Perhaps it was just the television show hyping them each and every week or maybe it was the fantastic songs written by many of the most successful songwriters of the 1960’s including Neil Diamond, Carol King, Neil Sedaka, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. Whatever it was, they were really my favorite band. I had all of their albums and many of the toys and trading cards made with their pictures on them. I bought lots of the teen magazines that featured articles and photos about The Monkees. I didn’t have a chance to see them in concert because we lived so far from any of the cities that they played in from 1966-1967. The Monkees broke up around 1969 so I figured I’d never get to see my favorite band perform live. That all changed in 1986.

A customer from my comic book store told me that three of the original members of The Monkees were reforming to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the television show. Mike Nesmith didn’t need to tour with them because he was still living off of the huge inheritance from his Mom’s creation of “Liquid Paper” but Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork were going to be at The Hampton Beach Casino club about an hour away from Worcester. So my wife, Mal, and my good friend and fellow Monkee fan, Kevin Simpson, joined me to see the concert. The concert also featured other bands from the sixties including Herman’s Hermits, Gary Puckett and The Union Gap, and The Grass Roots. We had great seats, dead center, about fifteen feet from the stage. When The Monkees began their set of songs it was obvious that they were enjoying this new chance of regaining their stardom. They seemed like they were having a fun time and the audience loved them. I was so thrilled to finally get to see the band that gave me so much pleasure when I was a kid.

When the show was over I was disappointed that we didn’t have tickets for the late show that evening. My friend Kevin also wished we could see them again. We went outside and we saw hundreds of people waiting in line for the next show. It didn’t take long for us to buy some tickets from a “scalper”. We didn’t have good seats but it was certainly worth the extra money to see them again.

Now, I’m sure you’re wondering what this has to do with my life with comic books and the history of my comic book store. You’ll have to trust me for a little while longer…it really is all connected!

Next Chapter: Serious illness strikes!