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Rooting Out Corruption at Marvel – Part One of a Bunch

When I took over as Editor in Chief of Marvel on the first working day of January 1978, I didn’t know it, but the place was rife with corruption.  Most of it was small-time, but some of it wasn’t so small. This is the tale of one of the smaller, but still very damaging instances.First, in my early days as Editor in Chief at Marvel, I went to a lot of conventions, trying to promote the books. I was on the road two or three weekends a month. I paid my own expenses—that is, Marvel paid my expenses. I had an expense account. So, con organizers were glad to have me, a professional guest for free.

In case you don’t know, in those days, comics companies never sent creators or even staffers to conventions, or on any kind of promotional trips.  It just wasn’t done. Con organizers had to pay all expenses to get professional guests to come, unless the pro lived in the neighborhood.  Then, all they had to do was provide a free table.

Anyway, I did a lot of panels talking about, and talking up Marvel projects. These speeches were usually followed by a Q&A.

Inevitably, someone in the audience would complain that they had subscribed to one or more Marvel titles, but no books ever came. Why? Once, in Chicago, I asked the crowd if anyone had subscribed to any Marvel titles and received no books. A dozen hands went up.

I told them that I would look into it.

Back at the office, I went to the director of the subscription department, a woman named Kathy, to ask how this epidemic of non-fulfillment could possibly be happening. She assured me that it wasn’t happening.  She insisted that every subscription was fulfilled.  She also said that lots of times, little kids would send in filled out subscription forms but no money. She guessed that those were the ones complaining. I pointed out that the youngest of the scores of complainers was clearly in his teens. She shrugged it off. She simply refused to believe that any such thing could happen.

A few nights after that frustrating conversation I was leaving the office late, as usual. I was often the last one out. I went out the back door, down a short hallway and into the elevator lobby. There I saw Anna’s cart near the front doors of the offices.  Anna was the cleaning lady, a sweet, pleasant, white-haired, older woman. She was Polish, and spoke only a few words of English. She was always pleased when I said “Dzien dobry,” good day, two of my few words of Polish.

The front doors were open. Anna was cleaning the reception area. I said hello—didn’t know how to say good-bye—as Anna was dumping the receptionist’s trash can into the bin on her cart.

I noticed that it was almost all subscription forms. I’m guessing 100 at least. My razor-sharp detective skills kicked in. I knew it was part of the receptionist’s job to open the subscription mail, but why were there subscription forms in the trash?

I examined a few.  I should have had a magnifying glass and a deerstalker hat, I guess, but I made do without.  On nearly every form, I could see that COINS had been taped to the thing.  The tape had been pulled off, the coins were gone and the form discarded.  Of the forms that had no coin/tape marks, most were marked for multiple subscriptions.  They probably had folding money with them.

I asked Anna if I could have one of her trash can liners and finally got her to understand what I meant.  I scooped all the sub forms out of her bin, bagged them and put them in my office.

The next day, I showed my evidence to Kathy.  Clearly, the receptionist was stealing any cash that came in with a sub form and was throwing those forms away.  Kathy, however, steadfastly refused to believe it.  I was dumbfounded.  She insisted that no such thing was occurring.  She adamantly refused to take any action.  What th…?

I took my evidence to the financial V.P., Barry Kaplan.  He believed it.

Barry carried the ball from there.  The receptionist was fired that day (over Kathy’s objections!) and that was the end of that scam.

There’s a coda.

Years later, I was doing a signing at a comics shop in the Bronx.  Who should turn up but the thief- receptionist, very happy to see me, very friendly.  She’d heard I was appearing at a shop in her neighborhood and came by to visit.

I had nothing against her except for the stealing thing, so I kept it pleasant and upbeat.  I guess no one ever told her I was the one who busted her.

JayJay here. One more thing… Jim is making some more of his scripts available for download. They are located in the sidebar to the right and there will be more added soon.

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38 Comments

  1. I have to step in to contribute my own minor recollections around the above. During my “career before my career” I worked at Marvel for a year within the years 1974-75. I worked for Ivan Snyder doing “Satisfaction.” His office was in charge of sending out posters, B&W mags, FOOM kits and whatever else they could stuff into the mail room (I recall a lot of Spidey-Mobiles for a little while). I would “satisfy” the customer’s orders. All of a sudden my immediate supervisor, a young and high-spirited woman was gone! Dismissed. I was informed that she had been caught taking any cash that our youthful readers would send in and toss the order form into the trash can at her desk. Who was her assistant? My old co-worker, the poor kid who turned out to be our receptionist that Jim uncovered. Apparently the lure of cash was just too great. But alas, no lessons were learned about concealing one’s paper trail…

  2. Carl Taylor

    Some of the increase in the cover price could also be due to increased production costs, like higher page rates and reprint rights, Etc.

  3. This is the raw data from the ABofC that was collected and posted on comic newsgroups in 2005. It does show that Marvel's sales numbers appear to exceed DCs starting in 1967.

    However, there's an important point expanded upon in this followup post. DC's numbers did not report the "Teen Group" until 1970, which I think consisted of "girl comics." It doesn't look like that was a big enough number added on to help them surpass Marvel even in 1970 though.

    The numbers for Supes and Spidey you quote seem to come from this page. Those come from the "statements of ownership" which I think were printed right in the comic books. The site says they included retail as well as subscription sales and were for paid copies only.

    You're right that if you add up all the 1969 Marvel titles there, they don't come close to the number reported in the ABofC (2,654,365 vs. 7,238,465). The DC numbers are closer…5,655,753 from the Statements of Ownership vs. 5,285,131 from the ABofC. That site does say the titles listed there with Statements of Ownership may not be complete, and they do not appear to include the "girls comics" either (e.g. Girl's Love Stories, Girls Romances, et al.).

    Maybe Marvel reported their entire number printed to the ABofC without subtracting off the returned copies. Either that or there are a lot of Marvel titles not listed on that site's Statements of Ownership listings.

  4. Roy Thomas has said in interviews that 1972 was the year Marvel passed DC in sales, due in part to the 25 cent versus 20 cent price differential. I believe that year is the point at which Marvel's top-selling books finally passed up DC's top-selling books.

    There really is no way Marvel could have passed DC in total sales in 1966 or 1967. That was still during the period Marvel was limited in the total amount of books they could publish, and published far less than DC. I'm skeptical it could have even happened in 1968 or 1969, given the fact DC's top titles were still outselling Marvel's (Superman was selling 511,984 in 1969 compared to Spider-Man at 372,352) and Marvel still had less books out. I don't know what to make of those Audit Bureau of Circulation figures, but either there's a mistake or something I'm not understanding about what they mean exactly.

  5. Actually 1986 had the first variant cover I'm aware of, the Man of Steel #1 with the close-up of Clark Kent opening his shirt and silver metallic ink on the logo. I think it was a "direct market"-only variant.

    Supposedly the numbers on that page come from the Audit Bureau of Circulation in Schaumburg, IL. Someone visited there and had to copy by hand the numbers Marvel and DC reported over the years. Seems to be just one of many bizarre ways people have tried to find these numbers, because apparently the comics companies will not make them available in any direct way. I'm sure people can arrive at different numbers depending on what their method is. I can't say how reliable the Audit Bureau of Circulation is (it's a non-profit association of advertisers, ad agencies and publishers), but the NY Times has used it to reference Marvel's sales figures before (they said it was 7.4 million a month as of November, 1988). Apparently it does NOT count publications that don't carry ads in them. So if DC had more titles in the '60s without ads in them than Marvel did, that could explain why they are lower than Marvel on the graph.

    I see Wikipedia says that "by 1972" Marvel's sales surpassed DC. There's a 1991 book by Les Daniels mentioned as a source a few sentences later, but it's unclear if it's referencing that sentence or not. And there is no mention of the methodology used. It also doesn't mention if the surpassing could have happened years before, but they could only find statistics to confirm it by 1972.

    Other things we'd have to know is if that was determined by total revenue or by total comics shipped. And was that the overall business including merchandising or just the comics? And were they counting only comics strictly or were magazine or other possible publications included? And were subscription sales counted or just retail distribution?

  6. There was definitely speculation and multiple-copy buying going on in the 80's… certainly not to the extent it reached in the early 90's, but it was a growing phenomenon over that decade and I'm sure it was a factor in the sales figures. Even if total sales figures were comparable, I would bet there were a lot less total readers in 1986 than in 1950.

    I'm puzzled by the figures at that site you linked here: http://enterthestory.com/comic_sales.html. The graph suggests Marvel's total sales passed DC's in 1966, which contradicts what I've always heard about 1972 being the year that happened. Since Marvel was limited to publishing a small amount of books prior to 1968, and was still publishing less titles than DC in 1969-70, that seems very unlikely… especially considering the fact that DC's top-selling books were still outselling Marvel's top-sellers at that time.

  7. Czeskleba, that is true about copies sold vs. readers. Moreover, these are ANNUAL circulation figures for the entire industry. Time's figure of 150 million was for 1986, not the 1990s. So I think it's a fair benchmark of readership, since while there was some speculation then, things like multiple covers and non-fans buying titles SOLELY for investment purpose really hadn't started. I'm sure circulation was far higher during the early '90s boom, but for some reason no site seems to have overall sales figures available from 1988 to 1996.

    I think Time's figure is close to accurate (even they say it's an estimate since 1986 hadn't ended by the time they published their article). It jives with the extensive sales data posted on this site. In 1986, this chart shows Marvel and DC selling about 10 million copies combined a month, which would expand to 120 million a year. Time's 150 million figure includes all publishers. They peg Archie at over 10% of the market, so the non-Big Two companies could have produced enough to get the full circulation total up to 150 million units for the year.

  8. @ Jedi Jones

    Enjoyed the Mises article, with silver trading at a spot price of $40 per ounce, the gold-bugs aren't looking quite as crazy as they used to;)

  9. I presume the article means 150 million comics sold, not 150 million readers. Obviously, a given reader can buy more then one issue of a comic per month, and also can buy more than one copy of a given issue.

    That second factor is overlooked by the Time article, and disproves their claim that comics were "more popular than at any time since the early 50's" during the 90's boom. "Popularity" should be judged by total readership, and the early-90's sales boom was generated by (relatively speaking) a very small amount of total readers, all buying large amounts of multiple copies of individual issues. When a comic sold half a million copies in 1950, that meant at least a million people were reading it (likely more, as copies were passed to family and friends). When a comic sold half a million copies in the early 90's, the total readership was a small fraction of that sales total.

  10. I find discussion of circulation figures interesting, but how could total circulation be 150 million, when the population of the US is a little over twice that?

  11. I should amend one statistic there. I came up with the $1-1.5 billion adjusted revenue from 1986 to now based on Time saying the industry's sales/revenues were $190 million-$300 million in 1985-1986.

    I just noticed though that Time also said circulation was 150 million in 1986 (which they say made comics more popular than at any time since the early 1950s). Since 150 million comics at 75 cents a piece would only equal $112.5 million in revenue, I assume Time must have been including non-comics revenues in the industry revenue totals they reported.

    Therefore my billion-dollar estimate may have been off. Comparing just the 1986 circulation figures to Diamond's sales, we can see that 150 million dropped to 100 million in 1997 and to 69 million in 2010. 150 million comics at today's average cover price would equal $537 million in revenue. That's more than double what pamphlet comics are earning today. However, TPB sales today appear to be making up the difference and bringing overall revenue (now $640+ million) higher than the adjusted 1986 figure.

    Of course, if comic prices only increased at the REAL rate of inflation, they'd only be $1.50 today, not $3.58. So the companies are actually generating a little bit more revenue by selling 69 million copies at $3.58 than they would be if they were still selling the same 150 million copies at the natural inflation rate of $1.50.

    Again, the question of whether those TPBs are of recent comics or of back catalog titles is an important one, I think, but not easily calculated. To me, it makes a difference in judging how the current companies are doing to know if they're selling new stories they created or selling stuff that was created decades ago. It also stands to reason that as more years pass, a company will naturally be able to sell more product by mining the back catalog. So that makes it harder for Marvel in 1986 to generate the same revenue as Marvel in 2011 since they had 25 years less of a back catalog to reprint.

  12. As kids, we suspected comic shops of doing the scheme Gregg described. We'd be looking for a recent back issue but the shop would be sold out. Then suddenly once it became "hot" they'd get more copies in from some mysterious source and have them at the higher price. It seems like they hedged their bets, selling some at cover price but holding some back until the price rose later.

    What retailers did during the boom is an important point. If we're saying sales of one title doubled from 300,000 to 600,000, that doesn't mean the end consumer purchased them. They might never have left store stockrooms. However, there was definitely a buying frenzy by end consumers as well, perhaps peaking with The Death of Superman. The retailers seemed to be selling enough to stay in business for a while during the boom.

    I'm not sure that loss of access to retailers alone explains the big drop-off in sales from pre-1990 to post-1995. Time Magazine said there were 4,000 U.S. comic shops in 1986. One estimate says there are 2,000-2,500 now. Subscribing by mail at major publishers was still an option if your local shop closed. Online shopping started around this time and now it's possible for people to order any comics they want online.

    From a Comics Buyer's Guide article: "Other non-speculators — long-time fans — left for other reasons. The quality of comics in general had suffered during the glut, and the perceived entertainment value declined as the price of paper skyrocketed in 1994." This is why I largely stopped reading comics in 1995 after being a pretty consistent reader from 1985 and up. I wasn't enjoying much of what I was reading anymore and it didn't seem worth the cost.

    It sounds like in the past when sales declined, comic publishers lowered their amount of titles and worked on quality, eventually attracting more readers. Now the shortsighted policy seems to be to pump out as many titles as possible to get more money from a shrinking group of readers.

    I found some more interesting stats on comichron.com. Diamond's top 300 comics sold 100 million copies in 1997 but only 69 million in 2010. Yet the revenue remained virtually identical at $244-245 million in both years due to price hikes! However, revenue on TPBs went up dramatically, roughly quadrupling.

    Still more encouraging, revenue across ALL outlets for comics and TPBs more than doubled from 1997-2007 up to over $650 million (but flat since). It appears that revenue OUTSIDE of Diamond went up 400% from 2003-2007 (Diamond's went up only 33%, although their TPB component went up 250%). Compared to the 1980s though, these numbers still look weak. Time said comic industry revenues were around $200-300 million in 1985-1986. Factoring in cover price increases, that would be $1-1.5 billion today.

    I think I understand now why Jim said the future of "pamphlet" comics may be in doubt, implying that TPBs are a growth area. Why are they doing well? Perhaps superhero movies have created more casual demand among non-fans who want to get a complete story but may not become a regular reader. Bookstores may now be the outlet for casual fans the way newsstands used to be. Comic book fans may not trust the quality of new issues so they wait to get TPBs after they hear reviews. It also looks like TPBs offer a better price-per-page than regular comics.

    I don't know how many TPBs sold are of recent stories vs. older issues. That's important to judge how many popular comics are still being made vs. mining of the back catalog.

    Ultimately, it seems like everything needs changes in order to turn the fortunes of pamphlet comics around, including amount of titles, quality of content, distribution, price and marketing.

  13. Very astute. Many retailers choked on inventory.

  14. Gregg H

    A bit about the way that the bubble bursting REALY killed the industry.

    Retailers (regular consumers) were the ones really hurt by SELF INFLICTED damage at that time.
    A guy would normally sell 100 issues of Uncanny X-Men (hypothetical). When he saw how the back issues were jumping in price, he bumped his orders up, expecting that he could sell the extra for a big mark up. The $1 book that he paid .45 to .55 for, he would put out for five, or sometimes a LOT more. And it WORKED! At least for a little while.
    Soon enough though, it went wild. There were folks who would get a book like X-Force and order several hundred copies, and only 'allow' his regular customers to buy it at cover price, because in his mind they were 'worth' five bucks each when he went to the weekend comic show next month.
    As you can guess, when there are hundreds of retailers out there, each sitting on hundreds of the SAME books, they not only can't sell them for five or ten bucks, they can't even get cover price on them.
    Now they have hundreds of dollars worth of books coming in that they can't sell, and they have already committed to their orders several months ahead of time, so now a lot of retailers fall behind to the distributors (Diamond, Capital, Heroes World etc).
    Now these people are getting cut off, or at least getting put on COD for their new stuf. It doesn't take long before they start folding. As more stores go out of business, less average every day NON-speculator readers lose access to the product.
    That is what really killed the industry. It wasn't the 30yr old yuppie buying ten copies of Spawn #1 hoping it would put his kid through college some day. It was the merchant buying an extra case of 200 copies of Spider-Man #5 EXPECTING it to buy him a new car that year.

  15. Will, if you tried that, you might end up being responsible for Marvel having to change the name of every title still being published on that list! Maybe they'd agree to add you the coveted lifetime comp list for their entire output if you agreed to keep your little scheme hush-hush to avoid giving anyone else ideas. Heck, I wonder if that ever happened back in the '80s, someone trying to subscribe out of an old issue when prices might have been lower.

    Out of curiosity I googled for comics and inflation and found a very detailed article linked below which uses Amazing Spider-Man as a benchmark to chart circulation figures, price, even page count up through 2007. The article eventually goes off the deep end and turns into an argument for going back to the gold standard, but there are a couple of noteworthy points for comic books along the way.

    Sales of Amazing were pretty steady at 300,000 from 1966 onward until they DOUBLED rapidly in the early '90s, then just as rapidly plummeted all the way down to 100,000 in 1998 where they've remained steady (at least through 2007). It's pretty shocking how that speculative bubble didn't seem to just kill the speculators but took out 2/3rds of the longstanding audience with it at the same time. Granted there is a decline in quality and an exodus of talent to startup independent companies that played a role in this beyond the speculation factor.

    Judging by these numbers the boom and bust resulted in selling an extra 600,000 copies of Amazing over 3 years and then selling cumulatively about 2 MILLION LESS than they normally would have over the next 10 years and counting. Pre-1990 Marvel was the tortoise who won the race while post-1990 Marvel was the hare that dashed out of the gate before collapsing of exhaustion and never recovering.

    Getting back to the issue of cover price, these charts show that while the increase in price of Amazing is not totally out of synch with the general consumer price index, Amazing did begin to noticeably outpace other inflation around 1982. However, the same thing was happening to Time magazine at the same time. But in 1988 Amazing started inflating in price faster than Time magazine. Amazing leaped definitively ahead of Time magazine in 1997 in terms of price inflation and has remained ahead.

    The most relevant quote in the article to me is the following. "Except for the boom years in the early 1990s, the title's popularity has actually waned. That this hasn't caused a drop in prices seems to defy economic logic."

    http://mises.org/daily/2611

  16. I used to work at the University of Chicago Press. There was a similar issue except it wasn't straight out theft. The subscription people were caught with old checks and money in envelopes just sitting in their drawers. It was bizarre.

  17. Man, I guess I oughta feel lucky. My subscriptions to Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America, The Avengers and Marvel Preview always showed up, no problems, although the Preview thing only happened due to the black & white Doc Savage mag getting canned before I could actually get a copy through the mail. I had been buying it off of the stands and finally made the jump, oh well.

  18. That's a fantastically unexpected story, Jim. Fantastic and sad. Stealing is one thing, but stealing from the naive, unsuspecting comic lovers of America?! Evil incarnate! 😉

  19. Kathy produced new ads regularly. However, as I said, she wasn't as in touch with what was happening with the comics as she should have been. I don't remember how we handled canceled books.

  20. Even to this day, I'm receiving cash by mail to subcribe to our mag, and not from kids!
    Thanks for this story!
    Those subcription ads were nice to see but they didn't seem to be often updated. I remember that you could still find subcriptions for a title that was just cancelled (or known to be cancelled). What was Marvel policy on that and how and who choose to which title the stopped subcritions would be transfered to, if they were?

  21. I received two issues of the Fantastic Four subscription I bought in 1987. Wish I'd followed up on the paperwork with a complaint or query.

    I love to check in every couple of weeks—one of a handful of my regular comic blog reads. I appreciate it. I particularly enjoyed the "how-to" clinic pieces.

  22. Dag, that's pretty low.
    I'm not above the baser human impulses, but I'm not risking my job or jail-time for under a 3 million. Swiping pocket change from kids that don't know any better is just not cool.

    Now… If I found that ad and clipped it and sent it in with a postdated check…. I don't see any expiration date on those subscription prices..

  23. When I was probably about 7 years old, my little brother and I sent a bunch of quarters along with a subscription list to DC. We'd misread the ad where it said "add $2 for each subscription" and assumed that each subscription was $2, so we subscribed to a bunch of titles. I guess our parents misread as well.

    A few weeks later we got a letter back, either containing the change or some equivalent bills, I don't remember, along with a nice letter explaining the mistake. Obviously we were a little disappointed that we couldn't subscribe to as many titles, but we would have been hugely upset if we'd never heard back at all.

    Great post, Jim, and for all those kids back in the day, thank you.

  24. Jim:

    I was always grateful when you came to our Minnesota show back in the early 80s. The time you took meeting informally with small groups of fans to discuss writing (using nursery rhymes as an example), the shaking of many hands and signing of many autographs…plus you had to go back to corporate and editorials worlds that Monday and work all week. People forget that "pros" when they come to comic conventions and such on weekends are giving fans their free time, in many cases. By the way, great story…forget that so much cash was sent thru the mails not too long ago!

  25. Stories like this make me glad that my mom warned me against sending cash in the mail at a very young age.

  26. Jim has a story in this issue of Galactica: the New millenium…
    http://twitpic.com/58uvod

  27. Living in Norway, my buddy Morten and I around 1972 both sent money to Marvel in the USA for our foreign subs, which of course cost us XX% more than the American subs. I ordered The Avengers and he ordered Captain America. It took THREE or FOUR months before we got our first issues — and we were then crushed by discovering the otherwise-pristine looking books were folded down the middle before mailing in that crummy, poorly protecting brown mailing sleeve! I had to work out ways of carefully hot ironing out that ghastly fold, but it was of course impossible to totally flatten it. So I wasn't happy about the Marvel sub system. I then found a great comics store in Denmark, still operational (www.fantask.dk) which did resell Marvels to Scandinavia — they weren't in our newsstands — and they got them in flat bulk from the US, and henceforth I could buy my comics on a monthly, non-sub basis, and get flat, beautiful copies!

  28. I subscribed to 6 Marvel books in 1977-1980 (took advantage of the "buy 5, get a 6th sub free" promo), and only missed ONE copy of a FANTASTIC FOUR, which Marvel quickly replaced upon receiving my letter about same!

    However, in the sumer of '78 my FOOM subscription dough vanished without a trace! No FOOM for me!

    LOVED getting my comics 3 full weeks before they showed on the ol' spinner rack!

    Al Bigley

  29. Slagger was suggested by Don Perlin, who was the principle creator of that character. Ask him if there's a Slagger on the family tree.

  30. Dear Jim,

    I didn't even think Kathy could be involved. She might be like me. I couldn't imagine the receptionist doing such a thing. You can see why I'll never write crime fiction. Too naive.

    Thanks for the info on the growth of subscriptions. Those full-page house ads must have helped. Were they Kathy's idea? I don't remember them in my older Marvels.

    I did read about Howard the Duck as a kid in Bullpen Bulletins. I'd see, say, a reference to the villain Pro-Rata and think, "What?" I didn't get the joke until I was an adult. Ironic that the most cartoony Marvel character of the mid-70s was possibly the least kid-friendly.

    I had guessed that you had learned a little Polish from your grandmother, but I didn't guess that your grandmother was a native Russian speaker or that she also knew several other languages. Eastern Europe in the old days seemed like polyglot central. L.L. Zamenhof, the inventor of Esperanto, comes to mind:

    "In addition to the Yiddish-speaking Jewish majority, the population of Białystok was made up of three other ethnic groups: Poles, Germans, and Belarusians. Zamenhof was saddened and frustrated by the many quarrels among these groups. He supposed that the main reason for the hate and prejudice lay in mutual misunderstanding, caused by the lack of one common language that would play the role of a neutral communication tool between people of different ethnic and linguistic backgrounds.

    […]

    Apart from his parents' native languages Russian and Yiddish and his adopted language Polish, his linguistics attempts [to invent a neutral language] were also aided by his mastering of German, a good passive understanding of Latin, Hebrew and French, and a basic knowledge of Greek, English and Italian.

    It's hard for English speakers to learn foreign languages in the U.S. Only the most motivated can overcome the inertia that comes with lucking out and already knowing the key to so much knowledge and fiction.

    Ha, it turns out that "Fear of Flying" is in the Galactica: The New Millennium comic I just ordered! You and J.C. go back longer than I thought.

  31. I'm really enjoying this blog, Mr. Shooter. Please keep it up!

    Davis D.

  32. I never knew the waiter-rob W-23 from VALIANT comics had the same name as Jim's Grandma. That's fascinating because Elzy named W-23 as "Tekla" after her own grandmother in Magnus, Robot Fighter #3 ("Steel Nation" Part 3: Traitor). Jim's family doesn't include a real life "Slagger", does it? 🙂

  33. I hope the subs were honored, too, but I don't remember. Barry was usually good about that sort of thing, and Kathy was an honorable if naive soul, so I suspect they were. Kathy, I'm certain, was not involved in the scam. Barry concluded the same thing.

  34. Once I turned it over to Barry it was out of my hands. He decided not to press charges. I don't know why Kathy found it so hard to believe that one of her helpers was stealing. Total denial.

    Barry concluded that Kathy wasn't party to the scam. I am also sure she wasn't.

    Subscriptions were small time in the sixties and early seventies. Kathy changed that, and built our subscriptions into a significant part of the business. Like you, I imagine that it has declined these days.

    Howard became less esoteric after Gerber. I guess some kids read it. Or at least Kathy (who didn't read the comics as far as I know) thought so.

    My Grandma Kate (real name Tekla) spoke seven languages, including her native Russian and her husband's Polish. She tried to teach me, but I forget all but a little.

    J.C. Vaughn asked me to write that BattleStar Galactica story. He published a BG comic book in which it appeared. I'll rattle his cage and get the info.

  35. I'm pretty sure I can already guess the answer, but I hope those subscriptions that were salvaged from the trashcan were honored? Good work busting the operation, and if the director of the subscription department was in on it, you must have scared her straight!

  36. Dear Jim,

    I never subscribed to any comics as a kid. As difficult as it was to collect a series off the stands, I didn't dare ask my mother for $4 for comics. (Yet I'd beg for a $40 LEGO set. Go figure.) But if I had subscribed and if my comics hadn't come, I would have been so mad, and my mother might have forbidden me from buying Marvels ever again. The fans who didn't get any subscription books but came to the con anyway must have really loved Marvel.

    $4 in 1978 is about $13 now. At least $4 per subscription form times 100 is a lot of money! Poor kids (and their parents). Incredible. I had no idea. The $uper Villains weren't all at the top. The receptionist got off easy. You could have pressed charges. Like bmcmolo, I wonder why Kathy was in denial.

    Were subscriptions a big component of the business back then? I assume they're a minor aspect now.

    I love how Howard the Duck is talking to kids in the ad. Reminds me of who used to read comics in the 70s. Did kids read Howard? I never read Howard until I was 30. I wouldn't have understood it as a kid.

    I should have guessed you knew a little Polish. A couple of the same words I happen to know. Dzień dobry. I'm a professional linguist. I love this stuff. I studied Russian, so Polish isn't totally alien to me. The Russian equivalent is добрый день (dobry den) with the cognates in the opposite order.

    Dziękuję to you and JayJay for the new scripts to download.

    What's the story behind the Battlestar Galactica script? Was it for Realm? I assume it's unpublished. I'll buy the comic if I'm wrong. On Monday I ordered Galactica: The New Millennium #1 for your foreword along with Mighty Samson #3. I'll read your Samson script before I get the actual comic.

  37. Gotta agree with him, sounds like the receptionist was splitting the take, but of course this is cynicism of a later time.

  38. I love that Marvel Subscribers Club ad – thanks for posting that.

    Makes me wonder why Kathy so adamantly refused to see what was going on!

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