by Beau Smith
August 18, 1993
Do you know where you were? I do.
I was lucky enough to be in San Diego, California at the San Diego Comic Convention as one of the first judges for the First Annual Will Eisner Spirit Of Comics Retailer Award. Even then, when asked to be a judge, I knew what a big deal this was.
In 1993 I was the VP of Sales and Marketing for Eclipse Comics. I had been with the company since 1987 and being asked to be a part of this was one of the crown jewels in my comic book career. I knew the importance and influence that Will Eisner had upon comic book storytelling, art, and the business of comic books. Sometimes we tend to overlook how Will Eisner blazed an innovative path in the business of comics. He formed studios and made jobs for other creators, in the process teaching them how to start their own studios and independent work. He was a pioneer for creator rights making sure that he owned things that he created and reaped the profit benefits from those creations. He also wanted to know what the people/consumers that bought his comic books wanted in entertainment. This was more than a job for Will Eisner, it was a livelihood.
I learned a lot from talking to Will during that convention and the Expo where we were deciding who would be the recipients of the “Spirit Of Comics” Award. He took the time to not only talk to me about the importance of how to market our comics, but to market yourself as well. I was also flattered and honored that he asked me question upon question about how retailers and consumers felt and decided how they spent their money in 1993. He was interested in the trends and the distribution process of that time and where it was going. He wasn’t there just to lend his name to an award, no, he was there to be working part of a industry that he truly loved and dedicated his life to. I was impressed and in awe.
I was also fortunate enough to be a judge with some great and iconic figures in comic books during that particular time of 1993. We were all a part of this first time award and we truly enjoyed the decision-making, the going over of many stores that were up for the award, and sharing business experiences that ranged from all paths. The other judges were:
Neil Gaiman-Perfect gentleman, now internationally best selling author. Neil and I have worked together, on the writing end (Angela Trade Paperback) as well as marketing end when Neil wrote for Eclipse Comics (Miracleman) and Image Comics (Spawn/Angela) Its always a pleasure to spend time with Neil no matter what boss of mine at the time was in a lawsuit with him. Always a first class guy everytime.
Ann Ivan-Comics Marketing Consultant. A long time friend who I first met early in my career when she was at DC Comics. Ann was always a straight shooter and was always happy to share information and trends with everyone that loved comics.
Bill Newhaus-Diamond Comics Distribution. Bill is another long time friend that I’ve made in comics. He and I worked together quite a bit early in my career and he helped me guide my way through the distribution waters of Diamond Comics back when there were another 20 distributors to also deal with. Bill was smart and made Diamond a flexible place to work with when you didn’t think the biggest guy would bend.
Bob Schreck-Dark Horse Comics. Marketing, editing, writing, promotions, publishing, Bob has had his hand in it all and done very, very well. Always a realistic look on the way comic books were and needed to be done. Like me, here it is decades later and we’re both still working in comics. Either we’re really smart or everyone else is really dumb for letting us run loose for so long.
Dave Sim-Creator of Cerebus. An early image of what Will Eisner set out to do with creator owned work. He pretty much did it alone and always had a strong opinion to go with it. You may not always have agreed with it, but he had it and held to it.
Martin Stever-Advertising, promotions & marketing for Capital City Distribution. Capital City Distribution was the other biggie of the Big Two distributors along with Diamond. Martin could be abrasive, bold, and of strong opinion, but if you took the time to spend time with him and get past his forceful nature, you’ll find a friend for life. Honest to a fault and not afraid to share his honesty with you. Martin was a part of the puzzle you always needed.
The winners of the “Spirit Of Comics” award that year ended up being :
Sean Scoffield & Steve Solomos
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Rory Root & Mike Patchen
Berkley, CA. & San Francisco, CA.
I spent time in all these stores and saw the diverse magic happen, I saw these retailers carve a path for today’s direct market, and most of all I saw Will Eisner wear a proud smile.
The say “What goes around, comes around”, but I’d like to believe that the best things take the straight path and always move forward.
Thank you, Will Esiner and thanks to comic books read, and to forever be read.
The Flying Fist Ranch