In last week's column, I outlined how the Irjax anti-trust lawsuit of 1979 created an atmosphere of panic amongst the comics publishers. Not only were they being collectively sued for the special deal they had created for Phil Seuling's Seagate Distributing company, but they also found themselves in the awkward situation of having their printing company, Spartan Publishing, as a co-defendent. Clearly, something had to be done to resolve the Irjax lawsuit.
It was at this very moment that my letter lambasting Marvel for Seagate's very restrictive credit terms arrived in the Marvel Offices, along with over 100 letters of support. Frankly, my timing simply could not have been better. As I gathered from later conversations with folks within Marvel, Marvel Marketing VP Ed Shukin was given my letters of support by Robert Maillo. Ed then had a meeting with Marvel President Jim Galton, who then told Ed to try and get me to come to New York. That's why I received the fateful phone call.
Once I made the decision to fly to New York to meet with Shukin (I had no idea I would meet with Jim Galton...), I then called my travel agent. The only flight I could afford in those early days of Mile High Comics was a "red eye" which left Denver late in the evening, arriving in New York early the next morning. At that time, I was 24 years old, and I had never before flown into Manhattan. Even arranging to take a cab to the old Marvel offices was quite an adventure. Once I finally made it to 575 Madison Avenue, I trepidatiously took the elevator to Marvel's floor, and introduced myself to the very skeptical receptionist. Since I had no hotel arranged in advance, I had to sheepishly beg her to hide my battered old suitcase behind her desk before she rang for Mr. Shukin. That certainly didn't do much to enhance my image as an important visitor.
While I waited for Ed to come to the lobby for me, the butterflies in my stomach began to grow to the size of starlings. After all, the letter I had sent Bob Maillo was far from diplomatic... Between exhaustion from flying all night, and my fear over what might happen during the meetings, my greatest concern became that I would become violently ill before I could even express some of the points I had repeatedly been covering in my head during my all-night flying adventure.
As things turned out, I simply couldn't have been more pleased with my first meeting with Ed Shukin. In 1979, Ed was graying about the temples which gave him a very distinguished air. While he definitely looked the part of a high-powered corporate executive, Ed was also a very round person with a warm smile, and a remarkably open attitude. I genuinely liked him from the very first moment we met. As I recall, we talked about the issues I had raised in my letter for a few moments, and he then asked me if I had time (sheesh!) to meet with Marvel's President, Jim Galton? When I stuttered out that I certainly did want to talk with Mr. Galton, Ed led me down the hall to Galton's office, introduced us, and then went back to his office.
While Ed was a warm and cuddly kind of guy, Jim Galton was very hard edged, and all business. This certainly isn't to say that he wasn't genuinely interested in hearing what I had to say. Given that he was in deep **** over the Irjax lawsuit, he most certainly wanted to hear about any possible solutions to his problem. As I later found out, if those possible solutions also included a way to screw the Schuster family to the wall, all the better. In this instance, practically anything I had to say would be considered. I do believe, however, that I shocked Mr. Galton when my response to his "Well, what brings you to New York, young man?" query was for me to ask him "Mr. Galton, I've committed my entire life, and all of my assets in the world, to the retailing of comics. Given the trends that I'm currently seeing as a retailer, I have grave doubts as to whether the comics industry is going to survive more than a couple more years. What I really want is for you to convince me that Marvel isn't about to go out of business..."
To be continued...
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