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Friday, August 15, 2008

FantaCo redux

How do you leave the past behind
When it keeps finding ways to get to your heart
- From the musical Rent.

As some of you know, I worked at FantaCo Enterprises, a comic book store that was involved with conventions, mail order and publishing from May 1980 to November 1988. After I left, I figured, "OK, that was THAT chapter in my life," and I would just move on.

Well, no.

In part because of the nudging of a certain party, I wrote a piece or two about the place I spent 8.5 years working, with another piece coming later this month. Then I discovered that some people had warm recollections of FantaCo, the store, the conventions and the various, and eclectic, line of publications.

What brought this to mind were TWO e-mails I got in the past week. One wanted to get hold of FantaCo owner Tom Skulan concerning a publication about magazines such as EERIE and CREEPY, and he wanted to include the FantaCo publications of the genre.

(Truth is, I have a three-year-old e-mail of Tom's and don't know if it's any good.)

The other e-mail was from a guy who wrote:
One question I have is about the Fantaco/Tundra imprint. According to many sources, right around 1990, FantaCo proper disappeared, and instead comics with a Fantaco/Tundra imprint appeared. Kevin Eastman, publisher of the short-lived Tundra Publishing, seems to have been involved (as a book of his, "No Guts No Glory" was published by Fantaco/Tundra). In my Wikipedia entry, I deduced that Eastman bought out or absorbed Fantaco around this time. Am I correct in assuming that? If not, do you know the real history? (I know you left the company around 1988, but I thought you might have kept up with their story.)

I have no idea. The idea of Tom allowing anyone to "absorb" FantaCo seems out of character, but as the writer notes, I wasn't there. (Hey, anyone out there know?)

This latter writer, not so incidentally, has put together the FantaCo Wikipedia post. It is incomplete, as it does not even mention the book publications, such as Splatter Movies, Video Screams, The Amazing Herschell Gordon Lewis, a couple HGL screenplays, Midnight Marquee #33 (I think), and two books about Famous Monsters. I was tickled, though, to see the list of references, including Steve Bissette, who I knew in the day, and have been reacquainted with as a result of the Internet; and, well, me. I'm also cited, BTW, in the Fred Hembeck Wikipedia post.

Somehow, I have, much to my surprise, started to feel some responsibility towards the history of the FantaCo flame, even the stuff that happened after I left. It must be the librarian in me. Steve Bissette has already tackled some of this in his four-part series on Gore Shriek Steve's contributions to Henderson State University also addresses the topic. Others who have noted it include Fred Hembeck, of course, and Dennis Dread.

So, at SOME point, I'll have to deal with the incomplete legacy of FantaCo. I'll probably start with the Mile High listing. But, for all sorts of reasons, which will be revealed sooner or later, not for a few weeks. Meanwhile, if you all have some solid information re: FantaCo, especially FantaCo publications, and the FantaCo/Tundra relationship, please let me know. My thanks. The information gods will truly thank you.



Roger Green said...

Steve Bissette, who was involved with FantaCo PUBLICATIONS after I left the company, REPLIES HERE:

JC Glindmyer said...

It was August 1978, and there was a comic convention being held at the Albany Turf Inn on Wolf Road in Albany. It was one of the first comic shows in the area and even had a guest artist, Joe Sinnott. It wasn’t as big as a NYC con, of course, but it was it wasn’t any less enjoyable.

Like any true fanboy in the making, I made it a point to purchase doubles and try to trade them off for stuff on my want list. I came up to a table and I was wheeling and dealing with a guy at trying to trade in a double of the latest hot comic (Howard the Duck#1 in mint) for one of his comics he had on the wall (Daredevil#4 in very good condition). The gentleman was a friendly, slender man with black curly hair and a mustache. After offering the guy Howard plus six dollars, the book was mine. I really wanted that Daredevil and six bucks was a lot of money to give, especially when dealing with a red hot book like Howard the Duck (insert sarcastic laughter here). In retrospect, not a bad trade. After the transaction, the gentleman introduced himself as Tom Skulan and before I left the table he gave me this piece of paper- it was an announcement of the opening of the areas first comic store, Fantaco. I still have a copy of that flyer.

Tom was always a gentleman to me and never treated me like competition. One of his associates at the time (a gentleman by the name of Roger Green) preferred the term co-retailers, a term I use to this very day. Tom even invited me to a get together after one of the Fantacon. We had talked earlier about troubles we were having with distributors, and I told him about a specific problem I had with Capital City Distribution. Tom made it a point to go over to John Davis, one of the owners of Capital City and who happened to be a vendor at the con, and introduce us so I could personally speak with him.

Fantaco closed about ten years ago, a few months after its twentieth anniversary. There was much speculation. One person who worked there at the end opined that after twenty years in the business, Tom had enough of the business, but who knows? The reasons are known only to Mr. Skulan, but hey, twenty years is a pretty respectable run.

This year is Earthworld's 25th anniversary and come September I'll be celebrating 20 years of sole ownership of the store, which shows the length some people will go not to get a real job.