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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Roger on Fantaco's Chronicle's Series -- And he wrote it all without once mentioning "Fantaco/Tundra," go figure.

Wow, was that ever in-jokey. Never mind me. Go read Roger Green's first-person account of the decline and fall of Fantaco's ahead-of-its-time Chronicles series. As always, it's riveting and entertaining stuff.


Friday, August 15, 2008

What Are YOUR Fantaco Memories? -- Roger Green wants to know, and I want you to go tell him.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Five Questions for Roger Green -- The one good thing to come out of Al Gore's creation of the internet is the fact that I am able to communicate online with great people like Roger Green.

I saw him almost every week back in the 1980s, when as a teenager I was buying my comics at the legendary FantaCo Enterprises on Central Avenue in Albany, New York, but I never really developed any kind of relationship with the great guys that ran that store -- I don't know why I never really chatted them up, shy, I guess, and maybe a little intimidated (hey, these guys were also comic book characters, in Smilin' Ed Comics!) but they were always professional, helpful and kind to my teenaged self, and I have fond memories of seeing Roger, Mitch Cohn, Rocco Nigro and the late and much-missed Raoul Vezina at the store on a regular basis.

You've probably seen a FantaCo publication or two (or twenty) from time to time in your comic book travels; it seems like the Chronicles series (of which there were five, plus an annual) remain pretty ubiquitous, and if the checklists are now charmingly outdated (imagine an X-Men checklist that includes only Uncanny and scattered appearances in a few other titles?), the interviews and articles remain great comics journalism that holds up well. So well, in fact, that Marvel appropriated the Frank Miller/Klaus Janson interview from The Daredevil Chronicles for The Frank Miller Daredevil Omnibus. Ain't that something?

Anyway, a few years back Roger started blogging, and we ended up in touch, bonding over our very different but very much-loved memories of FantaCo. I'm grateful beyond measure for having had the experience of being a customer at one of the greatest comic book stores ever, and even more grateful to know Roger and Rocco now, just 27 years after the first time I walked in the door at 21 Central Avenue and said to myself "Holy shit, look at all these comic books!"

And now, in the spirit of The Frank Miller Daredevil Omnibus, I present to you my appropriated Five Questions for Roger Green.

What is your favourite comic book story?

Yeesh. I must admit a fondness for the Defenders when Gerber was writing it, and I love a good origin story (Spider-Man, Hulk), but ultimately, I end up with Giant-Size Man-Thing #1.

When reading comics, do you focus on the writing over the art, the art over the writing, or both about equally?

Serviceable art will allow me to read a well-told story. The most beautiful art will not save a terrible story line. One of the comic books I hate the most has to be Spider-Man #1. The McFarlane art was tolerable at best, but the story was so gawd awful, I stopped buying the title after three or four issues. Given the fact that I LOVED-LOVED-LOVED Peter Parker/Spider-Man, it was painful, but necessary. This was NOT the Peter I knew. The Spider-Man was more like Spawn. Loathsome.

When the Pinis used to come to FantaCo to do Elfquest signings, Richard used to rail against the comic fanboys who cared about art to the exclusion of story, and I thought he was absolutely right.

That said, sometimes the art DOES move me. I was buying Sub-Mariner during Bill Everett's second run, and I loved the look.

Roger Green at the Saratoga Springs Comicon, 21 June 2008

Who do you think is the greatest comic book artist still alive today and why?

Well, besides Fred G. Hembeck, who should be considered just based on the sheer number of characters he's drawn? I'll cop out and say Art Spiegelman because he helped bring the comic form out of the comic book ghetto.

What's your happiest memory of working at FantaCo?

I almost always loved when our publications came in, but I'm going to pick something rather arcane.

There was a graphic novelization of Stephen King's Creepshow drawn by Berni Wrightson in the mid-1980s. Having connections in both the comic and horror markets we knew, both instinctively and from comic and horror film stores we dealt with that there was still a demand for this title. The publisher, we ascertained, still had many copies of the book. I wrote to the publisher- nothing. I called the publisher - I was told the book was no longer available, which I knew to be untrue. Finally, I reached someone who acknowledged that they had copies but that it was not worth it for them to send it out only to deal with a huge percentage of returns.

So I said, "What if we bought them non-returnable?" I thought the guy's teeth were going to fall out. "Non-returnable?" So, we took 100 copies of it at 70% off the $6.95 cover price, put them in the store and listed them in a Fangoria ad, and blew through them. So I called again and said, can we have another 100?" By this point other stores were clamoring for this book, so we ordered an additional 500, and sold it to these horror book stores, and a few comic book stores, at 40% non-returnable. The stores got to sell a book they could otherwise not get, we made a decent profit even wholesaling someone else's book, and we kept the Wrightson book from just being remaindered. My persistence in dealing with this publisher was, strangely, my favorite FantaCo moment.

Here's another: I just came across in the past week a letter that one of FantaCo's mail order customers sent to me. Why it should resurface now, I have no idea, since we've only been in the house since 2000. (A 1989 article about the comic book Shriek was also in the pile.) This guy worked for Ryko, and he would send me, his mail order purveyor, free music.

Good to speak to you on the phone today (1-26-88)...I'm finding Ryko fans in the strangest places.
Hope you enjoy these guys - I chucked in a couple 3", too. The one with no writing is "They Might Be Giants", a couple of guys from Hoboken, NJ.

I like this not for the swag, but because apparently I was giving him service worthy of him sending me free stuff. Still have that unlabeled TMBG disc.

What do you think is the single best publication FantaCo released in its history?

While I have a strong affection for the Spider-Man Chronicles, which I edited, I'm going to say Gates of Eden, which Mitch Cohn edited. No, I'm NOT going to pick The Amazing Herschell Gordon Lewis and his World of Exploitation Films, no matter how much you beg, Alan.


Gates of Eden #1 actually is my favourite FantaCo publication, too, it should be noted. It was decades ahead of its time and paved the way in part for the artcomix revolution that is still going on today. You can see Roger's version of this interview, and if you have any memories of or artwork by the late Raoul Vezina that you would like to share, please get in touch with Roger through this post.

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