Comic Book Historians

Steve Geppi: The Godfather of Comics Part 2 with Alex Grand & Jim Thompson

June 01, 2020 Comic Book Historians Season 1 Episode 66
Comic Book Historians
Steve Geppi: The Godfather of Comics Part 2 with Alex Grand & Jim Thompson
Show Notes Transcript

The second half of the interview with Steve Geppi, head of Diamond Comics Distributors who sits down with Alex Grand and Jim Thompson discussing various phases of his comics career via livestream.  We continue from his role as distributor, to various decisions positioning him as the president of the main comics distribution company in North America and the United Kingdom, with various expansions into games and publishing.  Steve also goes through in detail how he’ll help the modern comic book industry from the economic collapse of COVID19!  Edited & Produced by Alex Grand. Video © Comic Book Historians 2020

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Alex: Did Capital have any West Coast at the time?

 

Steve: Yes, they did. They, I think, bought Common Ground, I think was--

 

Alex: They did it. They bought--

 

Steve: I forget which came first, the chicken or the egg. I'm not sure I bought Bud first, and then they bought but Bob could tell you that, what came first. Capital did.

 

Alex: I think Capital bought Bob's Common Ground sub-distributors in 1982, and then--

 

Steve: Yeah, so he was already on the West Coast.

 

Alex: This was already done, yeah. So, I guess, so they still have that. Okay. I see, okay.

 

Steve: Yeah. I guess that's part of what was going on at the time. Because I had my biggest competitor had a presence on the West Coast. We really weren't in a position to compete because the speed of delivery was so important. It would be impractical, unless we air-freighted them out of Sparta, and that was totally waste of money.

 

Alex: Yeah.

 

Steve: So that was our foothold, so to speak, to get on the West Coast.

 

Alex: I got you. All right, Jim.

 

Jim: Having covered the whole United States at this point, in 1991, you set up Diamond UK Limited as well, and begin operations in the UK. Correct?

 

Steve: Actually, it was 1993 that we formed Diamond UK. Prior to that, we had a sub-distributor called Neptune Distributors.

 

Alex: There you go.

 

Steve: That was competing with Titan. Again, I was friends with Mike Lake and Nick Landau and the guys who owned Titan Distributors. I had always been trying to get them to sell it to me. I think when Neptune got in trouble and owed us a lot of money. I had two choices. I could either suck it up and take the hit and lose the money, or I could come over there and pick up the pieces and resurrect it under the auspices of Diamond UK. And I think that, in a way, only Mike or Nick would be able to say for sure, might have brought them to the table a little bit more. Because maybe at the time they might've been thinking, certainly I would have if I was them, "Well, Neptune goes away, that's going to be great. They've been a pain in our butt for a while having another distributor over here, and when they go out, we'll get those accounts back."

 

But when I went over, I guess because I had an interest in doing the UK, and I already had a lot of money tied up in this account that owed me money, my best version of that would be to go over, cut a deal, take over.

 

And I'll never forget, I stayed at the Langham Hilton, which is a very nice hotel in London. I was in that hotel for 30 days, never left the building. I had every concierge, every butler, they knew me by name. Because those days, it wasn't social media. They keep bringing me pink slips up of off messages. And I literally talked to every account in the United Kingdom over that period of time.

 

But it was in 1993 that we actually, and ironically, I think it's the same date as that was July 16th or somewhere very close, that I formed Diamond UK.

 

Alex: Diamond, UK. 

 

Jim: Now, what about Pacific Distribution? I had that as a little bit earlier than that.

 

Steve: Okay. Pacific I'd never bought. Pacific, Bud Plant did a deal with, as memory serves me correct. But, Bill Shanes, who owned Pacific, not only comics, but Pacific Distribution, and Shanes and Shanes, he had a bunch of companies, and retail too for a time. When he was out of the distribution and publishing, I was in San Diego, and I approached Bill because my empire was expanding and I knew he was a really valuable player, knowledgeable, and a friend. So, I made a pitch to Bill, and he came to work for me and worked for me for 28 years.

 

Jim: Now, have you ever tried to go past into the European Union and other aspects or just the US, and then the United Kingdom?

 

Steve: Well, we don't have a physical location in any of the countries over there. That's not something that is off the table, by the way. But typically, because the speed of delivery was important, if you own account in Spain or Germany or France shipping you out of, what the time was part of it now call it Olive Branch, Mississippi, the central part of the country where the printer might be, or even at Plattsburgh now, we could get the book straight to your country, and you could pick them up at the airport. Rather than send them to the United Kingdom and then relay them, which would cost a day or so.

 

So, effectively, the way I would define it, I'm not much current on the detail as I should be, but typically I would think if I'm an account in France or Germany, Diamond would service my time-related stuff. Right from the printer to you, fast as possible. Whereas the UK has accounts in Europe but might be more of a back supply or a different product line that we don't have. Freight becomes an issue. It's all about what the cost of freight is. It's really hard for me to sell certain things in other countries where freight is so expensive. It makes no logical sense for them to buy from us.

 

Jim: Now, does Brexit in any way impact your UK...

 

Steve: Well, certainly anything that affects the exchange rate with the pound has been of a concern because we have to monitor that. Our pricing in Europe, or in the UK particularly, is tied. Because there's the physical cover price on the book is different, they're buying US comics that say US prices, so they have to extrapolate the British version of it. And as a result, the pound as it fluctuates, so sometimes it's in our favor, and sometimes it's in the retailer's favor.

 

We try not to change it on a minute by minute basis. So sometimes we benefit for a little extended period on it, in our favor. And another time we take the hit for a period of time. It kind of comes out in the wash, and it's only when something like Brexit comes along where you see a significant movement in the pound and exchange rate for Sterling that you might have to change the pricing a little more frequently than you would have otherwise done.

 

Jim: Oh, that's interesting. Okay, Alex.

 

Alex: Okay. So, now, 1994, you bought some selected assets, also in a New York-based distributor Comics Unlimited LTD. Is that right?

 

Steve: That was my dear friend, Walter Wang and his partner, Ron Foreman, still dear friends to this day, Comics Unlimited Limited... Hit for a period of time. It kind of comes out in the wash.

 

Alex: Oh, that's strange.

 

Steve: It's only when something like Brexit comes along.

 

Alex: Yeah, same here. Do we know why that is?

 

Steve: Where you see a significant movement in the pound and exchange rate for Sterling...

 

Jim: Hold on a second. I think it was, yeah.

 

Alex: Maybe turn that. You might want to...

 

Steve: There we go.

 

Jim: My phone came on and suddenly started talking to us.

 

Steve: And recording it.

 

Jim: Yeah.

 

Alex: All right. Very nice.

 

Steve: At least I got to hear myself.

 

Jim: I think somebody sent me the YouTube video saying, "Hey, look at this." And so that's what happened.

 

Alex: That's what happened. You clicked on it. All right.

 

Steve: 1994 was Comics Unlimited Limited. Love that.

 

Alex: Yeah. Comics Unlimited Limited, right. And you had 27 warehouses in the US, Canada. But did you have warehouses in the UK also?

 

Steve: Yeah, because that's after '93, '93 I was already in the UK. I would say 28; people keep telling me it was 30, 28 is in my head, but it could have been 30, I don't remember.

 

Alex: Okay. And you had your own trucking line; you controlled 45% of the market. So were you distributing into New York before you bought--?

 

Steve: Yeah, I had bought another smaller distributor called Crown Distribution from a guy named Gary Arkin and Mark Ragodino. So those two guys, we bought that. So, we had a presence in New York already.

 

Alex: Hmm. Okay. So, then that just completed New York, essentially.

 

Steve: And Walter and Ronnie Comics Unlimited Limited were the friendliest competitors you could ever have. In fact, when I first went direct to Marvel, I didn't have a direct DC account, and Walter would sell me my DCs at his cost as a direct distributor. And I would get other products from another vendor and sell to Walter but it was the hardest thing... We had to do this reconciliation - he owed me this, I owed him that. And it was so much work for no money because no one had a profit margin built-in back and forth. But I remember when I used to do it personally, and then I finally had to train somebody to do it. And I can tell you, that was a tough job to do that.

 

Alex: Okay. Now in 1995, this is an interesting year. This was as interesting as 1987 was, is that Marvel, they're trying... Ronald Perelman is running Marvel, the Revlon people essentially. That's what a Herb Trimpe would call them, the Revlon guys, and they wanted to distribute their own comics. So, there's a big industry shakeup, and they bought Hero's World to distribute their own titles in house and suddenly, and it just seemed like they weren't equipped to do that, to begin with. And it was a bit of a blunder, but they were buying all sorts of stuff at that time anyway. And at this point, this is interesting there is a race now on, on who can outbid Diamond versus Capital, as far as the accounts of DC, Dark Horse, Image. And you won that bidding because that also included a claim. What was going on? How did you outbid Capital? What's involved in that?

 

Steve: Here's what happened. All right when Ronald-- I'll try not to truncate this because I don't want to dominate or monopolize, but when you ask me these questions, they got stories. So, if it's okay. Terry Stewart was president of Marvel at the time, McAndrews Ford was the arm of Ronald Perelman's empire, who also owned Revlon, as you mentioned, Coleman Equipment, probably the biggest camping equipment. Ronald Perelman's billionaire, he owned a lot. And he had taken Marvel, bought it from New World for I think, $82 million and at the time we all thought that was crazy because they had bought it for 48 million. And the joke was he probably bought it for his son that's play money. So, he bought it, but the industry was really fast, skyrocketing volume-wise up until 93. So, when he bought it, he took it public. And he actually got Marvel, I believe at one point to a $3.5 billion market cap.

 

But it was one of those things with the folly, as I call it, the folly of the stock market is that it's really hard to sustain the kind of growth that they had because a lot of it was inflated. By that I mean, they were doing holographic covers, the pricing on the books was the elasticity had been stretched as far as you could go. The baseball card guys had infiltrated our market and had people buying cases of comic books like they did cards until they proved that was the same folly it was in the card market. So, when it got to the point where I guess he's reporting to the stock market and we know how to stock market works, what have you done for me lately? He said, "All right. Well, we can't raise the prices. We can't put any more holographic covers. What do we do?" "Well, let's buy some of our licensees."

 

So they bought FLEER, pay 200 and some million dollars. They bought Skybox, $150 million, which I think I did the math they had over $400 million invested in that combined company. And when it was dumped, it was sold for 25 million for all of it and that guy went out of business. But so, then the last straw is how desperate it seemed to me, my version, "Let's buy a distributor." Now, you're chasing pathetic margins now, but I guess that was probably part of the rationale, not chasing the margin so much was the idea that we'll control our own stores. And I think they really had it and maybe in their mind, that buy-- Because remember what they did, they bought Hero's World, but not only did they say that we're going to go exclusive with Hero's World and take 35% of everybody's volume away, other distributors, they weren't going to sell anybody else's product.

 

So maybe somebody thought at the time, this will hurt the other publishers because it'll put the distributors will go under, they were losing 35% of the business. They won't have anywhere to go and we'll have our own. Well, we all know the story, how that collapsed. And the sad part of it, there's a part of me you could argue I was the beneficiary because it led to what I'll have to do. But Paul Lovitz, who was the head of DC, did not want to buy a distributor, but he recognized or thought maybe what they've got going here, I can't take a chance it might work, and we're going to be in a compromised position. They've got a direct line to the retailers, and we don't. So, then he made an announcement that he was going to go exclusive with somebody, and the two logical candidates at the time were Capital and Diamond.

 

And so we had to make our pitch, our presentation. And fortunately for us, we got selected. So, what that meant for Capital, though, they had already lost Marvel, like we did. Keep in mind we don't have Marvel either at this time, but now they've lost DC. So, they've lost numbers one and two, then pretty much three through 10 didn't want to be or worried maybe the distributor who doesn't survive or get one of those two is maybe not going to last. So, a lot of them came on board. So, it was a really tough time for Capital, but to their credit, as I said earlier, they went from like $150 million company with 20 locations down to one location and 50 million and hung on valiantly. It was a pain in my butt for a long time. They were really great competitors. And then eventually, we worked out a deal, and everybody survived, and nobody got hurt.

 

And by doing that deal, my litany was, I can't wait for them. And I said to certainly go out of business and hope for all the free counts because it would hurt the publisher. So, what happened as a result of that is we did a deal with Capital, Milton and John got paid money. John actually worked for me for seven years. All the vendors got paid every penny, and it was a happy ending per se, but the industry ironically had half-sized. So, in 1993, when I was doing $222 million, Diamond was doing as a 44% of the market, I now have all the markets so to speak, and I'm doing 168. So, it gives you an idea of how much the market has and then eventually Marvel when that didn't work came back, and we started to grow.

 

Alex: So then basically like Image and Acclaim, and those guys, basically, chose you because DC ended up going with you, so they followed suit.

 

Steve: Well, I guess that was part of the rationale. They were not just throwing up their hands, guys like Mike Richardson at Dark Horse and the seven guys at Image really stepped up on our behalf. They were a big part of our success as to why we survive too because they could have gone with Capital, they could have done something else. They showed a vote of confidence in us, and I'm forever grateful, what they did to help us form what we are today.

 

Alex: Make it happen. When you outbid Capital with DC with Levitz, was it saying, "We'll distribute your stuff for less expensive than they will?" Is that how that works?

 

Steve: With who you mentioned?

 

Alex: Okay. So basically, when DC chose you on the bidding, and I'm thinking because you had mentioned Levitz. So were you talking to--

 

Steve: Oh, Levitz. I thought you said, Lennox. What did I hear?

 

Alex: Yeah.

 

Steve: Levitz. Okay.

 

Alex: So basically, was the conversation between you and Levitz of, "Okay. We'll distribute your stuff for less cost." Is that right?

 

Steve: No, no. That's when the nature of our relationship as a distributor/publisher changed to brokerage or agency.

 

Alex: Okay.

 

Steve: Meaning that DC, remember Marvel's now got their own ability to set the discounts to their retailers. That's a concern for another publisher because they could-- when they're selling through us, we control the pricing. So, if Marvel's got a distributor who's competing with me, it's pretty much level playing field. They're going to only be able to do what they know I can compete with, but if Marvel suddenly sells directly to the retailers, they can actually incentivize them to buy more Marvel Comics than DC.

 

That led to DC controlling their pricing, which argued for an agency, so what that meant was, and it's still today, DC and Marvel, they set the prices to the retailers, and we get the same thing, no matter what. Whether the account gets 40% or 55% or anywhere in between, we get our agency fee. That's where nature for the last 25 years, for the most part of the exclusives and or... we have other arrangements, we have some still buy-sells with publishers. We have buy-sell and consignment. There's a variety, but the crux of the big two, we're all agency.

 

Alex: I get you, that's the deal right there. Then that essentially positions Capital to distribute kitchen sink and Viz Comics. Then they went bankrupt in 96 and then you bought--

 

Steve: But that wasn't they really went bankrupt because remember everybody got paid. They didn't go bankrupt to my knowledge. They managed to walk away with their head up and paid everybody through us.

 

Alex: Oh, I see.

 

Steve: So, they did okay. No bankruptcy.

 

Alex: There you go. Then you bought, or Diamond bought selected assets of Capital in 96.

 

Steve: Correct.

 

Alex: Then 1997, Marvel signs an exclusive agreement with Diamond to survey the specialty market retailers, and as part of that deal, they got their own section in previews or their own previews, kind of a section or magazine.

 

Steve: Sure.

 

Alex: At this point then, Jim is going to talk a little bit more about the monopoly stuff, but the positives, you centralize your customer service program, you added an order adjustment program. Diamond also launched a toll-free Comic Shop Locator service. So, in a lot of ways, you've reduced the overhead, made it possible for the industry to keep surviving, and made it easier for fans to find comic shops and to help the retailers, right?

 

Steve: Right. When I mentioned this the other day on Dan's show, we, you and I, us and everybody watching, we're the problem. We want the best at the cheapest, and the only way you get the best at the cheapest is volume.

 

Alex: Right.

 

Steve: That's why you have Amazon. That's why you have Walmart. So, you can't complain about it if you cause it, you know what I mean?

 

Alex: Yeah.

 

Steve: So that's what kind of happened, and we're not unique. Every industry has experienced consolidation. You just look at it - there are less airlines, there's less everything, trucking companies. The ID Wholesalers, as we call them, Independent Wholesalers that governed the newsstand all those years in the 30s, 40s, and 50s, there used to be 400 of them, and it was very territorial, Mafioso to say the least. Now there's three, it got broken up. Volume is critical to give them the best price and the best service.

Because if you're buying from this distributor and Jim's buying from the distributor and you're both across the street, but your distributors tying and his distributors big, he can afford to give that retail store, your store much more than your distributor can give you. It makes him impossible to compete because you can't say, "Well, I love my distributor. I'm just going to suffer and not have those other services."

 

Alex: Right.

 

Steve: You need to compete on the consumer level, so you have to migrate to the guy that's able to give you the bigger or better deal. I'm not displacing loyalty, but at some point, loyalty has a price that you can't afford.

 

Alex: Yeah, that makes sense. All right, Jim.

 

Jim: Okay. So, at some point with all of these advancements that you're making in terms of bringing different companies together and solidifying your market share, the US Justice Department reached out to you, correction, there were some concerns about Antitrust violations?

 

Steve: Yeah. What happened was, the misnomer is they did not investigate Diamond Comic Distributors. They investigated the comic book industry, and it was at some instigation, quite frankly. Some retailers weren't happy and called them up and said, "Yeah, what is this, we only got one choice, blah, blah, blah." When they investigated the "industry" to see how this evolved into what it was, they declared that we were, in fact, a de facto monopoly, but because we were not a monopoly in the book business and all these other things and that we didn't do anything that was detrimental to the industry. In fact, they could see the logic behind where the industry somewhat benefited, if not the least of which survived because of it. That was a unique thing. Maybe you compare it to the-- I don't want to compare it to this because it's very controversial, but in baseball, you have the Antitrust Exemption. We didn't have quite an exemption, but we were considered good for the industry.

 

Alex: Oh, that's interesting.

 

Steve: We've been very careful to never cross any lines to whatever gives the Justice Department pause for thinking they made a mistake, and we've never heard from them.

 

Jim: Do political parties and who's in office impact this, or did it not make any difference whether it was Democrat or Republican?

 

Steve: I don't even remember who it was. Clinton probably was the president at the time. It was the 90s, he was 92 to 2000, right. If I got that right in my head. So, no, I don't think it made a difference. I don't think it wasn't even on anybody's radar.

 

Jim: Then the other aspect of this, in film, the old studio system got in trouble because it was handling exhibition, production, and distribution, all three, and there were some concerns about that aspect of it.

 

Steve: From an antitrust standpoint, you mean?

 

Jim: Yeah. Now with Diamond, you had been in retail. So in terms of exhibition and distribution, obviously. But you hadn't done production, you weren't producing comics. But at some point, you did buy Gemstone, and you've over the years had a few different publishing projects. Can we talk about that?

 

Steve: Sure.

 

Jim: And was there a concern that that was going to cause any kind of a problem?

 

Steve: No, that never actually came up from a Justice Department standpoint. In fact, in 1995, I did a deal with Bob Overstreet to buy the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. And really, it was a much bigger deal. I was buying the price guide, but I was also buying his collection, which was fabulous. So, ironically this year, when number 50 comes out, I'll have owned it for as many years as Bob did.

 

Alex: Oh, that's cool.

 

Steve: 25 each, so it's kind of an interesting time to look at it. But when I did that, I created the name Gemstone for publishing purposes. And then years later, when I got the exclusive deal with DC, there were some restrictions on my contract for publishing. But because I had already been publishing the price guide and things like that, Paul put in the contract a restriction on reprint things. Archival is the right word I'm looking for. So that I wasn't going to go out and publish brand new superheroes. In fact, the definition, if I recall, said I could not publish any non-fictional heroes, and the only thing I could think about, and I got to thinking about it closely, what that really probably meant was I was publishing the Disney comics. I think I was publishing them already when this deal went down.

 

So as a result, Paul was, to get us at the distributor, he knew and asked me to close it down, whatever. So, to kind of carve it out for me, created that category. But the thing I thought about, this is going to be a ridiculous analogy, suppose one day Paul gets a call from Alex Ross who's drawing Batman. Said, "I'm sorry, Paul. I can't get the books in on time. I'm working on Donald Duck." There was a creative aspect to this that might have been a protective-- got to talk to Paul about that. But theoretically, that was probably more of a concern than me selling these reprint titles that have already been very small numbers. But I was doing it because I love them. I didn't want to see EC Comics go away. I didn't want to see Disney Comics go away. And it was kind of a labor of love. It clearly wasn't profitable, but I loved it. And it was great ego wise to have my name on a Disney Comics inside.

 

Alex: Yeah. That's cool.

 

Jim: And you're still publishing with the EC Comics.

 

Steve: No, no, no. I am not. No, that license expired. Russ Cochran recently passed away, sad to say. And I think, I don't know, different people have had over the year's different aspects of resurrecting, whether it be Fantagraphics or whether it be IDW. Somebody is along the line has, that license has survived different versions. The first time they were reprinted, really actually was going back to Russ's son-in-law Bruce Hershenson, who did East Coast Comics, and they did reprint EC Comics. Then later, Bruce Hamilton and Russ under the auspices of Gladstone, which was their imprint for Disney Comics, also did a version of the EC's. And then Russ did the big libraries in black and white.

 

Alex: Yeah, those are great.

 

Steve: And then when I bought Russ Cochran out, which is another thing that formed what I called the Gemstone Missouri, we picked up and published not only the 32-page comics, but we went on to do the prestige format or the albums and various other publications. My career in comics has been the price guides, and there's been a variety of price guides. It's not just the Overstreet. There's Hakes, and there's a bunch of other guidebooks. But the Disney Comics for a period of time and the EC's for a period of time. But that's been kind of pretty much the extent of my publishing in the comic industry. I do own Baltimore Magazine. That's another publishing thing to the comic industry.

 

Jim: Yeah. I want to do another bringing up to current status. There have been changes where your, I won't say your dominance, but DC is talking about not going exclusive, or they've gone non-exclusive now. And there are other companies that are starting to talk about or trying to make a bid for some of the market share. Are these new challenges for Diamond, and how does any of this impact your situation?

 

Steve: Well, about four weeks ago, when the pandemic started to affect everything, we shut down. I got a call from Jim Lee, and he said, "Steve, it's not going to be a good call for Dom," and he was letting me know within their rights because, in our last contract, they had negotiated a 60 day out clause for the exclusivity. And they were going to exercise that because, at the time, I think they felt like for the first time, we're in a situation where we've had to worry about if one guy shuts down, what happens to everybody else. It's going to be a big situation we all know because everybody's kind of shut down. But nonetheless, they did that. And what I didn't expect was that it would be existing customers, but that being the case, that was their prerogative. And so, they chose two of my really great customers. DCBS, which is a mail-order company that we sell everything else to, for all intents and purposes.

 

And also one of our biggest accounts in New York, Midtown Comics, another excellent company that also has a mail-order business. So that now means that Diamond is no longer the "exclusive distributor" to the direct sales non-returnable comic book market. And, I said it earlier, I said I have never been afraid of competition. I'm in a unique position because these guys are my customers. And I'm not going to say anything bad or do anything harmful to customers. They're great guys, and whatever their own future plans are, I don't know right now, I'm sure everybody knows where this is going to shake out because the pandemic has turned the world upside down.

 

But I do think that DC wanted to have a multiple distributor platform. It's ironic it was brought out. I didn't even notice it that it was almost 25 years to the very day, it was brought out recently from when we signed the exclusive to when the exclusive was broken. But I see it as this, as I said earlier. If through those two distributors or somebody else somehow grows the market exponentially and we have less of a market share, I'm pretty confident with the size of our market share, we might do better.

 

I'm all about growing the market. When I first got into this there were 20 distributors and I had like 3% of the market I could say, "Well, you know let's go after market-shares." There's 97% to get and when I had 10 there was 90, and 20 there was 80. It was still always a market share was a-- because I always felt like if I got market share while the industry was small it would inure to me when the industry got big, it'll be harder to get when it was big. So you get to the part where we had a dominant market share. Well, what's the next thing you do? Not that we didn't try to do it all along as well, but the next thing you do is try to grow the market. But whether digital does that, how much being done in Walmart right now, but we're not carrying. Whatever it is, if it grows the market I've got great confidence that we're in a good position to get our share, and I'm not greedy. If we get our share and we can still-- it all boils down to dollars if we do 500 million dollars as a 100% of the market to make a crazy analogy, and we did 1% of a 10 trillion dollar market give me the 1% it's dollars, at the end of the day. 

 

But I do enjoy having the big market share for the reasons other than the money too. Because I feel like I have more of an influence to remind people how this started. Maybe not being self-serving to look to me as somebody who was there from the beginning and still loves it and you should still love it, and this will make us all be more united. Whereas when there's a lot of distributors one of the advantages is the publisher got out of one. When they would do a marketing program with 20 distributors, it's really hard to get 20 guys to do the same thing. Whereas if they say the Diamond do it, the whole world gets the same message, and that's why we have things like Comic Shop Locator service and Free Comic Book Day. All these things are a byproduct of being able to have one source.

 

Alex: So now we're in the year 2000 now. So, not declare the monopoly, everything was okay continuing to the new decade. In 2000, you acquire Alliance Game Distributors as well, you're distributing board games, collectible card games, et cetera, and that eventually became a major operating division of Diamond. So first, is that within the same corporate-- is it under Diamond Comics or is that a different company?

 

Steve: The way we're structured behind the scenes so to speak, and we do our financial statements as a corporate holding that really means that the bottom line consolidated. We do obviously separate financial statements. But the consolidated picture includes Diamond Comic Distributors, Diamond Book Distributors which is our arm for the book market, Diamond UK, and Alliance. Now I have a bunch of other companies Diamond Select Toys, Hake's Americana, Gemstone that are not under that financial statement umbrella. But Alliance is definitely part of that.

 

Alex: It is part of that, and so then and then in 2001 through Alliance certain assets of West Coast Distributors, Berkeley Distributors, Barchetta Distribution are acquired and online reordering becomes available on the retail services site. Did that affect the online reordering of comics as well? Did you bring some of that technology?

 

Steve: Let me crack you up just a second to correct that a little bit.

 

Alex: Okay.

 

Steve: The origin of Alliance was a company in Baltimore called the Armory.

 

Alex: Oh, okay.

 

Steve: Max Lipman owned it. He had approached me to buy it and we never had come to a deal. Later on, he sold it to Dan Hirsch and Charles Tyson, two of my incredibly great employees right now that run these companies. They then bought Chessex which I believe was in the West Coast and where the Berkeley-- I don't know where that piece comes in entirely. But it was after they formed it and renamed it Alliance that we did the acquisition. But your question again was did that change the ordering process?

 

Alex: Yes, because online reordering becomes available on the retailer's services site. Did you bring that into the comics as well that ability?

 

Steve: Well, Diamond already had, I don't know what year it started its own version of online ordering and that was all manual for the longest while. When those order forms would come in and my God, the people in order processing you had to tabulate that and we made them double tabulate it to get cross-footing and make sure it wasn't inaccurate but Alliance from a financial standpoint, not on the consolidated statement but as an individual company they do their own thing. I'm sure there's a crossover with the technology but they definitely have their system and Diamond has its system. They have their own catalog, Diamond has its catalog. But behind the scenes, there is a financial merging for tax purposes.

 

Alex: I got you. But they are still technically doing their own different things?

 

Steve: Yes.

 

Alex: Okay, then in 2002, Diamond consolidated its book trade into Diamond Book Distributors, which you had mentioned before. Marketing trade paperbacks to Barnes & Noble, Walden, Amazon orders. So and like you said that's a different entity than Diamond Comic Distributors but they're within the same financial umbrella. So that was one of the questions I was going to ask which you mentioned it and then so then that's distributing books. Let's say for Barnes & Noble, or let's say Amazon. How does Diamond Book Distributors distribute trade paperbacks for Amazon? How does that work?

 

Steve: Well, keep in mind that in the case of Marvel, Hachette is their exclusive distributor to the book trade, DC is Random House. So, what we're selling Amazon is everything else so to speak and there's service just like every account out of Olive Branch, Mississippi. The shipments come in, they ship, and Amazon's probably, no doubt our biggest account overall.

 

Alex: Oh, okay.

 

Steve: Should be everybody's biggest account on some level, and so as far as Diamond Book Distributors is concerned, the big difference between that and Diamond Comics Distributors they're dealing in a returnable world. Because in the book market there's a different expectation of this, and it's not to say their own accounts that don't buy. The definition of returnable and nonreturnable is not based on brick and mortar or geography, it's based on terms of sale. I could sell a typical newsstand nonreturnable if they would want it, or I could sell them-- it's just the way the deal is structured. So when we say we're the exclusive distributor to Marvel and up until recently DC, basically, we're saying that we have the exclusive nonreturnable distribution rights to this type of store. So a store could conceivably be of a different physical description or by definition it would be a nonreturnable direct market store.

 

Alex: All right, Jim. Go for it.

 

Jim: So, Steve, one of the section I'm talking about now my notes has giving back to the community, and you started to talk about that when you were talking about Free Comic Book Day and things like that. I want to go through some of the things that Diamond has done. In 2000, Diamond started the Diamond bookshelf per room for librarians and educators.

 

Steve: That's true.

 

Jim: What was that exactly?

 

Steve: Well, some of it stems from other experimental programs that I had. We thought the library for sure a viable market that not only would be volume for Diamond to, hopefully, get. Because they buy a lot of stuff, but also from an outsourcing stand, not outsourcing, mass-marketing approach if people-- go back to my argument before. Whatever how we get the growth we wanted. So people discover comic books in a library? Hallelujah, but there's got to be comics in the library for them to have it. So, historically, there are still are many distributors who sell exclusively to libraries. It's big business for Baker & Taylor up until recently, I think they were sold or whatever, somebody purchased it. So, the library aspect of it was a small part of our business, but one that we were trying to nurture and grow. So we felt the approach to them is a little bit different than the typical comic book store who has to have a preview and knows what it's customer want. So we try to give them recommendations if you will because if you're a librarian you may be concerned you don't read the comics necessarily, you don't know if there's- we got back to the censorship that you don't know what's in them, and maybe they don't want to put it in the children's section if it's got a birth of a-- whatever. 

 

So, the bookshelf thing there is basically an attempt there I guess, and I'm probably not going to do it a good job of describing the full concept of the Diamond bookshelf. But I know that starting out the concept was to be an aid, a retailer service to be able to say, "I want a librarian who loves comics." Maybe it says, "I want to start carrying comics in the library." Or maybe one that has no idea what comics. But here's the good thing to have and they need some guidance, they need to know what are the kinds of titles that are really good starting points for us to put into our library. So we try to do things like that in that case.

 

Jim: Ah, and then what about in 2002? What was Diamond's role in relation to the first Free Comic Book Day?

 

Steve: Well, the credit goes where it goes. Joe Field from Flying Colors in California came up with the concept. I think he modeled it after Free Ice Cream Day or something that Baskin Robbins or somebody did, and he presented it to us and we checked it around and-- I got to give credit also a great deal of credit to my team because with due respect to Joe they did a lot of the heavy lifting after the fact. Like me, I give the idea then everybody else gives me credit but I didn't do anything and that's not saying Joe didn't. And I'm just saying that there's a project that this involved that's monumental especially with the millions of comics that now have to be-- we actually had to do it out of a separate warehouse in Olive Branch because on that particular week, it's one hell of a job to get these comics out. But the good news is thanks to Joe's great idea it's become like Christmas, it's better than Christmas, I think it's better than Black Friday for retailers. So we were very proud of that and even though we had to skip it this year for May, we have every intention to make sure that happens again in the Fall or whenever the earliest opportunity that we can fully promote it because we feel it's necessary.

 

Jim: That's great, and then 2010 you launched kid-comics.com to direct young readers and their parents to kid-friendly comic shops?

 

Steve: Yes, historically comic stops are so stereotyped, that they themselves turn into the stereotype without realizing it. Superheroes, superheroes, superheroes, and being the guy I told you when I was a kid I loved Archie, I loved Richie Rich, I loved Harvey, Disney. I always felt that there was a children's market that we need to cultivate, the demographics in a comic store that kids, the buyers are probably I don't know what's the acronym. There were 14-40, but the under 14 or 12 or whatever the number is they don't have the latitude because of the locations, they're not everywhere like when my mother was buying them. So they had to be taken to that store, and if the mother doesn't even know there is one they're not getting taken and they're discovering other things. 

 

But I always felt and some stores have done better than others particularly where they have traffic that's conducive to it. But I could set up a section that's geared for the younger reader and hopefully, they'll do like I did when I was 5, "Oh my God I love Richie Rich, I love Archie, I love Dell and what is this called Superman? Let me try that too." And eventually, cultivate an interest. Because as you get older you're interest changes you start to get a little more mature, and maybe the language in a children's comic starts to get a little not so attractive to you because you're now more articulate, you got a better vocabulary and say, "Yes, I never read that." But you were a kid and that's what you read and that's got you interested. 

 

So that's another aspect of our marketing where we're not making a lot of money on these kinds of things but we feel if any money fairly, but we're trying to make it so that the retailers can see other potential growth areas and because here's an army of it. Disney comics used to sell in the millions to pick on them for a minute in the '30s to '40s to '50s, and then we all know what happened in the '50s, and it wasn't just a Dr. Wertham book or the Senate Investigation Committee that killed comics. The distribution system was eroding to boot and they already thought comics were a nuisance, so they got the perfect storm. Ironically, today in Europe, thanks to companies like Egmont which is really a foundation. They sold Disney almost house-to-house and it's our product, it's an American product, and here we sell a handful of copies but over there they sell them like crazy. 

 

Well, we'd like to see that being something that could be reversed and it's the only reason why that can't happen again. But I really think it's a model it's clearly a byproduct of circulation, it isn't seen, it can't be bought. I always use the example, you can have $3 comic book with a $20 bill inside, and if they can't find it, it won't sell. It's got to be out there, and Disney comics and a lot of comic stores today you know got to but can't blame them when they get the order form previous. They're not going to sit there and say, "Give 50 of this or 75 of that." Because they're pretty certain they're going to get stuck with the vast majority. Until there's a slow but sure gradual process and there's where digital comes in. Maybe some kids or whatever not find comics when they're 5 might be on an iPad and look at Iron Man, Iron Man is like a second-tier character in the Marvel Universe under normal circumstances. Today he's a household word, thanks to the movies. So why couldn't that happen again for Richie Rich or Donald Duck or whoever? I'm a big fan of that.

 

Jim: I wanted to ask you in relation to that. One of the places I've been buying some of my favorite comics in the last couple of years has been the Children's Book World in Los Angeles because and it's a children's book store, it's not a comic book store. But they have an entire section that is for a second, and it's scholastic, and it's doing things for young kids and it's a really good product and a lot of it as somebody who loves the form. I'm really enjoying a lot of these comics. Is Diamond looking into those kinds of things at all or just--?

 

Steve: We are always looking into every form of circulation that we could possibly find. We believe that comics-- in Japan it's like a 4-5 billion dollar industry and you could say, "Well, why did Japan grow to the size it did and the United States peaked, and then suddenly it became a different kind of a market? Why aren't we 4-5 billion dollars?" But first of all, I think that the Asian culture's very visually oriented. Their alphabet is basically pictures and they're used to looking at pictures, and because they in the '50s did not only did they not experience the Senate Investigation things, and the Kefauver or whatever, and Dr. Wertham but their distribution system's probably pretty much been the solid same it was and there was no bubble, there was no blip. It's just on a progression and so you go on-- and I haven't been to Japan I've been to Hong Kong. But I'm told if you're in Japan, everywhere you go it's comic books you're on the subway, you're on the fast train. 

 

Wherever you go to they're all over the place and what I'm told also is that the publishers actually have got it so defined that they can-- we're worried about we don't have a big female audience and how do we get female comics. They have got them defined like 8 to 12-year-old boys, and 9 to 13-year-old girls and right up on it through to where even the businessmen are using this manga and they got anime for their movies. They're very visually oriented and it tells me that the same thing could be here but it's a circulation issue, it's an exposure issue, and if I were telling you I had a new product and I think I could sell 5 million of something, you say, "Yes, well, you know maybe you will, maybe you won't." But if I told you, you could sell 5 million because in the past there was a time when that product did sell 5 million, you'd have a little bit better belief that it might because you know it actually happened at one time. Whereas something that's never happened it's kind of speculative, you just don't know us, take your best shot. 

 

But in the case of comics, we know at one time Uncle Scrooge sold millions of copies. So why is it-- I don't think a 5-year-old or whatever age-year-old today with no prejudice coming out of the womb growing up to be 3-4-5 years old is prejudice against anything? It's a matter of what they're exposed to. So if the first thing they see is an iPad and they never get exposed to comics, it's hard for them to ever cultivate a love for comics. That's where the digital comes in, so hopefully, with the advent of the digital comics, people will actually get exposed to them and then I'm going to bank on a certain percentage of them, they're going to say, "What else you got, and where can I get more?" And then on top of that, the best part about what comics bring and comics stores bring and game stores is the experience. The product is very important but the clubhouse, the go hang out with your friends and talk about your hobby and share it, that is so unique to our business and so important. People don't want to go to a Walmart let's say to buy all their wares. Then maybe there's some comics in there now and I understand with due respect. It's great I hope that they do well and we create some more collectors, but it's not like the atmosphere no different than if I went to buy Diamond Select Toys in Toys “R” Us where it's just a mountain of everything and it's a bad example now right, Toys “R” Us but the thought being that they want to go to a place that's their place. They want to go where they're going to run into other collectors. If they're at one of those type of stores at Walmart, they're not expecting to run into a collector necessarily. So it's not just the product, it's the atmosphere.

 

Jim: Alex, go ahead.

 

Alex: Yes, so there's some more growth in 2008. Your Olive Branch, Mississippi Distribution Center opens with 600,000 sq/ft of space, high-tech warehouse management system. 2015 it expands even more taking on 75,000 additional sq/ft of space and used for a reorder.

 

Steve: Plus another hundred.

 

Alex: What was that?

 

Steve: Another hundred. There's three of them now, yes.

 

Alex: Okay, and used for reorder processing, inventory storage. Then in 2016, implement a large plan of distribution, expansions, upgrades, relocating Plattsburgh, New York Center to a 108 thousand sq/ft more than twice the size of the previous facility, numerous enhancements, innovations to Olive Branch Center. It's exciting, it sounds like there's all this business of improving the warehouse space. So does that mean that readership is increasing with that much need for product and warehouse space or not? What explains that?

 

Steve: No, we definitely-- volume drives the need for larger facilities, better systems, and we also when we do these things we're always trying to anticipate. You don't want to aim for here, you want to aim for here. You got to get ahead of the game so that when you get to the next plateau that you have upside capacity to do even further levels.

 

Alex: I see.

 

Steve: So you're always ahead of the-- because warehouse space as we all now gets eaten up in a heartbeat it just magically-- once you say there's an empty spot someone will find something to throw in there. So you have to get efficient, and we've tried to do that and we still have a lot of that on the table now to restructuring, reexamining, how to be more efficient because we have to. We haven't had an increase in fees for 25 years so we have to keep finding ways to cut costs but at the same time increase service.

 

Alex: And then one more question. I just want to kind of go over your museum that you had for a while there. Geppi's Entertainment Museum and there were a lot of assets there and it was open for more than 10 years or so, and people would walk in they'd see your collection, right? That was basically your collection.

 

Steve: Part of it, yes, sir.

 

Alex: So then but when it closed down, you donated it to the Library of Congress is that right?

 

Steve: That is correct. To give you a little origin here, in 1995 in the same building the Diamond was in at the time, 1966 Greenspring Drive. Diamond pretty much had the third floor and some other floors, but the fourth floor we had what I called Diamond International Galleries and it was obviously non-foot traffic. It was just a place to display my stuff, and do by appointment sales, and have parties and things. It was a great venue.

 

Alex: Oh, okay.

 

Steve: That lasted from 1995 to 2006, and was reincarnated into an actual museum at Camden Station by the ballpark. That lasted 12 years and unfortunately, the West Side of Baltimore where the ballpark is was thought to be a big renaissance place because of the ballparks, and it never really quite yet materialize into the traffic we wanted once the attendance was going down, and we were on the second floor to boot. But I hung in there valiantly for 12 years, and I got to say that the thing got more accolades for a not heavily trafficked museum than you'll probably ever hear. They went in like, Best Museum and people came in there and said it was better than some of the biggest museums you ever heard of, and we're very proud of that. 

 

But what it gave us, the industry. When I say us, I mean the industry. I wanted to build a place that would showcase the lifeblood of our industry, the creators. The creators in our industry, you don't go into the Louvre and see a comic book painting per se. Maybe there's been an exhibit or something, I don't know. But for the most part, some of these guys are as good or better than some of the most famous artists and then on top of that the value of these things now. Be like going to a convention, and you got your son with you're a wealthy guy and you want to can take an interest and you want to buy some expensive stuff, and you go up to the guy's table and he's got a t-shirt on, he's got mustard stains on his shirt, and he's got a hotdog, and he's chewing on your ear and he says, "That will be 20 grand." And like, kind of, blows the setting for value. You think you're being taken because this can't be real. 

 

When I opened the first gallery from 1995, I wanted a place that had mahogany and marble so that when we put these valuable items in there they would look like they were in a place that warranted it. They were beautiful and the museum did that. So, over 12 years despite losing my shirt keeping it open, I finally got a golden opportunity was almost by osmosis. They say everything happens for a reason or that faith is a hunter, but the current Librarian in the Congress is a girl, a lady named Carla Hayden. She was a dear friend of mine who ran the Enoch Pratt Library for years in Baltimore, and they had just gotten the artwork to this day. Nobody other than the curator knows who donated it because they won't tell you. So the complete book of Amazing Fantasy 15 by Steve Ditko, which is-- I've had in my grubby little hands. I can't tell you how thrilling that is.

 

And I went to see it and I was with my lawyer, and we had the most fabulous-- remember it's my first time to see Carla in her new job. It's quite an impressive place to be, and one thing leads to another, we go sit. So next time she's coming to Baltimore and she's going to go throw out the first pitch. She's a Baltimore girl, was actually a Chicago girl, but she's known in Baltimore having been there so many years and she's going to throw out the first pitch being in the Library of Congress. So we decided to have drinks before the game, so we're talking and next thing you know it's one of those things. Osmosis. I'm talking about, you know at my age I got to start thinking about where my collection's going to go. I don't want it just to be parceled off, I want it to be preserved. Even if I give it to my kids, they can't live forever. This is something's got to be cherished and next thing you know, Carla who's very openminded she starts talking about the Library of Congress and as they say the rest is history. 

 

So right now, they're in the process of raising a total of I think, last I heard 65 million dollars for a bigger project, more than just us, where they're totally remodeling a lot of exhibits and we're a big part of that, and we're going to have-- it's kind of embarrassing to say but it's also kind of ego gratifying. I'm going to have a room with my name on it, and it's the first time anybody's ever going to have a room with their name on it other than the dead president, in perpetuity. But the real joy is that the industry not only it's going to see the collection that I gave them, but because they have so much incredible stuff that's been donated to them over the years that's buried away in the archives that never see the light of day. So they'll be rotating exhibits, they'll be traveling exhibits.

 

Alex: Nice.

 

Steve: People are going to get to see as beautiful as my museum was and everybody loved it. This is going to be pretty spectacular. It's going to be right as you come in the main entrance at 1.8 million visitors currently a year.

 

Alex: Wow.

 

Steve: Right there on the same floor as the Gutenberg Bible, and Carla, because she gets it. They're going to be potential for exhibits where you'll have the Gutenberg Bible let's just say, and the first drawings of Mickey Mouse that I draw on the same level. Do you know what that does for the credibility of the culture and of the artists?

 

Alex: It does.

 

Steve: And they're now being seen through the eyes of not like funny books that worth a lot of money, no. Michaelangelo, I buy works. That gives me great satisfaction and I can't wait for the gala opening when we get that targeted.

 

Alex: Oh, that's awesome and it's preserved and it's a donation, right? That was a donation?

 

Steve: Yes, yes, yes. It's a donation.

 

Alex: So like--

 

Steve: That's their stuff to do with as they please. But I love the fact that they'll keep it in perpetuity.

 

Alex: Right, they will.

 

Steve: And it will be seen in perpetuity.

 

Alex: So I'm sure a lot of people are wondering, there's Action Comics 1 was part of that donation. So was that like a reading copy and you have a nicer one? [laughs]

 

Steve: No, they-- you got to remember they have a lot of their own stuff. So the beauty of this is in some cases it's a fill in. You look at what they don't have and give them what they need, and as a result, because remember when you get something copyrighted to this day you have to send two copies to the Library of Congress. Unfortunately, over the years because nobody thought comics were valuable people would steal them, flip a centerfold out of an important book to take home to put in their book that was missing one. You wouldn't believe-- and then, of course, they didn't know enough to preserve them right. So they have some books that are still beautiful. They did and went out and bought things too outright to get that they needed, or thought they should have.

 

Alex: Oh, cool.

 

Steve: So it's kind of a hodgepodge. It'll be hard to define what you'll actually see. All I know with these beady little eyes saw stuff I didn't know existed when I went down to the archives.

 

Alex: Yes, that's awesome.

 

Steve: It was so cool. They've got collections that nobody even knows they have. It's just amazing how much stuff they get, and it's not all print. There's three dimensional they have a lot of stuff the people die they will it to the Library of Congress like I'm sure they do other places. All around the country, there are colleges that have-- up in Boston University they got how great pretty much every Little Orphan Annie other than the ones that got away--

 

Alex: Oh, cool.

 

Steve: In the basement and I would say, sad to say, probably in the basement waiting for a flood or a fire to destroy it and it never sees the light of day. Hence my argument about the Library of Congress, why they can display it.

 

Alex: Yes. Jim?

 

Jim: Final question. So I wanted to ask you--

 

Steve: Feel like I'm on a game show.

 

Alex: [laughs]

 

Jim: Well, it's funny that you say that.

 

Steve: Final question.

 

Jim: Because this is a quiz question and this is taken--

 

Steve: Is that your final answer?

 

Jim: This is taken from recent quotes and recent descriptions that you've given of the comics industry.

 

Steve: Uh-oh.

 

Jim: Why is--

 

Steve: Here comes my two analogies. I know it's coming.

 

Jim: Is the comic industry most like A the Titanic, B an ICU, C the last episode of Lost, D banana cream pie, or E all of the above?

 

Steve: [laughs] I guess you'd have to say a little bit of all of the above.

 

Alex: [laughs]

 

Steve: In a recent dance show, it was funny. I have a good friend Mike Jones, he says to me, "You're the only guy who could use an analogy of the ICU and the Titanic and make it positive." I actually said it the time I don't know if this is a good analogy, but I was trying to illustrate the point of where we were where we got people are in a limbo state. Unopen - used to be unopen and that's like somebody that knows their no going to hospice, they're coming back out, they're going to be healthy, they're going to be good. So we got to get them there, so we take care of them until they get there. But the banana cream pie's interesting-- and it's also interesting you said Lost because my friends who know me, and it's literally true that as I speak to you I am in the process I just finished Season 1 of my fourth time on Lost. How crazy am I?

 

Alex: Really, you like it that much?

 

Steve: I love the show, and I know a lot of people hated the ending but that's because they didn't watch it three times and understand it all, and I watch every episode with the closed captions because if you didn't do that, and unless you've got a bionic hearing and a perfect memory you will miss so much it puts it together for you.

 

Alex: Oh, wow.

 

Steve: That's another room.

 

Jim: It's a great show. I love the show.

 

Steve: It's a great show, and I have a hard time remembering that these people are 15 years older now. So I look at Evangeline Lilly I'm saying, "My God she's 15 years older than this I had such a crush."

 

Alex: Yes, that's pretty wild. Yes, it's a whole generation.

 

Jim: I do think Steve that--

 

Steve: It has broadened my analogies that way on the negative. They're not designed to that because as you know I'm a super positive guy. But I will say this that going forward our comeback is so important that we're going to dwarf anything that we've experienced by now with positivity, and it's going to happen because everybody is going to be a part of it. It's not a one-man job, it's not a one-company job. We're getting ready to launch an initiative that you're going to read about and hear about very soon. It's going to include a lot of exciting things designed to raise money and help the retailers because we love them, we miss them, and we want to do things for them to show them we love them and that we miss them, and they're the frontlines, they're the lifeblood and it's our job to do it. And that's going to inure to everybody because if the retailers do better the publishers are going to do better, et cetera, idem for idem. So, I really appreciate you guys giving me a chance to--

 

Alex: Oh, yes.

 

Steve: I hope I didn't bore you too much with this history. But I said the other day there's a lot of people who came into the industry in the last 10 or 12 years, and I, kind of, been like persona non grata on some level. Not by design but I haven't been out there, and this is my opportunity. I'm trying to talk to as many different categories as I can, I want to talk to retailers - large and small, I want to talk to publishers, and I mean in front of people on a show like this. I want to talk to creators, I want to talk to convention organizers, I want to talk to consumers. I want to try to infect if I can use that word at this time which is a terrible word to get here. I want to infect this industry and those who haven't experienced our industry yet, with all the wonderful things that we all love and experience so they can join in because it's not too late. We're on the ground floor to start the second generation.

 

Alex: Nice. I love that.

 

Jim: And we appreciate us being-- letting us be a part of this for you.

 

Steve: It's a grand privilege. I can't thank you enough for letting me do this. Kudos to Bob  Beerbohm for pressuring me into doing more of this. He's very much as you know, avid interest in the comic book industry, protect the direct market, he hopes to publish his book one day, and I hope he does and I'm sure it'll be awesome. Knowing Bob, it will be about 42,000 pages so he might have to edit them. [laughs]

 

Alex: And last pop culture question. You have a Marlon Brando picture behind you from The Godfather. Tony Soprano, did he die in the last episode? What are your thoughts?

 

Steve: Would you go to believe this? You're not going to believe what I'm going to say to you?

 

Jim: Wow.

 

Steve: I'm as Italian as they get. FBI, Full-blooded Italian. I have never watched The Sopranos.

 

Alex: Oh man, you got to watch it.

 

Steve: But it's on the list, and here I'm watching Lost for the fourth time. But I will tell you this, this painting here?

 

Alex: Yes.

 

Steve: There's two of them, there's one over here too. They're similar, by the same artist. This is my $10,000 hotdog story. I was in San Diego going for lunch and I went to get a hotdog, and as I walked by this thing like my eye, I flashed over and I saw this painting and you know being a huge Godfather fan. I've seen the movies a million times and know every line and people in Baltimore call me The Godfather, God knows why. Maybe it's the mug.

 

Alex: [laughs]

 

Steve: I don't know. But the same token I go in and the guys say, "How much is that?" He says "$7,500." I say, "Can you do any better?" And he says, "I'll let you have it for 6,500." I say, "How about 5?" "Ah, I can't do it for 5,000." And I see he's got another one, "I'll tell you what, I'll buy them both for 10,000." "Yes, done." So I went for that hotdog it cost me 10,000, but I love these paintings. 

 

[laughter] 

 

Alex: But it feels good. Yes.

 

Steve: That feels good.

 

Alex: All right, well. Thanks.

 

Steve: That's the theme here, it's The Godfather.

 

Alex: Well, that's awesome. Well, thanks so much, Steve Geppi, The Godfather of comics. If that's okay to call you that.

 

Steve: I love it. I feel it's an honor.

 

Alex: Oh good and--

 

Steve: I'm going to make you an offer you can't refuse.

 

Alex: And I'll try not to confuse the offer either but--

 

Steve: Leave the gun. Take the cannolis. I know. [laughs]

 

Alex: But Jim and I had a great time here, and this has been another fun episode of the Comic Book Historians Podcast. Really unique and that we don't really get to talk about this aspect and with The Godfather of this aspect of comics - the distribution, and the retail. So, thanks so much for joining us today.

 

Jim: Thank you, Steve.

 

Steve: Thanks, guys. Great night.

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