By Beau Smith
I’ve been pretty busy the last couple of months. I wrangled my three sons from their active social lives to meet me at this storage building I’ve been rentin’ for the last decade or so. It was there where I stored all the dead bodies, skeletons, and stuff that I’ve acquired in my 19 years in the comic book business.
The Smith Boys. Left to Right: Dana, Brad and Nick
My time at Eclipse Comics, Image Comics, Todd McFarlane Productions, McFarlane Toys, and IDW Publishing was all there jammed into boxes, storage bins and files. It was a sea of memos, notes, office diaries, toys, comics, faxes, photos, books, floppy disks, CDs and the checklist goes on and on. It’s true. I never throw anything away. I’m a pack rat. Maybe the biggest.
Some of ya may remember that a few years back one of the offices that I resided in durin’ my days with Eclipse and Image Comics burnt down. I lost a hell of a lot of stuff there. Stuff like long boxes filled with Miracleman #15, Each of the Miracleman trade paperbacks as well as hardbacks. Tons of original art and books. All burnt to a cracklin’ crisp. Can you imagine how much stuff I’d have now if that never happened? It’s pretty damn scary.
That’s not even countin’ what I keep here at the ranch. One thing I learned many years ago was to always protect my childhood comic book and sports card collections. Those are the ones that mean the most to me. I keep half of it here at the ranch and the other half at my parent’s house. That way I never lose it all due to an act of nature. I don’t worry about anybody tryin’ to bust into either place. The intruder would be filled with more lead than a warehouse of #2 pencils.
Anyway, I was there with my boys to clean this place out and haul all this stuff to the ranch. There I could figure out what I’m gonna keep, what I’m gonna sell, what I’m gonna throw away, and what I’m gonna use to blackmail most everybody in the industry. If you’ve sent me a fax, a memo, an email, a letter? whatever? I’ve got a copy. I’ve got phone logs where I mark down who I talked to and what about. Nobody gets out alive.
Did I mention that in this mountain of stuff there are also thousands of comic books from 1986 to today? It’s like goin’ through the layers of the Earth’s crust and findin’ out the history of the world.
The boys shook their heads as they hauled this stuff into the fleet of Flying Fist Ranch trucks. All three of them keep their houses and apartments very neat and sparse. I guess all those years living with me taught them not to be pack rats like the Alpha Male.
I told em’ to pipe down or I’d leave it all to em’ in my will. That shut em’ up real pronto like. So for the last few weeks I’ve been goin’ through it all when time allows. Sometimes in the morning, but most of the time it’s late at night. It was interestin’ to see the progression as well as the ups and downs of the quality of comics. Loads of really well written 80s comics, a lot of really bad early 90s comics, and a rise back up to better written comics that we have been seein’ in the last five years. I even found a few fan letters written to me from current day creators. They were just high school kids then, but it was kinda neat to read their words and know now that they are writin’ some of your favorite Marvel and DC Comics.
I’ve taken thousands of photos in my 19 year ride in comics. Most of em’ at conventions and trade shows that I’ve attended through the years. Trust me, I’ve been to a lot. It’s fun to see some of my comic book creator buddies with hair, still thin, without gray, and wearin’ some really dated clothes. Some of the photos were a little sad because a few of these friends aren’t with us anymore.
Left To Right Back Row: Tom Lyle, Tim Truman, Beau Smith, John K. Snyder III
Sitting: Gary Kwapisz, Tim Harkins, and Chuck Dixon. 1988
It amazes me just how much stuff I’ve kept. It makes my wife wonder why she hasn’t booted my ass out and all this stuff with me. I keep tellin’ her that it’s all worth a lot of money and so far she’s still fallin’ for it. It’s gotta be my cowboy charm.
Gee? I even found the divorce papers from my first marriage. Those might be worth somethin’? if Ebay was in Hell.
I found some of my early comic book scripts that Eclipse Editor-in-Chief Cat Yronwode bled all over with a red pen. Not havin’ spell check on my old manual typewriter sure wasn’t good for my career. Many belly laughs came from the faxes, notes and memos from my old boss Todd McFarlane. As you know, Todd doesn’t mince words. His thoughts and comments on things that were goin’ on in comics as well as other people in comics was an HBO sitcom waitin’ to happen.
Beau, The Balls & Todd
Sales figures on comics were always something that I had, even in the early days. It was really interestin’ to see the changes. Trust me, we are nowhere near the sales of the mid 80s. Not even close. As I’ve said before, I don’t count the “false bottom” 90s numbers because that was filled with speculation buyers. I found old reorder sheets that I used to take by hand on the phone (This was before faxes and emails) from the distributors. Some of the reorders sales numbers are higher than most Marvel and DC initial sales numbers today. You can just imagine what they were sellin’ then.
A very bittersweet moment was when I found some hand written letters and Christmas cards from Marvel and DC artistic icon, Don Heck. What a great artist and better friend. There is a man who is always over looked when people speak of the history of comics. Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko always get the respect they truly deserve. I just wish that Don got his.
Christmas Card From Don Heck 1985
I also found some wonderful letters from Carol Kalish, former head of Marvel’s sales and marketing in the 80s. She was ahead of her time and always spoke her mind. I used to tell her that she would’ve made a great football coach. Carol wasn’t a real touchy-feely type. I used to annoy the hell out of her when I would see her at cons and trade shows by pickin’ her up and huggin’ her. I’m still surprised she didn’t clock me. We also shared a real passion for the character The Sub-Mariner. We would try and out do each other on Sub-Mariner trivia. She seemed to win most of the time. I miss her along with so many others.
I came across of the infamous AIDS Awareness Trading Cards that we did when I was at Eclipse Comics. Each pack of cards came with a rubber in it. Believe it or not there were also “Chase Card Rubbers” in some packs. They were different colors. I think we referred to them as condoms and safe-sex devices in the solicitations for the cards.
The moral of this story? Hell? pick one. Learn to throw stuff away. Don’t be a pack rat. Don’t send Beau anything you don’t want posted on the internet or put in his tell all book.
My thoughts? For all the hours I have and will spend goin’ through this stuff is all worth it for the life time of good memories of friends and events that have happened so far in my comic book career.
Don’t look for me to throw out any new stuff comin’ in. I plan on collectin’ more memories of new friends and events yet to come around.
The book of Beau has many chapters and the best ones have yet to be read. Don’t lose your place. Consider this your manly bookmark.
More Plugs Than David Lee Roth’s Head
As you know, I am a full time free-lancer now days. That means I’ve gotta work extra hard to pay for all that cold beer and hot pizza that I must have to remain as manly as I am. To help keep me in manly calories and loud burps I need you to spread the word to other “Knuckleheads” to buy my up coming trade paperback The Complete Wynonna Earp Collection from IDW Publishing. It’ll be out in July and it’s over 200 pages in full manly color. It’s got every Wynonna Earp story ever done in it, including her origin. Tell your local retailer or subscription service that ya want one. Tell your friends about it. Don’t wait until the movie comes out. Be the trendsetter not the guy in the back of the line. If the book sells that means I can do more Wynonna Earp. It also means that I won’t be stiffin’ Denny’s for the check anymore.
As an extra added incentive I will send you a signed B&W print of Wynonna Earp to anyone that emails me here at The Flying Fist Ranch with their name and address. I’ll even pay for the postage! How can ya beat that? Ya can’t. So there! No need to worry. Your email and personal info will not be sold or given away. Not even if Charisma Carpenter shows up at my door butt naked with a case of Grizzly Beer. (Ok? you know if that happens I’ll sell you down the river in a heartbeat.)
This freelance thing is tough. I’ve gotta be tougher. I don’t wanna have to get a regular job. I’m too old and cranky for that. ‘Sides, I’ve gotta prove that I’m a better writer than these unmanly British and Hollywood writers that are cuttin’ in line on me.
I’ll be waitin’ for your manly email.
Beauology 101 Is Over For This Week
Thanks once again for takin’ the time to read my rantin’ words. Nobody appreciates that more than me. It’s y’all that make things happen out there. I never forget that. I hope that ya find somethin’ good at the comic shop this week. Remember to check out Frank Cho’s Shanna The She Devil and Gail Simone’s Villains United. Your comic book life will be better for it.
As always, if ya need me, I’m here. I ain’t hard to find.
The Flying Fist Ranch
P.O. Box 706
Ceredo, WV. 25507
Prove your manhood by visiting Beau at the Flying Fists Forum!