The first panel I attended at the 2018 San Diego Comic-Con was a spotlight on the Comic Buyer’s Guide, moderated by Mark Evanier, featuring Maggie Thompson with R.C. Harvey and Scott Brick.
Some of the highlights included Maggie beginning by stating that she was considering this panel as the 1700th issue of the CBG, since the publication’s final issue was #1699. She made sure that the crowd knew it wasn’t the Internet that was the sole death blow to the CBG, but the lack of distribution and advertisers. Higher gloss publications, like Wizard, were much easier to access for readers and Previews became the place to promote a book, not the CBG.
It was at this point that Maggie had Scott Brick recount the biggest story in the Comic Buyer’s Guide history. Scott was interviewing John Romita who stated that he didn’t know who put the SNAP into Amazing Spider-Man #122, which featured the death of Gwen Stacy. Scott laughed and said, “Spoiler! It was the writer.” Gerry Conway told him he never liked Gwen. “I was a Mary Jane partisan,” the writer told Scott.
Maggie summarized how she and husband Don Thompson became involved with Alan Light, the publisher and founder of what was to become the CBG, The Buyer’s Guide to Comics Fandom, or TBG. They were asked to have their title become a column after the couple discovered it was too difficult to keep up with their own publication Beautiful Balloons. Light sold the CBG to Krause Publications who were looking for other publications as their focus, the coin market, had fallen out. Don and Maggie were then brought on as co-editors. When considering why to work at the CBG, Maggie said, “Comic fans read for pleasure. You don’t know how rare that is.” Don passed away in 1994, but Maggie remained on the CBG until its closure in 2013. R.C. Harvey interjected that Alter Ego #122 contained articles that would have seen publication in the 1700th issue had it been published.
Mark Evanier stated he started a column because people read Peter David’s column, liked it, and asked if he would do one. He wrote one for about three years before he quit. He found out that David made more than a penny a word than he did. All of his income from writing the panel went to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. He wanted to make as much as David so he could give it to the charity. When he called Krause, the person he spoke with said no to a raise, so he quit. This was the first time Maggie had heard any of this and Mark attributed it to speaking to someone who probably didn’t like the panel in the first place.
R.C. Harvey started subscribing to TBG in 1973. He tried to be a book reviewer, but Maggie would review the book before he could. He was only in about three issues because he would write nothing about comics. He found this funny because Peter was writing about anything but comics by the end of his run.
Scott Brick wasn’t a columnist, but got brought in through a friend, Randy Reynaldo. Scott was writing for Wizard, interviewing Scott McDaniel about the history of Nightwing for DC and McDaniel was unaware of the character’s history. The two had a long conversation on Nightwing and when the article was published all the historical information to the character was edited out. That was the part of the article that Brick liked. Reynaldo encouraged him to write about the history of comics. He stopped doing so twenty years ago, now he narrates books. Last year, Brick was asked to read a Halo book and it was written by John Jackson Miller, which had him call up author, since he, too, worked at the CBG. “It’s gone full circle, I told him,” Scott laughed.
Maggie revealed that all the bound copies that the staff used to have in the offices had been collected by Columbia University. If someone is looking to do research, that’s where the CBG is!
The recent passing of Steve Ditko had Maggie tell a story about the writer/artist. “He was very sweet to us.” Ditko was receiving fire in some press for having figures that some considered clunky. Maggie and Don wrote how fluid and curvy Spider-Man, Doctor Octopus, and the Vulture were, showing that their alter egos gave them this streamlined visualization. It got to Stan Lee, who sent it on to Ditko. The artist sent them back a thank you letter enclosed with an original drawing of all three characters together, along with a split faced Spidey and Peter Parker. He later sent them an illustration of Doctor Strange.
A question from the audience asked if the CBG could be digitized so that it could be easier to use for research if it were online. Maggie said she’d be open to it, but it’s a copyright issue and up to the university. Time was called and applause ended the panel.
The Comic Buyer’s Guide was the must-have paper to find out the latest about comics. Its articles, columns, and cartoons should be available for all to learn and — most importantly — remember what comics are all about.