Malibu Comics Retrospective At San Diego Comic-Con!
Thursday programming for San Diego Comic-Con has been announced, and Longbox Graveyard will be there!
Please come see the panel I am hosting:
Thursday 7/12 2:00-3:00 Malibu Comics Retrospective— This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Ultraverse, just one legacy of Malibu Comics, the groundbreaking independent publisher that also brought us Image Comics, Men in Black, and hundreds of original, creator-owned properties. Malibu founders Scott Rosenberg (president, Malibu Comics), Dave Olbrich (publisher), Tom Mason (VP, Marketing), and Chris Ulm (editor-in-chief) offer a lively discussion hosted by comics blogger Paul O’Connor (www.longboxgraveyard.com). Learn about Malibu’s place in comics history and their forward-looking attitude toward creator’s rights. Hear the war stories, ask your questions, and see rarities from the Malibu vaults. Room 32AB
I hope to see you there — join us for the secret history of Malibu, and then please come on up after the panel to say hello!
(And if you have any burning questions for the Malibu brain trust, offer them in the comments section, below, and I will see if I can work them into the panel).
celebrating twenty years of the Ultraverse and Malibu Comics!
- Ultraverse Returns! (comics.gearlive.com)
- MMM/Ultraverse: The Strangers were Heroes before Heroes was cool (monomythic.wordpress.com)
- MMM/Ultraverse: Freex and Solitaire, all for one or one alone (monomythic.wordpress.com)
- The First Longbox Graveyard Podcast Is Here! (longboxgraveyard.com)
Got a question you’d like me to ask the Malibu crew? Leave it here and I’ll see what I can do.
I was told there would be refreshments. And no math. Are these things true? Also, I would like to hear the story about how Platinum Editions, Malibu Comics’ short-lived European graphic album division, almost had a much, much funnier name.
Dunno about refreshments, Tom, but we should leave time after the panel to go get stinko. Maybe we should start before the panel. And I will definitely ask about Platinum now.
Looking forward to seeing you there!
Or we could talk about the time an apoplectic Bob Jacob took me outside the office to lecture me on the content of Dinosaurs For Hire #1 only to have me remind him that I owned the book and that the script and art were vetted by Malibu’s editorial staff. He concluded his rant by saying “This is what happens when creators are in charge of their own comics!” And then he stormed away. A dear, sweet man.
Or about the time we found out that one of our printers was “mobbed up,” as the saying goes.
[Also, I don’t know if you realize it, but there’s not a “comments” link to this post on your main page.]
I can tell you are already locked and loaded, Tom. Don’t let your bile duct peak too early!
[And that comments thing is an artifact of certain post formats — for some reason you can only see the comments on this post by coming here directly, instead of my front page. It makes no sense but I’m sure there’s a web programmer somewhere who finds it very clever indeed.]
So glad to see one of my favorite comic companies getting some recognition. They made this Aussie fan feel recognised and valued through their fan liaison program.
Curious if any of the panelists have any insight or speculation into DC Comics intentions were for Malibu Comics, should they have been the successful purchaser.
I wish you could be there, Paul, I know that you are a Malibu True Believer.
I will ask your question about DC … but I can give a little insight right now based on what I know. The DC deal was a long time coming together, and it wasn’t as favorable as the Marvel offer. The Marvel thing came together fast — too fast, really, for anyone to put together a decent plan for how Malibu would operate inside Marvel after acquisition. My impression is that Marvel essentially bought the company to keep it away from DC.
If DC had bought Malibu, there still would have been changes, but I believe there’s a greater possibility that Malibu would have continued as a separate entity than there was under Marvel. I think DC’s management was more stable through this period and they likely had a more long-term view of using Malibu as a west coast office for DC. We also have the example of how DC handled Wildstorm for one look at how things might have gone for Malibu.
It is important to realize, though, that no matter who bought the company, Malibu as we knew it was going to change. The company needed to sell and reorganization was inevitable. It was the end of a golden age, to be sure. It is a shame the company never really got to experience a silver age after the gold! But they had a good run, made a lot of people happy, started plenty of careers, and left behind some memorable work. I think everyone has warm feelings from that era and I expect that will come out at the panel.
@Paul Hicks – I can give a little more insight. But it requires long-winded backstory. The DC deal was first in the wind when Paul Levitz approached Scott Rosenberg at a WonderCon distributor party in 1994. It was one of the last big open bar con parties. In May of that year, at an impromptu Board of Directors meeting with Scott, Chris Ulm and me and our investment partners WSE in Tulsa, it was urged that we pursue Paul asap. A secret meeting was arranged at the Universal Hilton in Universal City between Scott, myself, Dave Olbrich, Chris, Paul, Bob Wayne and Bruce Bristow. This was followed a short time later by a secret dinner meeting at a Chinese restaurant in Woodland Hills, where the prior participants were joined by Lillian Laserson, DC’s then in-house legal person. All were in agreement that a deal should proceed. DC even picked up the check.
Shortly thereafter, the potential acquisition was turned over to Warner’s Mergers & Acquisitions department in Burbank for due diligence. The M&A people would come into the office after hours and scurry out with boxes of files & records so that a potential deal could be kept secret. Negotiations continued throughout the summer and as Malibu’s sales fell (because at the time the industry was in a state of freefall as the investment bubble was bursting), Warner kept lowering its offer – we suspected they were trying to find that magic number where they could acquire the company for the cheapest possible price before Malibu’s finances were permanently damaged. And Malibu needed to be sold. The company was losing $200,000 a month. WSE was pushing hard to get back their investment and Malibu’s once-strong video game division had collapsed (because of rapidly-changing game platforms and mismanagement) and the comic book portion was holding up both halves of the company.
The potential sale to DC was still a secret by the San Diego Con that year, and it looked like a deal was about to happen. Ulm and I had a not-so-secret breakfast meeting with Paul at the convention and he really wanted the company and wanted to grow it. One thing that was clear was that he was less interested in the characters and the Ultraverse and more interested in the organization itself – how things were run, how fast we could get things done, and ideas for what the company wanted to do next, beyond the Ultraverse.
After the convention, we took a few people on staff into our confidence and held an off-site retreat to figure out ways we could work together with DC. Aside from restoring, we hoped, market confidence in the company and benefiting from the kind of business stuff people don’t really think of (access to new markets, better printing discounts, increased overseas sales, potential for greater newsstand/bookstore space, plus DC’s trade collection policy that collected stuff and kept it in print), we had a couple of short-term boosts that we wanted to fiddle with. I believe it was an idea from Hank Kanalz about bringing in Green Lantern (this was when GL was still a much lesser character in the DCU) for a line-wide crossover event. None of us were interested in Flash, Atom or Hawkman. The GL idea never made it out of committee and was never pitched to DC, because the winds were about to quickly change.
Shortly after the retreat, there was some kind of Oregon-based convention that was affiliated with Dark Horse. Word had apparently been around the con that Malibu was close to a deal with DC. That prompted a post-con call from Marvel’s then-head Terry Stewart to Dave Olbrich and ask if the rumors were true. Marvel wanted in and, we were told, been instructed to buy the company to keep it away from DC (the reason why would make a good panel discussion). Because of various time factors, Marvel then had 7 days to do the due diligence that Warner had been doing for several months.
And now…I’ve said too much!
This is solid gold, Tom … with your permission I will republish this comment to the blog’s front page this Thursday when I do my next plug for the panel.
Hi Paul – Permission granted! And be sure to ask me about the time Ron Perelman walked into my office.
Is that the time Scott made him put out his cigar?
Yes, he told the multi-millionaire acquirer that it was a non-smoking office, so no cigars. Also, Malibu had a very loose dress code, so the 150 people were mostly in shorts and t-shirts and beach casual – the antithesis of corporate NY. So Ron is standing there, unable to smoke and dressed in his New York finery and he says, “So, this is what I bought, huh?” Then he crab-scuttled outside to light up.
Man i wanna be there so badly! Any chance you can record this for me? I’ll try and come up with some questions too.
Afraid that would require a time machine, Dean — this is an old post, from 2012. Looks like it got necro’d when Scott Rosenberg reposted it on Facebook.
ah i thought as much. I knew there has been one, but i thought y’all may be doing it again. I shoulda looked more closely. Muh bad!
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