1995: Peter David, Chris Claremont and Gary Colabuono discuss the comic book industry’s flirtation with disaster

Wednesday, June 1, 2022
[It’s been a while since we dove into the archives. But now that hour’s come round at last—again.]

In 1995, the comic book industry was approaching what later became known as “the Great Comics Crash of 1996”—triggered in part by Marvel Comics’ 1994 purchase of the business’ third-largest distributor, converting it to distribute Marvel’s stuff exclusively.

So that was a significant topic June 30, 1995, when I sat down at WNUA-FM in Chicago—just ahead of the 20th annual Chicago Comicon*—with acclaimed comics writers Peter David and Chris Claremont, maybe best known then for their work on Marvel’s The Incredible Hulk and The Uncanny X-Men, respectively; and the convention’s CEO, Classics International Entertainment President Gary Colabuono, also then the proprietor of Moondog’s comic shops.

Here’s how it went.

Looking back on that time now, Colabuono recalls: “Marvel’s decision to distribute their own comics was not only the death knell for direct market distributors, it was also the beginning of the end for the vast majority of comic book specialty shops in the U.S. Of the 21 stores in the Moondog’s chain, 20 were out of business within a year of Marvel’s move.”

I’ve also asked David and Claremont for their perspectives on that time. I’ll share them as they arrive.

But here’s David’s July 28, 1995, reflection on that year’s con: “If Gary Colabuono … asks you to be guest of honor, two words—Do It. Gary is the consummate host, making sure that you want for nothing and taking care that every need is anticipated.”

If you like this, check out more of my conversations with thought-leaders through the years on this website, in Apple Music, on Pandora or Spotify, via your favorite podcast player and at Chicago Public Square.

* For a show that was broadcast July 2, which explains David’s joke at the end, “Boy, am I exhausted from that!”

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