WaP! #7: The Penultimate Issue

The Forgotten Activist Prozine Continued: Part 16

WaP! #7 was comparitively modest 20-page issue, with no postdate (the issues were now mailed in a flat envelope).

This issue sported my one and only WaP! cover art (above), caricaturing the leaked memo from Texan comics retailer Buddy Saunders. As a lifelong fan of westerns (novels, movies, comics, and TV shows), I couldn’t resist playing up the Texas connection—with all due apologies to Buddy—which definitely had its political overtones. Besides, in ways I’ll explain (and did then and there), this was becoming an increasingly personal as well as a professional concern for me.

The controversy was covered in the lead feature by John Ostrander, whose DC Comics title Wasteland was prompting a certain amount of retailer outrage and activism spearheaded by Saunders.

My cover art was also the only editorial cartoon in the entire issue. WaP! was already in transition.

I had my own reasons for thinking the leaked memo from Saunders chain of comic shops was ominous: As I’ve detailed exhaustively here at Myrant in the past (see links, below), Dave Sim‘s reasons for scuttling his publishing imprint Aardvark One International on the cusp of publishing Taboo included his certainty that retailers would scapegoat any creator or title he published if they were angry at Dave over something completely unrelated to Aardvark One International‘s projects.

As I explained in my own coda to John Ostrander‘s article, Saunders and the Zeta Beam Sequence documentation was proving Dave absolutely right—and with Taboo 1 just hitting shops in the fall of 1988, I was now on the firing line with retailers and the retail community, and I was among the creators and publishers putting the retailers on the firing lines, too.

I’ve already shared with you my entire serialized “The Politics of Cowardice” essay, which prompted a letter from Jan Strnad in this issue of WaP!

There was also a letter from Nat Gertler making a couple of salient points about WaP!‘s self-publishing issue, noting (and I am in full agreement with Nat on this, as I was then) that self-publishing wasn’t quite the proper term for those who weren’t exclusively publishing their own work. Nat quite rightly cited Taboo as an example of an anthology that wasn’t per se self-published:

I wanted to be sure Jan got to say his piece here, too, in this context.

Suffice to note I, for one, am a much happier comics creator, comics/comix reader, and film and television viewer now that we’re in 21st century retail environments sans comicbook or graphic novel labels, or the expectation of any like that, and where unrated uncut DVD and Blu-Ray editions of past and current feature films and television series are easily found in a wide range of retail venues (not to mention streaming online and such).

Hell, I’m 58 years old—yes, I have grandchildren, but I know where the children’s book sections are in bookshops and libraries, and for myself, I still prefer the lack of ratings on literature, comics, and graphic novels. Now that the CCA (Comics Code Authority) is gone, too (as of 2011), it’s all history—for the time being.

What else was in WaP! #7 (December 1988-January 1989)? Here’s a sampler, along with a complete contents list:


The above two items are from #7′s “Rumors and Innuendo” gossip column (pp. 18-19), and illuminate two things: how the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s in comics was comprised in part by the larger publishers gobbling up significant independent publishers—co-opting those they could, crushing those they couldn’t—and how the cottage comics reprint industry of the 1980s paved the way for the creator abuses and oversights we still have today. 

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Contents of WaP! #7: 20 pages, 8 1/2″ x 11,” photocopied on white paper.

Cover by Stephen R. Bissette (above).
Pg. 2: “Good News About Taxes” by Joyce Brabner (on “The Technical Corrections Act” exempting “freelance artists, writers, and photographers from the uniform capitalization provision” discussed earlier in WaP!, and citing the book The Art of Filing by Carla Messman as an invaluable resource).
Pp. 3-4: “The Secret Wars of Buddy Saunders” by John Ostrander with “The Saunders Memos,” and coda (on pg. 4) “A Footnote” by Stephen R. Bissette (all above). 
Pg. 5-6: “A Few Words from Some Tired and Cranky Editors” (uncredited overview in Q&A format of WaP! policies and controversies); “New Deadlines” (short statement of 1989 deadlines for WaP! submissions “due to the restructuring of WaP!’s schedule”).
Pg. 7-11: “An Article on Spec” by Mark Evanier with input from Steven Grant, Nat Gertler, Steve Gerber, Christy Marx (on the issues related to doing any freelance work on spec, discussed in part via excerpts from an online discussion board conversation at the Writers’ Exchange Bulletin Board);  “Back Issues” (ordering info for WaP! back issues, pg. 11).
Pg. 12-16: “Mail” (letters from Alex Krislov, Dennis O’Neil (reacting to Steve Skeates‘s letter in WaP! #6), Terry Echterling, Jack C. Harris, Nat Gertler, Jan Strnad (reprinted above in their entirety), Brent Eric Anderson, John Dennis, and Arnold Drake.
Pg. 17: “Workers Unite!!” WaP! subscription ad (art by Howard Chaykin & Walt Simonson)
Pg. 18-19: “Rumors and Innuendo” gossip column; indicia (pg. 19).
Pg. 20: “Lights Out” (below); “Next Issue,” “Pushing the Envelope” (on mailing WaP! in an envelope for mailing).

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The final page of this issue bears reprinting, if only to make sense of the Bill Sienkiewicz editorial cartoon (in the next installment) from WaP!‘s final issue, and to provide essential context of interest to Alan Moore scholars out there (I know some of you are reading this!):

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To be continued!

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Repeating: This material has never been seen online before, anywhere.

I’ll continue sharing it, as long as the following groundrules are honored.

This serialized essay is ©2013 Stephen R. Bissette. The individual archival images and text pieces are ©1988, 1989 their respective authors and creators.

Note: I have not granted permission for these posts to be shared at Goodreads.com or any other thieving sites that cull blog content from non-participating creators; if this post is appearing anywhere but at the genuine Myrant blog/site (http://srbissette.com), it is stolen and should be immediately shut down and reported.

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Some ground rules: Please respect these rules, and please report to me (via comments thread or email — msbissette@yahoo.com) any breaking of these rules.

If all goes well, I’ll do more of this at Myrant; if the virtual archives are robbed, so to speak, this will be the last and only time I get into these kinds of archival materials at Myrant.

Please:

1. Post links to the relevant Myrant posts; please do NOT lift the graphics to place them on your own blog, journal or website.
2. Please do NOT lift these posts, and my text, verbatim and place them on your blog, journal, flicker pages or whatever.
3. Please note all copyright notices at the end of each post, and respect them. I do not own this copyright material, nor do I claim to; I am sharing it here (with correct copyright ownership noted) to share this material with fans, scholars and researchers.
4. If there are any problems, I’ll just tear this all down and abandon the project.

PS: I have removed subscription info from all images/text; the WaP! address is no longer active, subscriptions/copies are obviously no longer available (and no, I don’t know where/how you can find copies, sorry).

Let’s see where this goes. Thanks!

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For those who want to read and/or know more:


An earlier, in-depth Myrant serialized essay detailing where Taboo came from — which covers in excrutiating detail the events framing and following this 1986-87 DC Comics standards and practices and ratings hubbub — is instantly at your fingertips by clicking the links below. It might answer many questions about what happened next, including the Aardvark/Diamond Comics controversy, WaP!, and what led to the historic Creator’s Summit of November 1988.

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All WaP! images, content ©1988, 1989 the respective creative contributors and proprietors. All other cover art or comics images © respective year of original publication their original creators and/or proprietors. Original text material ©2013 Stephen R. Bissette, all rights reserved. Permission to link, post pingbacks granted, but please do not quote excessively or post these essays on your own blogs, websites or venues; it’s not yours to play with. NOTE: All images are posted for archival and educational purposes only, under applicable US Fair Use laws.


Discussion (5) ¬

  1. John Platt

    Wow. More pieces of the history of the comics industry that I knew nothing about. My first takeaway from this: I need to go re-read my copies of Wasteland.

  2. Nat Gertler

    And a full quarter century later, I find that not only was I right all around (Taboo and A-1 did prove to be interesting and worthwhile!), but that some of what I wrote proves to be applicable to me. My publishing line About Comics sometimes gets referred to as “self-publishing” despite the fact that volumes or issues written primarily by me only average about one a year through the history of the line.

  3. Bill Keenan

    When I was living in Texas (1985 until I left for college in 1991), I went out of my way to not shop at any of Buddy’s stores after being treated like a pervert. I remember being annoyed that the comics I read (Love & Rockets immediately comes to mind) were kept behind the counter like they were porn. I couldn’t buy a copy of Swamp Thing, Miracleman, or Watchmen without my (very understanding) mother having to ask for them like we were in a seedy store asking for the latest S&M porn rags.

    Why give Buddy my hard-earned money (minumum wage bagging groceries, washing dishes, cleaning toilets at Target) when some of the best books coming out at that time received ZERO attention (they weren’t even displayed on the racks bagged ‘for your protection’)? They went ape-caca over the any gimmicky book that would bring in casual readers (and then scare them away by recommending only X-books).

    After a few months of dealing with ‘Uh, they don’t publish — anymore’ or ‘the distributed never sent the copies we pre-ordered,’ my (again, very understanding) mother ended up driving me to a comic shop near TCU (yep, Texas Christian University) that was much more libertarian in their offerings. Granted, mom still had to be there when I bought ‘Brought To Light’ and ‘AARGH,’ but they were openly displayed in the store (!!).

    Lone Star was one step above the ‘hey kids, comics!’ spinner racks at 7-11s (but the clerks at 7-11 were less snotty) – almost thirty years later and I won’t give Buddy a dime (mycomicshop.com is a misnomer).

  4. Paul Riddell

    I had about the same experiences as Bill, aggravated by the fact that several friends (including the guy who introduced me to the original Cat Piss Man) worked for the big Lone Star location in North Dallas in the late Eighties and early Nineties. I’m ashamed to say that I came back mostly because of them, and because Lone Star was the only local source for many of the magazines for which I wrote at the time. Since I’d usually get my contributor’s copies of “Science Fiction Eye” about a month after the distributor had dropped them off at the store, I’d go there to snag copies, but that’s a different dangerous vision.

    In any case, because of this and my friends, I had the opportunity to watch Buddy’s policies in action. We had a similar situation in the area concerning a local movie theater with its midnight movie lineup. That theater, one of the AMC chain, was managed by a fundamentalist who loathed midnight movies and their fans, but was compelled to carry them by the parent company. Therefore, he went out of his way to destroy the market, usually through being overly anal about proper IDs to get in (he was notorious for rejecting out-of-state driver’s licenses or military IDs, and would turn down thirty-year-olds because they couldn’t prove they were really over the age of 16), as well as throwing out anybody who “acted out” in his theater. “Acting out”, for instance, included people at “Rocky Horror” showings reciting the standard audience participation lines, but it also included such things as “overly boisterous laughter” at comedies. He usually got away with this for about two months or so, and then Corporate would notice that midnight movie ticket sales at his theater were a tiny fraction of those at other theaters in the AMC chain. They’d ride his ass about it, and he’d back off and let the crowds back in until the pressure ceased. Then it was back to his usual games.

    In those days, Buddy Saunders did the same exact thing. If sales were dropping because readers were going to competitors? Well, he’d back off a bit, and you might see a spare issue of “Those Annoying Post Bros” in the I-18 section. However, when the pressure was off, such as when Clint’s Comics shut down in 1993, he’d clamp down and expect everyone coming into his store to buy nothing but Archie titles. The North Dallas store finally had a purge of its existing staff, with all of my friends being forced out, ostensibly because of “attitude”. It was really because they were all sympathetic to customer complaints about the lies about the unavailability of “Strangers In Paradise” or “Hellblazer”. (And you may laugh about “SiP” being such a factor, but that comic did wonders to bring women into comic shops once word got out. Problem was, not only did Lone Star not carry it until it was obvious that its absence was cutting into its sales, but the old staff in its stores couldn’t hide their disgust any more at lying about how they knew nothing about it. Rather than fix the situation, Buddy just fired everyone until he got a new crew who would do ANYTHING to work in a comic shop.)

    The real humor in the situation is watching how these arrogant control-freak decisions on the part of Saunders were what really broke Lone Star’s back as far as control of merchandise with local comic shops was concerned. Over the past few years, I’ve been watching a lot of media outlets, particularly our sole local paper and our one remaining weekly paper, crying about their precarious financial situations and how they just don’t get any love from their fickle readers any more. What they deliberately ignore was that the current crunch was directly set off by years or decades of absolutely vile treatment of their readers when things were flush, and those customers only stayed because these were the only games in town. It was the same way with Lone Star: Buddy was so good at bullying other comic shops in Dallas and Fort Worth into following his party line (including, as rumor had it, tipping the cops to shops that carried material he felt was obscene) that as soon as options to bypass him came along, customers went elsewhere. Oh, he’s backed off and let his managers make their own buying decisions now, but that’s because he has no choice whatsoever. The moment he tried to go back to his old ways, the whole chain would collapse, and the only customers he’d get would be the Cat Piss Men who line up out front on the morning of New Comic Book Day. Meanwhile, Keith’s, which has an attitude of how “the customer knows what s/he wants, so let’s see what we can get”, is kicking Lone Star’s collective ass around its shoulder blades.

  5. Rotten Arsenal

    The amount of stuff I could say about Buddy Saunders and his company…

    When I first started collecting as a kid back in the ’80′s, my favorite comic shop was a place called Fantastic Worlds. Buddy’s Lone Star Comics had been battling for dominance for years and then they put a store close to my FW and killed it within a year. Back in the days before internet, there wasn’t much a kid could do. So I was stuck with them. Every now and then, I’d find a different shop that I liked better, but inevitably, they couldn’t stay afloat and I was forced back to Lone Star.
    It didn’t bother me a whole lot, since usually, the staff was cool and we could talk comics for hours.
    I actually went to work for them in the early 2000′s and helped run the warehouse. Gotta tell ya… the offices and warehouse were a dump (still are for the most part) because Buddy is cheap as hell. And also a far right-wing Jesus freak Tea Partier. That wouldn’t really be an issue except that it influences his business practices. He’ll shred comics that he finds objectionable and pays very little. Of course, this means he has trouble keeping good employees and so those people grading your books are a regular rotating parade of people that wanted to work there because it seemed like it would be fun but instead found it to be more like a sweatshop.
    I stopped going to the stores after they managed to run off the knowledgeable people and kept hiring in people whose knowledge begins and ends with comic book movies. I started getting everything shipped to me once a month, although most of my comics come in with corner knicking and other minor flaws.
    And I’ve been selling off a bunch of my collection that I don’t care about and getting credit which I use to buy TPBs so I can sell back more individual issues (I don’t collect for investment, just for reading). And despite the fact that I was an overly strict grader when I worked there, more and more of my orders that I send in get lowballed. I’ve pretty much just stopped trying to guess and let them do all the work.
    A few months back, I ordered a NM TPB of Garth Ennis’ “Unknown Soldier.” I realized before it was delivered that I already had one (my collection is in chaos after several moves and a lack of space to properly organize it). So, I took it, put it directly into a long box where it sat until I could trade it back. NM copy was what I was shipped and then I didn’t touch it except to unpack it and repack it. They insisted it was VF. I pointed out that it was in the exact same condition that I received it from them, but hey… whatever.
    And then there were some horrible orders… most notably, a back issue that I ordered as NM and when I got it, the cover wasn’t even attached.
    Anyway, earlier this year, some guys that used to run other comic shops in my area opened a new shop. It’s small, but it has the appropriate comic shop atmosphere and they actually bothered to learn my name (something the Lone Star employees hadn’t bothered to do for years). I get greeted cheerfully and they do very well when it comes to getting what I want (still some growing pains, but it’s getting there). So, I have pretty much stopped spending anything with Buddy’s place. If I can’t buy it with credit, I just won’t buy it from there. And Bill Keenan, this new store, Collected, is over by TCU and one of the owners is Ron Killingsworth, the man behind “Heroes Workshop”, which is almost certainly the TCU shop you went to.
    Oddly enough, this new store just bought two of Buddy’s stores from him. Buddy has sold off or closed all but 2 of his brick & mortar stores to concentrate on the mail order business.

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