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Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Myron Fass,Thorpe & Porter And ME!

There is a reason I'm re-posting this here from the original CBO site so bear with me.

Back in the 1970s I was young,foolish and so desperately wanted to be a comic book publisher.  One day a friend working at BBC TV Pebble Mill phoned me and said:”Stan Lee is going to be on Pebble Mill At One-can you get to Birmingham?”

Pebble Mill At One was a chat/features show that went out at 1p.m. each day and Stan Lee was only “guaranteed” for that show’s duration.  Could I get there?  Yes!

Well,that was the plan.  There used to be an old newsagents/tobacconist on Newfoundland Road before it became part of the motorway into Bristol.  The owner at the time,Reg,didn’t like distributors of magazines and comics for reasons I never learned.  When I asked I was told,in amongst the coughing,”Theyz all a buncha bastids”.  Anyway,I got a good few of my Charlton Comics in there and Reg loved horror comics.  I mentioned going to Pebble Mill and Reg told me he had to “pop up to” Leicester on that day to pick up new issues of a comic -he could drop me by Pebble Mill?

Well,leaving early we got to Thorpe & Porter and if you bought comics in the UK the “T&P” stamped on those comics meant they were distributed and repackaged in some cases by Thorpe & Porter.   I got chatting with one of the managers there and within half an hour I was talking to bosses with a cup of tea getting colder by the minute as I asked question after question.

“Kid in a sweet shop”

I missed Stan Lee.  I’m sure he’ll forgive me.  But I got into regular correspondence with people at T&P and paid a few more visits with Reg [who would also have nothing to do with management -apparently they were all "Bastids" as well!

On one visit I had plucked up enough courage to ask about buying rights to horror strips -T&P were repackaging Tales From The Tomb,Terror Tales and others [as well as Official UFO which had interests for me].  I was told that T&P were cutting back and the black and white horror comics were going and if I wanted I could buy the rights but I’d have to reprint from printed comic stock and not use the strip combinations they had used.

I was in a cold sweat.  By today’s standards £100 isn’t much but in the 1970s it was a small fortune.  I sold loads of items and duly got the rights.  However,printers then asked for more and more money as they claimed this-and-that had to be “tweaked in house”.  So,I was there with a comic but it would be too expensive to print.

I asked Alan Class about his printers and he gave me the details.  Their rates were very reasonable.  Then,out of the blue,I heard from T&P:it seemed I’d have to also negotiate with the original publisher in the US.  This was a shock to me.  I thought all the work belonged to T&P and no one ever mentioned a US publisher.  Apparently,T&P were notorious for these,uh,oversights.

I wrote a long letter to MF Enterprises and I sat back nervously awaiting a reply.  One week turned into two and then three.  I really thought I’d sold a great many things and paid out money for nothing.  It was a depressing month.
On the fourth week the telephone rang at 2 a.m. -either someone was ill or had died [no one ever calls that time of night about anything else!].  I’m assuming that it was a loud New York [?] voice that greeted my nervous “hello?”.  Apparently,I was talking to Myron Fass who told me he’d gotten my letter and read it through and told me I’d gotten a “shitty deal” from T&P.  I was regaled by talk of pulp SF publishing and how he’d made a good $4 million dollars on a magazine about the Kennedy Assassination and how he was making fast bucks with porn books.

At thispoint I ought to point out that I was wondering why he was telling me all of this and was he impressing me before telling me to take a hike?

Then came the crunch.  Mr Fass said he’d read what I’d sent him [a proposal of how I intended to use the strips and so forth] and it looked good –a brief moment of thinking he was going to offer to publish the title was soon dashed.  He said he’d noted I was going to add a super hero strip into the comic to draw in fans of that genre [a bad idea that I'd never try today!] and asked if I had a super hero comic strip?  I said I was still looking.  There was a laugh and a “Kid,yer lucky” ["kid"??].  He then told me how he had a super hero that had been a hit in the 1960s called Captain Marvel.

Here I immediately thought of Fawcett’s Captain Marvel.  I asked if he meant that character?  I was told that the Captain Marvel he’d published was far more popular and original.  After five minutes of talking from him I had agreed to pay a sum for the horror strip rights in the UK [using the T&P provided art pages] and Captain Marvel.

The money was sent and then I hit the major snag.  I was told Marvel Comics would sue if I used the name Captain Marvel.  In fact,when I tried to clarify the position I learned that DC comics owned Captain Marvel [Fawcett's] and they would sue.  I was young,inexperienced and out of money and in it deep.
So,I still have the horror pages and I have the Captain Marvel pages [though issue #1 pages are missing after 30 years] but never used them.

 Captain Marvel (1966) 2-A by M.F. Enterprises

Of course,I only learned in the 1990s about the man known as Myron Fass.  The business partner beating,gun-toting,wheeler-dealer.  I have to say,though,at the time he was very nice but loud,as I expected Americans to be.  I was in awe.

In fact,I wonder whether I had a lucky escape.  I was typing this and wondered whether there was anything on the internet about him.  There is!  So,to learn more of the legend visit:


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