The Comic Buyer’s Guide, RIP
In the early days of comic book fandom, it took its cues from science fiction fandom since there was quite a bit of overlap. The early SF zines included names and addresses so as others began publishing, they knew where to find eager subscribers. The first pure comics zine, Richard Lupoff’s Xero, didn’t arrive until 1960 but it merely ignited a new wave of comics-only zines. By the time I discovered fanzines or 1960 or 1970, you sent some money and/or some stamps and they sent you a zine.
My best friend Jeff and I wisely took our meager allowances and one of us subscribed to Don & Maggie Thompson’s Newfangles and the other ordered Paul Levitz’s The Comics Reader. This way, we could share the only two authoritative sources of comics news. By then, we were aware that a growing back issue market was fueled by RBCC, formerly known as the Rocket’s Blast Comics Collector, but as its editor, GB Love’s health meant that venerable title had to end, the market for a publication for buyers and sellers remained strong.
Enter Alan Light, now a respected music writer. Back in 1971, he gave us The Buyer’s Guide for Comic Fandom , a weekly tabloid that was chock full of ads. Over time, though, Light added columnists, giving us something read between ads. Columnists begat news and news begat reviews and suddenly, The Buyer’s Guide became the source for information about comics post and present along with a handy way to order things of interest. Within a year it went from monthly to biweekly and the Thompsons brought Newfangles back, renamed Beautiful Balloons making the free paper a must read. Of course, with success came a demand for more content and in 1972 the paper went to a subscription model but no one complained. It had become too vital a source for information and collectors. As a result, it went weekly in 1975.
TBG offered us exclusive news and interviews with gorgeous original cover artwork. It broke news and ran pictures from conventions around the country. Flipping through the back issues would be like sifting through a time capsule of the industry. Companies retrenched and crumbled, others rose and fell in a blink of an eye. While credited with inventing the direct sales market in t1975 or so, Phil Seuling didn’t start advertising for his own Sea Gate Distribution until 1977, a significant step in the evolution of the importance the comics shops would become.
Murray Bishoff joined Light as an assistant editor but to readers, his news columns were vital. When Cat Yronwode took over in 1980, her Fit to Print became the Bleeding Cool of its day and turned her into a force to be reckoned with (and led to her successful work at Eclipse Comics just a few years later).
Light, just 29, sold the publication to Krause in1983 and turned management of the newspaper over to the Thompsons who lovingly put their own imprint on the publication starting with Comics in Your Future, the first TV Guide-style listings of comics since the passing of TCR just a few years earlier. But as comic publishers grew in number at this point, the listings were essential.
Yronwode left but other columnists came including Tony Isabella and Bo Ingersoll while Peter David’s But I Digress joined the roster in 1990. Tony and Peter have been contributing ever since, without fail, their pieces always entertaining.
Don’s passing in 1994 was a shock to all but Maggie persevered and kept the publication a place for people who loved all manner of comics. On the other hand, it was being pounded by new competition, notably Wizard magazine, which was slick, glossy, snarky and available on newsstands. It wasn’t long before that became the Must Read title and TBG, renamed the Comics Buyer’s Guide, or CBG, suddenly seemed quaint and old-fashioned.
And just as the 24/7 immediacy of the Internet made Wizard irrelevant, it spelled the slow agonizing death for CBG. It dropped pages, it went monthly and became a magazine in 2004, too little too late.
Today, it was announced that issue #1699, out in March, will be the final issue. You would think they would go out in grand style with #1700 but Krause management never seemed to appreciate the quirky world it inherited when it bought Light’s dreamchild.
Maggie had been working reduced hours for some time and when we chatted in San Diego, she was looking ahead, enjoying the free time afforded her and looking forward to moving ahead with new skills or new projects. She’s boldly striding towards tomorrow but let’s all pause for a moment and look back.
We’ll never see something like this again. There will never again be that sense of thrill and wonder when the new issue arrived in your mailbox and it cast a spotlight on a the behind-the-scenes world of comics. It carried generations of readers and its passing should be noted. Raise a glass on high and let’s give a toast to The Buyer’s Guide, last of the great fan publications about comics from the first age of comics fans.