Friday, December 30, 2005

Bye Bye '05--- Hello '06!

FLYING COLORS will be open on Saturday December 31 from 11am-5pm.
We will be CLOSED on Sunday January 1, 2006 for NEW YEAR'S DAY.
We'll re-open Monday at 11am.

Our regular operating hours are:
Monday through Saturday 11am-7pm
Sunday Noon-7pm

Every week on "New Releases Day" FLYING COLORS is open until 8pm.
The next "New Releases Day" is Thursday January 5.

Special Deal for readers of "The View from Flying Colors"---
Come in Wednesday January 4 --- *WITH THIS BLOG ENTRY PRINTED OUT* --- and we'll give you 20% off the trade paperback of your choice!
Good only on wednesday January 4, 2006. Limit one per person. In-store special only!
(I'm curious how many regular store visitors will take me up on this.)


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Happy Birthday, Stan!

Today is Stan "the Man" Lee's 83rd birthday.

Stan, for the very few of you who don't know, is the co-creator of most of the Marvel super-heroes, including Spider-Man and Doctor Strange (with Steve Ditko) and the Incredible Hulk, Thor, and the Fantastic Four (with Jack Kirby). Since Stan is a large part of the reason I'm in the comic book business, that makes it a good day to blog about some of my experiences with him.

I first talked with Stan in late 1985 when he called to tell me he was behind my efforts to have Stockton, California officially recognized as the "birthplace of the Fantastic Four." Stan wasn't involved in the day-to-day publishing of Marvel Comics then, but he could tell a good media story when he saw one. So when the well-respected features' reporter from the Los Angeles Times, Charles Hillinger, called Stan to get his take on my little campaign, Stan was all for it. Paraphrasing what he said, it went something like "We save universes as a part of our daily business, so when a fine city such as Stockton seeks the aid of Marvel, the least we can do is come to their rescue."

Shortly after the L.A. Times piece ran, Stan called me at my KJOY-AM office to tell me not only would Marvel agree to my request, but that he would come to Stockton in person to bestow the honor on our fair city.

In February '86, Stan and Spider-Man hit Stockton and a media circus ensued. I'm pretty sure every TV news outlet from San Francisco and Sacramento was represented at the event on the steps of Stockton City Hall. The Convention & Visitors Bureau had a 50 foot banner welcoming Marvel and Stan. He got a singing telegram from a scantily clad young woman, and a key to the city (which also doubled as a bottle opener---never let it be said that Stocktonians aren't at the very least utilitarian!)

After a crowded signing at Al's Comics on Pacific Avenue in Stockton (still going strong after all these years!), I took Stan (and Spidey) out to lunch. Finally, Stan was "off-stage" and could relax a bit. He told me "That was a lot of fun. Nice job!" And I told him if he ever needed someone for a public relations' job to please call me.

I was shocked about six months later when Stan did call and ask me to do some P.R. for his wife Joan who was having her first novel published, a steamy romance novel about love on a cruise ship called "The Pleasure Palace." The publisher had too many books coming out that month, so Stan wanted to help get her novel some publicity---and he called ME!

Almost every day for the next three months, I'd talk with Stan and Joan on the phone about the media contacts I was making and the interviews I lined up for them. For this long-time Stan-fan, life was good!

As a result of that gig, the group of Bay Area retailers that was about to start WonderCon got me involved doing advertising and promotion for their stores first, then for the convention. That led to my involvement with the Bay Area comics' community, which in turn led to my looking at getting into comics professionally.

I first tried to syndicate a radio feature about comics and pop culture. I had my pal and (then) KJOY DJ Jerry Fuentes put together a very impressive demo package of the show I called "Graphic Details." Probably twenty rejection letters later, I went in another direction and tried to get some interviews with comics' publishers and distributors. I interviewed for the Marvel West Coast sales rep position---only to be rejected because I had no publishing experience. I interviewed for any job I could get in the marketing department of DC Comics--- no dice. I tried for the Marketing Director position at Bud Plant's comic distribution company--- all to no avail.

Finally, I figured I had to make my own experience, so I looked at opening a retail comic book store. Nearly two years of research later, with the help of Libby and my three young daughters, along with help from her family, my family and my meager radio pension--- and that's how Flying Colors was born (short version).

Back to Stan. It's his birthday, right? That's what we're celebrating here. Sheesh!

Anyway, on October 3, 1988, when Flying Colors opened for our first day of business (and we did all of $63 business that day---that was scary!), Stan Lee left a message on our answering machine wishing us well on the launch of our new venture. Pretty darn thoughtful, if you ask me...

Nearly two years later, Stan visited the store when he was in town as my guest at WonderCon. That photo to the left shows a much younger me with Stan (who has always seemed ageless to me) and the Spidey cardboard stand-up, which Stan signed "Stan Lee Presents Flying Colors!" How cool is that?

When he came to town for that WonderCon, I picked him up at the Oakland Airport and was his offficial bodyguard for the weekend. As we drove around, I'd ask him non-comics questions. I found out that he liked to play baseball when he was a kid---second base was his favorite position. I found out, to little surprise, that Stan loves show-tunes, especially those sung by deep-voiced baritones like Howard Keel (who starred in many a post-war musical like Show Boat, Annie Get Your Gun and others). During that WonderCon, I had the privilege of introducing Stan to a young artist by the name of Jim Lee (How cool is that!?).

In the years that followed, I've talked with Stan and Joan many times, mostly at comic industry events, including the launch party for his first internet venture. He graciously wrote the intro piece to our "Flying Colors 10th Anniversary Special" in '98. And if you click on "Views" you can read the intro speech I wrote for Stan when he was inducted into the Cartoon Art Museum's Hall-of Fame with a "Sparky" Award (named for Charles "Sparky" Schulz) five years ago. All through my career in comics, Stan has been there and been a positive influence.

When I was a kid, Stan was one of my idols. He wrote my favorite comics, he kibitzed with his readers on the letters' pages, and he gave us some simple life lessons in his "Soapbox" columns. Who knows how many zillions of readers he has influenced over the years? He has entertained comic fans for more than 60 years! Some even think that without his breakout success at Marvel in the early '60s (the "Marvel Age of Comics!"), there might not even be a comic book business today. Consider that!

So however you choose to do it, today's a great day to lift a toast to Stan "the Man"!

Happy Birthday, Stan--- and while we're at it: Exclesior!

Nil Nisi Optimus!


Friday, December 23, 2005

Christmas Eve Update!

FLYING COLORS COMICS & Other Cool Stuff will be open Saturday, December 24, Christmas Eve, from 10am - 6pm.

We're ready to help you with a ton of last minute cool gifts.
Flying Colors' Retailing Brigade members Mike and Andy will be on hand all day, and I will, too. Jenny will be here mid-day (Noon-4pm).

We all have our own specialties at Flying Colors, so if you want to request some special help, here are a few clues:
* MIKE loves and really knows STAR WARS and all sci-fi, along with the classic art of Alex Raymond, Al Williamson and the rest of the old EC crew. I know one of Mike's big gift picks is the COMPLETE CALVIN & HOBBES (as of right now, we have just two copies left in stock!).

* ANDY can tell you all you need to know about collectible card games, Dungeons and Dragons and our vast MANGA section. He'll be happy to steer you in the right direction.

* JENNY recommends a wide variety of graphic novels. If you are a comics' fan, but your "significant other' is not--- Jenny's the one to talk to. Let her suggest a gift or two for the readers on your gift list!

* JOE knows a lot about comics, but less every day! One of the best parts of this job is nurturing new comics' readers--- of virtually all ages, and a well-placed holiday gift may be just what's needed to make a reluctant comics' reader a full-fledged regular.

(Joe also highly recommends the ROCKY & BULLWINKLE Holiday Ornaments Set. He'll even give you his fairly accurate vocal impression of Bullwnkle J. Moose--- but don't let that scare you away!)

So please let FLYING COLOLRS assist you with finding the appropriate gift for everyone on your last-minute list. In many cases, we will make our recommendations with "full satisfaction" guarantees because we want all of readers to keep coming back for more cool stuff every week!

Pax Vobiscum!


(We will be closed Sunday December 25, Christmas Day--- and then we'll be back in action on Monday December 26, open from 11am-7pm.)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Easy Ideas!

As we count down the shopping days (hours, really), I thought it would be a good idea to post a few easy gift ideas for the cool people on your list. So with the help of Santa Spidey, here are a few easy ideas available from FLYING COLORS.

* How about sharing your favorite graphic novels with those on your gift list? It might be a great way to give something unique and also give something you personally enjoy. You might create a new graphic novel/comic book fan in the process.

* We have a wide range of back issues, including some very nice holiday themed comics from the 1950s, featuring classic and fun characters like Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Woody Woodpecker and Bugs Bunny. Many if these are reasonably priced below $20, too.

* Our deep selection of comic strip books will appeal to anyone who reads newspaper comics, from classics like Prince Valiant, Krazy Kat, Peanuts and Tarzan to more contemporary strip like Foxtrot, Zits, and Calvin & Hobbes.

* Trading cards make great little stocking stuffers--- how about SMALLVILLE, Batman Begins, MAGIC the Gathering, YU-GI-OH or some baseball, football and basketball cards (some even still have bubble gum!). Also new: trading card packs from the TV hit series LOST!

* Did you know that manga fit pretty well into Christmas stockings?

* Sometimes the easy ideas are the best ideas! That means it's time for FLYING COLORS Gift Certificates. Available in any amount!

We hope to see you soon!
Whatever way you celebrate these holidays, we wish you happiness and peace!


Monday, December 19, 2005

Cool Stuff without the Mall Hassles!

It's been more than a week since I last posted here. yes, I've been out shopping (a bit), but I've also been hit with a case of bronchitis that has me sounding more like Barry White than my regular old self.

'Tis the season, I suppose...

So I've got a spare moment here for a bit of last minute pitching. If you'd like to avoid the crush of crowds at the big box stores and the malls, I invite you to FLYING COLORS for a still-comfortable shopping atmosphere. We're not running Christmas music from open to close, either--- a little here and a little there, but not 24/7.

And we still have a store full of really great gifts---and several more shipments of godies yet to come in this week. Here are a few things that would make for some cool little stocking stuffers:

THE BEST OFTHE SPIRIT by Will Eisner and others. DC Comics is still publishing Eisner's classic SPIRIT series in its classy ARCHIVES editions. Well, here at last is a great introduction to this terrific character. Here's our offer: When you buy THE BEST OF THE SPIRIT trade paperback here---and you love it so much that you'll want to step up the hardcover SPIRIT ARCHIVES, simply bring the BEST OF back and we will credit you for the fullpurchase amount toward one of the SPIRIT ARCHIVES. Cool deal, huh?

WIMBLEDON GREEN: GREATEST COMIC BOOK COLLECTOR IN THE WORLD by Seth. The cartoonist behind PALOOKAVILLE tells a tale from his sketchbook that will illuminate some of the idiosynchracies of collectors and their collecting passions. It's a graphic novella that's sure to be up for a number of comic art awards in the coming months.

FLYING COLORS has a good selection of comics-related t-shirts in stock and ready for gift-giving. Two of the newer styles are XAVIER INSTITUTE FOR HIGHER LEARNING, emblazoned with the familar X shield and the DAILY BUGLE staff reporter t-shirt. These are great looking shirts even for those who may not be aware that the XAVIER INSTITUTE is where new mutants are trained and that the DAILY BUGLE is famous as the place where Peter Parker's photos of Spider-Man were first published. In adults sizes S, M, L, XL (all $17.95) and XXL ($20.95).
Lots of other cool shirts in stock, too!

And of course we have a lot of holiday themed comics ready to be dropped into stocking this week! some of the titles include the most recent issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED (pictured here), WALT DISNEY'S CHRISTMAS PARADE (featuring Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse), SANTA: MY LIFE & TIMES (a beautiful book that likely won't fit into a stocking!), IMAGE HOLIDAY SPECIAL (some very fun stuff here!) and the MARVEL HOLIDAY SPECIAL and GLX-Mas SPECIAL (also from Marvel).

As for hoilday themed "other cool stuff", we have Batman, Superman and Green Lantern ornament sets, with Rocky and Bullwinkle ornaments coming in this Wednesday.

There's a big load of cool new comics coming in this week, too. Here are just a few highlights---
* JUSTICE #3 by superstar artist Alex Ross and friends.
* SPAWN Collection Volume One from Todd McFarlane, a compilation of the first several SPAWN stores from the early '90s.
* ULTIMATE WOLVERINE VS HULK #1. What makes this one stand out is this is the first comics work from the creator of TV's "LOST", Damon Lindelhof!

Open hours:
Tuesday 12/20 11am-7pm
Wednesday 12/21 11am-8pm (New Releases Day!)
Thursday 12/22 11am-7pm
Friday 12/23 11am-7pm
Saturday 12/24 10am-6pm

Hope to see you soon!


Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Uncle Joe I Didn't Know...

That's my great uncle Joe Bowman in the photo to the left.

He was a Major League pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates and several other teams, from 1932-1945. He continued to play for another couple of years after his major league career, doing a stint with the San Diego Padres in the Pacific Coast League (he also played for the Portland PCL team in the early '30s). He went on to a second career as a successful baseball scout, most notably for Charlie Finley and Uncle Joe's hometown Kansas City A's. Joe's scouting career lasted into the Oakland era of the A's, and into the 1980s when he worked for the Baltimore Orioles. Joe signed Tony LaRussa to his first pro contract--and he also signed 20-game winner Mike Boddicker for the Orioles, among many other players.

I found out about the LaRussa signing when Tony came to shop at Flying Colors in late '98. As he shopped, I started a conversation with him about the '98 season and Mark McGwire's 70 home run season. I then worked in a mention of my great uncle---and it really surrpised Tony. He said something like "Who'd ever think that I'd stop in here to get my daughter a few comic books and wind up meeting a guy related to the man who signed me to my first pro contract?"

I've spent a little spare time here and there researching Joe Bowman's career. He wasn't a tremendously successful pitcher---he's even mentioned in a book called "The Worst Major League Pitchers of All Time" because he did lose 20 games one season. But to have a pre-expansion major league career that lasted nearly a dozen years of active service, he had to be quite a talented player. One thing I do know--- he was a very good hitting pitcher. He was used as a part-time outfielder and pinch-hitter for a few years. One year he even hit .344.

Among great Uncle Joe's "claims to fame" is that he was the starting and losing pitcher in the first night game in Major League history, a 2-1 game his Philadelphia Phillies lost to the host Cincinnati Reds. He knocked in his team's only run, he had a hit and a stolen base, he gave up only four hits in seven innings---and he still was hung with the loss.

When my father's father succumbed to tuberculosis in 1933, my dad was only 10 years old. His uncle Joe, having made it to the big leagues, became my father's idol. One season, probably 1937, Uncle Joe left an autograph book in the dugouts of opposing teams as he traveled around the National League. It was signed by close to 40 future Hall-of-Famers. As late as 1988, I was occasionally adding more autographs to the book, teaching my nephew Matt how and where to score the best autographs at the Oakland Colisseum. That is probably the only autograph book with sweet-swingin' Billy Williams autograph next to pre-integration Cubs' players like Gabby Hartnett. In the '60s, I had SF Giant great Orlando Cepeda sign the book on the same page as Bill Terry and Frankie Frisch, two Hall-of-Fame NY Giants' mainstays of the '30s.

I didn't know much about the relationship between my Dad and his uncle when I was a kid. I know that my father's father died from tuberculosis when my dad wasn't quite ten years old in 1933, so after his father's passing, his Uncle Joe Bowman became his idol. Also, for many years, my younger brother and I would get some nice baseball gifts from the Bowmans (his wife Mary was my grandmother's sister). When we played catch with my Dad, my brother and I usually played with real American League baseballs.

I believe I only met Uncle Joe in person once when I was probably four years old. And I can't recall that meeting, if it even did happen. As the years grew on, my family and his would exchange Christmas cards, but that was about it.

In the early '80s, I got the idea to write a baseball book about the era Joe Bowman played in--- from the perspective of an average major league player. We'll always get stories from the superstars, but when do we ever hear from just a "Regular Joe"? Of course, I wanted to include things about my father's family, my Dad's relationship with his ball-playin' uncle and how the tradition of baseball is so strong and important to the fabric of life in America.

So I wrote Uncle Joe a letter, asking if he'd be up for the task. I got a very short letter back from him in Kansas City on Baltimore Orioles' stationery, telling me he had no interest in such a project.

Not too long after that, my Dad suffered the first of his heart attacks, leading to ten years of trips in and out of the hospital. Joe Bowman died on Thanksgiving Day in 1990 at the age of 80. Joe Field, my father, passed away the day before Thanksgiving in 1998 a month before his 75th birthday.

At this point, I have yet to meet anyone on that side of the family to give me more perspective on Joe Bowman's career or my dad's relationship with his. There are precious few former major leaguers still alive from the era Bowman played. What I do know is that Joe Bowman was one who instilled a love of baseball in my Dad, who then instilled it in me and my brother....and probably in many others, too. And we're there to keep it going with our families.

Nine weeks left 'til pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training '06.

For more info about Joe Bowman's career, go HERE!

Peace, y'all!


(Updates on this story can be found in the Flying Colors 20th Anniversary Special comic book (2008), available for sale at Flying Colors Comics & Other Cool Stuff.)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Stranded in Dana Point

I took the photo you see here at the beach house my in-laws had at Dana Point in Orange County, California sometime in the mid- '80s.

Their beach "house" was actually a trailer home they owned and parked on a leased space on the cliffs over-looking Doheny State Park beach in a development called The Dana Strand. It's one of my favorite places on earth and it also serves as the desk-top screen saver on all three of my Macs. This is the place I go to in my mind when I need a mental vacation.

Sadly, in the late '80s, the land owners of this glorious stretch of coastline kicked out all the trailer owners with designs on building a luxury hotel. Environmental impact reports and politics have delayed the new development for the past 16 years, leaving a blighted dump look to what once was a wonderful little community. Progress--- ugh!

Now that I've figured out how to post pictures to this blog (thanks, Alan!), I'd thought this oasis would be a cool place to start.

More comics' news soon!

Surfer Joe

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Wonder Years of Comics

A special request came in today for this blog subject. One of our long-time Flying Colors' faithful asked me to tell a story from my early days of getting into comics. Here it is:

For many years, comics were found primarily at grocery stores, candy shops and newsstands. Prior to the late 1960s, there were only a very few stores specializing in comic books. After my pal Steve Holmes really got me into comics in the summer of '67, we were always on the prowl for new places to get more, more, more comics!

Our regular spot for new comics was Charles Drug Store in the Rheem Valley Shopping Center in Moraga (read more about: "A Tale of Two Hang-Outs"). Very early in the morning every Tuesday and Thursday, a truck would throw bales of new magazines and comics to the front of Charles' store.

Since the store didn't open until 9am, we knew if we were able to get there by 8:30, we'd have the first pick of all the new releases. But Charles' store didn’t get all the comics we wanted because comics' distribution was very spotty then. I remember starting on the Stan Lee/Gene Colan Daredevil title with issue #31, but I didn't see another new DD issue at Charles' Drugs until #34! That meant we had to search other places to fill in the gaps...

The two comics I started with that summer, gifts from my pal Steve, were Amazing Spider-Man #51 and Fantastic Four #65. Both had plots that were continued from previous issues. Yikes! In the case of Spidey, issue #50 was the instant classic "Spider-Man No More!" story. I didn't hold a copy of that comic in my hands for more than a year after I started buying comics because there was no place else to get old comics. Rarely, I'd find some used comics for a nickel each at the St. Vincent DePaul thrift shop in Pleasant Hill, but for an 11 year-old me, Pleasant Hill was about as easy to get to as the dark side of the moon.

The following year, word spread that there was a store selling old comics in Lafayette, just three miles away from my home in Moraga. At 12, I could sneak a bike ride down twisty Moraga Road to get to the comics’ Nirvana called "Bob's Books."

Run by a guy named Julius... I almost had you there! Of course it was run by Bob, what were you thinking?

Bob's was located in the middle of the parking lot in the shopping area known as LaFiesta Square, off the road from Mount Diablo Boulevard. Nowadays, that's a ritzy little center with high-end specialty shops, restaurants and boutiques. Back then, LaFiesta Square was pretty much known as the place behind the old Lafayette Drug Store and Soda Fountain, a place that also sold some comics. Rarely the ones we ever needed--- but still a great place to get a hand-drawn root beer float after getting our treasures from Bob's!

Bob's Books was a shack, really. Consisting of two rooms, maybe 300 square feet total (though that may be pushing it) we'd walk up a half-dozen creaky stairs, pull open an even creakier door and enter into the pristine past. Old paper!! Paperbacks featuring Doc Savage and James Bond, older pulps featuring The Shadow and The Green Hornet, some older baseball cards in a very well-used display case. It was 12 year-old pre-hormone heaven.

And then there were comics. Old comics, at least to us. You see, in those days, old comics were really any comics that we hadn't seen before. So "old" could mean 1967 even if the present was only 1968.

Even still, I was limited by my meager budget, so Bob's became a place to look more than a place to buy much. On one early visit there--- I may have been with Steve or maybe I was with Eric, but this next part I do remember distinctly--- it was the first time I ever saw a copy of the first issue of Amazing Spider-Man.

"How much for the Spidey number one?" I asked.
Bob didn't even have to look to know the answer. "Five dollars."
And that's when my broke 12 year-old self said defiantly, "Five bucks?! I could by 40 new comics for that! I'll NEVER spend five dollars for any comic book!"

Famous last words, indeed.

Did I mention we have a great selection of Silver Age Amazing Spider-Man comics ranging in price from, ulp, five dollars up to hundreds of dollars each?