Saturday, August 20, 2022

Stockton, Comics & National Radio Day


Today is National Radio Day. My professional days in radio at KJOY-AM in Stockton CA are definitely a fond part of my history.

Before the long story, though, let's talk about the awesome t-shirt I'm wearing in the photo here. It's a gift from the good folks at Visit Stockton. It debuted last week at StocktonCon. I was happy to get mine this week.

So what does the cool new tshirt have to do with this being National Radio Day? Read on for the long story!

I worked at KJOY from 1978-1988. While I was supposed to be just an advertising sales executive, I dabbled in other facets of the radio station operations. I wrote a ton of commercials, helped with some comedy bits, gave my opinions to the music director and spearheaded some station promotions. I even did traffic reports from a helicopter once!

During my years in radio, I was also a regular customer at Al's Comic Shop on Pacific Avenue in Stockton. The shop opened in the late '70s and is still going to this day. (Stop in when you visit Stockton and tell them I sent you.)

In the fall of 1985, as the 25th anniversary of the Marvel Age of Comics was approaching, I came up with a little scheme to combine my job at KJOY with my deep comics' fandom. I thought it would be cool if Marvel Comics would recognize Stockton as the "birthplace of the Fantastic Four"... and even better if it meant some good publicity for KJOY, for comics and for Stockton.

It was stated in the first issue of Fantastic Four in 1961 that the FF were from a place called Central City (later amended to "Central City, California"). Marvel characters were based in other real cities-- New York, Chicago, San Francisco... even Palos Verdes, fer cryin' out loud! Since there is no real "Central City CA" I wanted Stockton, the most central city in California, to be officially recognized as the birthplace of the FF.

So I talked with Al and Mike at Al's Comic Shop, asked them if I could post a petition in their shop. They agreed and helped to round up the hundreds of signatures we got on that petition. Once that happened, I took the signatures to a Stockton City Council meeting and asked the city to get behind the drive. After some silly mumbling questions from local politicians clearly embarrassed that I was asking them to get behind a comic book idea, they agreed and issued a resolution asking Marvel to recognize Stockton as the FF's home.

When that happened, it hit the Associated Press and United Press International newswires... and the fun really started. I did scores of interviews and the petition drive was covered all over the country. But the one with the most impact was the report from Charles "Chuck" Hillinger, a very well respected features reporter for the Los Angeles Times. As part of his report, he called Stan Lee to get a response. Stan said "Marvel is in the business of saving universes on a daily basis. This is the least we can do for good ol' Stockton."

And so it went. In February 1986, Stan Lee visited Stockton to deliver Marvel's proclamation declaring Stockton as the "Official Birthplace of Marvel Comics' Fantastic Four." The 25th anniversary issue of Fantastic Four was released months later.

Shortly after that, Stan Lee called me to ask if I would consider doing freelance public relations' work for the release of his wife's first novel. I did this while still working at KJOY, but the allure and fun of comics would mean I'd soon be looking to make a professional career move away from radio and into comics. (Although I first tried to combine comics and radio again by creating and writing a short radio feature about comics and pop culture. After close to 20 rejection letters from radio syndicates, that little dream died.)

I then did some freelance advertising and promotion work for a group of Bay Area retailers starting an event that would become known as WonderCon. I loved hanging with those guys, talking comics and trying to produce the friendliest big convention ever. That led to the decision to leave radio and open a comic book store. And in fairly short order, I also became one of the managing general partners at WonderCon.

My shop, Flying Colors Comics & Other Cool Stuff, is still going strong 34 years later, due to the kind support of so many FlyCo Faithful in and around Concord and all over Northern California.

And even though I live in Concord these days I still have a very fond spot in my heart for Stockton. It's a cool little city I can recommend visiting for a "fantastic" time.

Thank you, Visit Stockton, for the cool tshirt...and for the opportunity to share this story on National Radio Day.

Peace 'n Comics!
Joe "FlyCoJoe" Field

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