Ross Rojek was once the owner of the largest chain of comic shops in America, Comics & Comix, as well as the largest online comics operation, Another Universe who, amongst other things, hosted a previous version of Newsarama. Previously, he also distributed a number of comic titles to Tower Records. A series of events led to a number of people, creators, publishers and customers losing money and stock, and never successfuly recovering what was owed.
It was the issuing of a DVD set of My So-Called Life that caused the most public fuss as the project was plagued by triple charging customers, late shipping and product problems, leading to websites setting in an attempt for customers to recover their money.
But it would be an offered investment opportunity for a new system of face recognition software in the light of the 9/11 attacks that would prove Ross Rojeks’s downfall, after $1.3 million was sought from 112 investors, the software never materialised and Rojek was sentenced to six years in 2004, even making a headline on The Drudge Report. Released in April 2008, nothing was heard in the industry from this man who was once one of the bigger movers and shakers in comics.
It appears that during his time in prison, he started plans for a book review service. Contacting book publicists on release, he then met graphic designer Heidi Komolofske (pictured with Ross) and joined 1776 Productions, starting the Sacramento Book Review, a newspaper and website. The paper reviews books, with over a hundred volunteer reviewers contributing. And one year on, they have just set up the San Francisco Book Review.
According to Heidi;
Ross has the publishing background, and I have the graphic design and marketing background. He’s not interested in getting back into the comic industry, but we do have a sequential art section to every issue we publish, along with about 29 other genres of books.
Ross’s role at 1776 Productions is as senior editor and co-publisher. I am the owner of the company, and Ross is one of my employees.
It is worth pointing out that whatever his crimes, Ross has served his time for those he was arrested and found guilty of, and has contributed to setting up a small business with an appreciative audience and writers who are happy to add content. And I can’t see him getting into comic books for quite some time.
Unless they take Sacramento resident Josh Hoopes on as an intern…
UPDATE: I talked to Ross who gave me his whole side of the story. He writes;
When I got out of prison, I started working for a friend who was interested in publishing my book review idea. I had been thinking about what to do with my life after I got out of prison, and I’d always been interested in published, so I began looking into it while in prison. I also went back to school while at one institution, and did some book reviews for the school paper, which helped take me down this path.
I had been the librarian at two different prison camps, and in trying to find enough new books to keep me busy I ended up reading a number of different book reviews and review sections. From there I started drafting my “dream” book review that would be helpful to me in my situation.
When my friend was unable to follow through with the book review, Heidi stepped up and offered to create and produce the paper. We got my parole officer to approve it, and as Heidi’s employee, a portion of every paycheck goes to my restitution.
The issue you bring up about the Tower distribution may not be easy to resolve. For a year I helped Tower add graphic novels and card games to their stores. Tower purchased those items through a distributor they owned called Bayside Distribution. I know bayside often didn’t pay vendors until they needed to restock products from them. After that year, I started doing distribution directly to tower, buying books from publishers myself and extending credit to tower. It is quite possible I may owe people money from those days, but there are no surviving records from those days, so I don’t know. Bayside may have been responsible for some of them, but as they are out of business as well, that’s probably also impossible to straighten out. It’s probably easy enough to hold me responsible for both anyway.
The Sacramento Book Review can be found here.