Today, For The Comic Industry, Is #ThankYouBob Wayne Day

Bob and Bacon

Today is DC Comics’ last day in New York City as the offices on 1700 Broadway close, the publisher relocating to Burbank/ It is also the last day for 77 DC employees who have declined to make the move west to Burbank. One is Bob Wayne, Senor VP Sales, leaving the company after twenty-eight years. A comic book retailer from Texas, his absence from the company will be mourned by retailer, employee, creator and peer. Here’s what a few of them had to say. Feel free to leave your own story in the comments or on social media with the following hashtag, and let’s make this #ThankYouBobWayne Day…

Chris Powell, Vice President – Retailer Services at Diamond Comic Distributors

I first met Bob at the World Science-Fiction Convention in San Antonio, TX in 1997. As we ran into one another at other trade shows and conventions, we developed a great friendship based on our common appreciation for all things Texan, barbecue, or comics.

Bob, more deeply than maybe anyone else I know, cares about comics, the people who create them, and the people who sell them. He is proud to have spent his career working for a company that shares his belief that doing what is right, even when it’s not necessarily the easiest or most profitable thing, is what is best in the long-term.

Put succinctly: I trust no one in comics more than I trust Bob Wayne. I trust his advice, with which he’s been generous, I trust his analysis of industry trends and happenings, and I trust that he will always treat others fairly.

Bob has made an impact on everyone who creates, sells, or reads comics, whether they know it or not, and I’m very proud to be his friend. I’m sad to see him leaving DC, but look forward to whatever he chooses to do down the road.

Paul Levitz, comic book writer and former president and publisher of DC Comics,

So many moments…but a favorite was a late dinner in Baltimore during a visit to Diamond, when we had heard that the Spirit rights might become available, debating whether it would be better done in our Archive format or like Russ Cochran’s E.C. series…two old comics fans, helping shape a project close to both our hearts.

Joe Field, owner of Flying Colors and founder of Free Comic Book Day,

Bob is the guy with more institutional knowledge about comics than anyone else still working on the business side. I’m certain that cannot be replaced by anyone else. I don’t think I can overstate how important it is for this industry to have executives on the business side that have a history and a lifelong involvement with comics, starting as fans.
I am sure that DC Entertainment will feel a huge void with Bob‘s leaving the company, but I’m happy he’s going out on his terms and leaving to do whatever he chooses to. As a friend of his for many years, I’m looking forward to learning what that will be and wish Bob all the best in everything he does.

Mike Richardson, owner and publisher of Dark Horse Comics

I’ve known Bob for 25 years or so. He (along with Paul Levitz) was always a rational voice at DC. I remember sometime back in the early ‘90s (wearing my retailer’s hat)  when Bob helped change the existing and inexplicable policy of keeping hot books out of print in order to build demand. From that time on, if I had a problem, Bob was the guy.

My fondest moment with Bob:  I remember he and I sitting in a distributor convention in Hawaii and laughing so hard we cried when the new owner of Comico unveiled his slogan for the company’s relaunch: COMICO – IT’S OUR NAME!  Yes, it was. 

Atom! Freeman, Sales Manager of Valiant Entertainment

The first time I bought a comic with my own money was at one of Bob‘s stores in Fort Worth, Texas. The first comics professional I ever met was Bob. As a retailer, I knew that Bob had my back in one of the most powerful positions in this industry. As a sales professional in publishing, Bob is the yardstick that I measure myself by daily.

For these, and many more reasons, I owe Bob Wayne a lot. I don’t know that I will ever pay him back personally but I’ll never stop trying to pay it forward professionally.

Brian Hibbs, of Comix Experience

Bob Wayne is the most cantankerous son of a bitch I know; and he’s almost always the one in the room who actually understands what he is talking about.  Comics are going to be a massively poorer place without Bob running herd at DC.

I know that, for me, he was the guy who kept me smarter, and on the track, and that nearly the worst moment of my life was the night he met my parents and got them telling stories of my adolescence that he could use against me for years to come!

Which he did.

Jim Valentino, publisher of Shadowline at Image Comics,

When my son, Aaron was a kid, Bob used to find him at every San Diego Con and tell him that he wanted Aaron to come to work for DC on Batman.

For a few years there I think Aaron thought Bob was serious and was thrilled as only a kid can be. But as he grew older, he realized Bob was teasing him and started looking for Bob at the shows so he could get his gentle ribbing.

It was a side of Bob most folks didn’t see, I’d wager and one that Aaron and I will always remember fondly as I told him when I saw him at ComicsPro here in Portland last month.

Someone moving on is often cited as the passing of an era.

In this case, I think it’s no cliche. Bob Wayne, our oft times friendly adversary will surely be missed.

Portlyn Polston of Brave New World Comics,

Bob Wayne has been an advocate for comic book retailers for as long as he’s been in the business. This hasn’t gone unnoticed, and will most certainly be missed. He has always been approachable, if a little intimidating, but available to those brave enough to reach out. Never one to pull punches, I have found that when he has visited my stores, his advice on product mix, merchandising, and general operations have been invaluable. My hope is that he knows how much impact he has had, and that he finds a way to continue giving advice…not just about where to find the best Tex-Mex or barbecue in a given city…but about how to have a long and extraordinary career in comics.

Rick Veitch writer/artist on Swamp Thing, Tomorrow Stories, Maximortal and publisher of King Hell Press:

We called him “Wayniac” back in the day. A Texas tornado looking for a trailer park to cuddle up to, Bob Wayne saw the future. His intention was to drag hidebound DC Comics into the modern world of comics marketing. Publishing ain’t beanbag and its fair to say some veterans in the Bigs gleefully hoped the kid would fall flat on his face.

Known for working harder than a one-legged-man in a butt kicking contest, Bob’s boot heel probably did find a banana peel now and then. But he always got up, dusted himself off and proceeded to beat everyone’s brains out in the marketplace.

Personally, I’ve always admired how Bob grew in the job; ultimately becoming a world class diplomatic presence for DC. A master of who-needs-to-know-what-and-when, Bob graces any conversation with a wit that can split electrons from atoms.

Bob leaves the poker table at the top of his game; the last of an influential generation of big bug executives who roamed the earth in very interesting times. His impact on our art form is probably wider and deeper than any of us could imagine.

Like everyone else, I hope he stays in comics.

And I hope he writes his memoirs.

Scott Dunbier, Special Projects Editor at IDW Publishing and previous EIC at Wildstorm:

It’s hard to imagine DC Comics not being in New York City—the company has been based there for nearly 80 years. And while Bob Wayne has not called DC home for quite that long (although some unkind people who have had his wrathful gaze leveled at them might argue that it feels like he has), it has been more than 25 years since Mr. Wayne packed up and moved “Stately Wayne Manor” to New York. So, with the same day departure of Bob and DC’s New York offices, we are seeing the end of not one but two institutions.

Bob Wayne joined DC Comics on August 3, 1987. I know this because when I called him today and casually asked how long he had been with the company he asked “Did Rich Johnston email you?” Typical Bob. He came to New York from Texas, where he was a retailer (DC Veep Hank Kanalz was one of his employees as a teenager). He is an avid reader, fanatical about music, and is a BBQ connoisseur. He has a razor sharp, sarcastic sense of humor that I enjoy but is not everyone’s cup of tea. He has a deep respect of comics and an encyclopedic knowledge of the art form that can only come from a lifetime of loving them. He is also a loyal friend and has been known to stick his neck out in order to do what he feels is the right thing—I’ve seen him try to mend fences (hell, we mended some together over the years) that you could drive a truck through.

I look forward to continuing our long-standing tradition of having Dim Sum together every year just before Comic-Con.

And, for the record, I don’t count Bob Wayne as one of my closest friends at DC Comics. I count Bob Wayne as one of my closest friends.

Ryan Liebowitz of Golden Apple Comics

I don’t really have one story, but many wrapped up into one overall experience with Bob Wayne. Bob spent many meals with my Father and I and our Family looking for the best BBQ restaurants in America. We’ve had countless hours of enjoyment spent with Bob over some good smoked meats. My Dad Bill passed along his & Bob’s love of BBQ to me and it is what I will always remember Bob for the most. Yeah, I know he also did a great job brining his retailing experience to DC and making our businesses thrive while he was at the the helm like returnable product, deep discounts and keeping good books in print but the personal time he spent with us was the best. I know he could have easily taken some A-List talent or execs to dinner but we are friends first and that is what I admire most. I only hope to have a few more good meals with Bob in the coming years because that was always the best moments we spent. The only difference now is that the food will no doubt be much healthier and I will have to pay!

Pam Noles, Guest Relations, San Diego Comic Con

People who work for the convention center itself are not allowed to go onto the show floor or into the panel rooms. They’re generally restricted to the lobby areas, where they direct traffic, answer questions, check badges and so forth. A friend of mine is one of those people.

The year the Watchmen film was released, the studio offered two bits of awesome swag — a giant bag and a T-shirt, both decorated with the movie version of the Comedian’s blood-splattered smiley face. There was MUCH swapping and wrangling among attendees trying to get one or both of these items.

Every time I zipped past my friend at her post in the lobby, she looked very sad, which was unusual for her. Like me, she’s a cheery person (and more important to me) she always treats the fans with upbeat courtesy. Eventually, on Friday, I asked what was wrong. It turns out her husband had been deployed to Iraq just before show started, missing the con for the first time in 11 years. He was also a huge fan of Watchmen (the book) and Dave Gibbons. Seeing all this Watchmen stuff going on around her, knowing she couldn’t go onto the exhibit floor to try and get him a Watchmen bag, or even go to Gibbons’ panel to get him to sign a piece of paper for her husband without getting fired, was breaking her heart.

O. HELL. NO.

Eventually I managed to swap/wrangle/victorious after-hours drinking contest my way to a swag Watchmen T-shirt, but I couldn’t get a bag. People were just *not* giving those up. Gibbons had a spotlight panel I couldn’t attend because of my worker bee duties.

Enter Bob Wayne.

I’m zipping from one worker bee duty to another when I spot him in the lobby, ambush him, and deliver the entire saga in one loud run-on sentence. Here is his slightly reconstructed reaction…his part was in his characteristic deadpan humor:

Me: <GIANTRUNONSENTENCELOUDANDFAST.>

Bob: … You need a bag and an autograph for your friend’s husband.

Me: Yes but LIKE I SAID, I don’t have a bag, I have a T-shirt. At least it’s something! Can you–

Bob: You got a T-shirt? … I couldn’t get one.

Me: What? You work for them, though.

Bob: I work for DC.

Me: But —

Bob: I *do* have a bag. <pulls Watchmen giant bag from his tote>

Me: <stares, confused>

Bob: <waits patiently>

Me: <lightbulb clicks> OMG WILL YOU SWAP WITH ME

Bob: What’s the husband’s name?

 

Bob swapped his bag for my T-shirt, and he got Dave Gibbons to personalize the bag to my friend’s soldier husband. When I gave her the bag on the last day of show that year, she broke down in tears. Later, she told me that when the bag arrived in Iraq her husband was looked upon as a rock star among his peers.

None of that would have happened without Bob Wayne taking a little bit of time out of his typically obscenely busy schedule to bring joy to a random fan (and his wife) he didn’t even know.

I think he’s done this kind of thing for all sorts of fans over the years. He is the epitome of Executive Geek (to borrow a phrase from Eddie Izzard).

I am thankful for Bob Wayne. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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