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|Born||Robert Lee Beerbohm
June 17, 1952
Long Beach, California
|Education||University of Nebraska-Lincoln
California State University, Hayward
|Occupation||Comic book historian and retailer|
Robert Lee "Bob" Beerbohm (born June 17, 1952) is an American comic book historian and retailer who has been intimately involved with the rise of comics fandom since 1966. Beginning as a teenager in the late 60s, he became a fixture in the growing comic convention scene, while in the 1970s and 1980s he was heavily involved in Bay Area comic book retailing and distribution.
Beerbohm has been a consultant and author detailing the early history of comics in the United States, including rediscovering the first comic book in America, Rodolphe Töpffer's The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck. He has supplied data and visual aids as listed in the acknowledgements of over 200 books on comics and counting.
Robert Beerbohm Comic Art
In October 1966, while still in junior high school, Beerbohm took out his first ad in Rocket's Blast Comicollector (a.k.a. RBCC) #47, launching what has eventually become known as Robert Beerbohm Comic Art. The company sells vintage American popular culture artifacts (mostly comic books) via the internet. Beerbohm set up a booth at his first comics convention June 16–18, 1967, at the first Houstoncon. Traveling 28 hours on a Greyhound bus, Beerbohm turned 15 the first day of that seminal show.
Early conventions he attended also included DallasCon in the summer of 1968; and Houstoncon, the Detroit Triple Fan Fair, and the St. Louis World SF Convention in 1969. In 1970, along with friend Stephen Johnson he set up at Oklahoma City's Multicon, Phil Seuling's Comic Art Convention (the first of many appearances there), the first PhoenixCon hosted by Bruce Hamilton, the only Disneyland Hotel Comicon, another Detroit Triple Fan Fair, and the first San Diego Comic-Con, held at the U.S. Grant Hotel. By 1971, Beerbohm was a regular at most national comics shows, including New York City's first Creation Con, held on Thanksgiving weekend. In 1972, Beerbohm set up tables of vintage comics at almost a dozen comics conventions, including the first Chicago Comicon. He has sold comics at San Diego Comic-Con every year since the first one in 1970.
Also in 1970 he acquired from publisher Russ Cochran (who had originally received it from EC publisher William Gaines) the original art to the very first Superman cover drawn by Joe Shuster back in early 1933 for Chicago's Humor Publishing Company. The art was in four pieces and fire-tinged along the edges, from when Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel literally pulled it out of the Shuster family fireplace after Shuster got depressed with the first of what turned out to be many rejections. Beerbohm did not know what he had at the time, but knew it needed to be preserved on some level, so he had a couple hundred twice-up original-size poster prints made at a local printer. This image has since shown up in many books on DC Comics history.
Comics and Comix
In April 1973 Comics & Comix hosted the first Bay Area comics convention, Berkeleycon 73, in the Pauley Ballroom in the ASUC Building on the University of California, Berkeley campus. Berkeleycon was the first comic-con that highlighted underground comix. At Berkeleycon 73, Comics & Comix acquired over 4,000 Golden Age comic books owned by Tom Reilly. Beerbohm personally sold a good majority of the highest-grade items from the pedigree Reilly collection, including a copy of Detective Comics #27 (which sold for $2,200 — the first comic book to break the $2,000 barrier). The phenomenal sales of the Reilly collection enabled Comics & Comix to open more retail locations, first in San Francisco (May 1973), on Columbus Avenue (down from the North Beach area on the way to Fisherman's Wharf), and later in San Jose and Sacramento, making it the first comic book chain store in America.
Beerbohm, John Barrett and Bud Plant as Comics & Comix published the first three issues of Jack Katz' The First Kingdom beginning in 1974. They also published comics by Jim Pinkoski and Dan O'Neill during Beerbohm's involvement.
Beerbohm stayed with Comics & Comix until early 1975 (the chain itself lasted until 2004).
Best of Two Worlds
In November 1976, Beerbohm opened his first solo comic book store Best of Two Worlds, its first location being in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district at 1707 Haight Street, across the street from the Straight Theater. In May 1977, Beerbohm took over Comics & Comix' old location at 2512 Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, when his former partners at Comics & Comix moved to a larger location on the next block, and in October 1978 with then-partner Gary Wood he opened a branch of Best of Two Worlds, called Funny Pages, on Pier 39/Fisherman's Wharf. Eventually, Best of Two Worlds had locations in San Francisco's Sunset District in Irving Street, and the Brickyard Mall in Santa Rosa. By this time Robert Borden had bought out Gary Wood, and Rory Root had bought in as a 14% co-owner. Among the employees of Best of Two Worlds at various times were underground comix artists Roger Brand, Kim Deitch, and Bruce Simon.
During this period, in c. 1978, Beerbohm founded the "sub-distributor" Common Ground Distributors, which was initially supplied by Detroit-based distributor Big Rapids Distribution. In 1982, Common Ground was acquired by the Midwestern company Capital City Distribution, which enabled Capital City owners Milton Griepp and John Davis to expand the distributor's operations beyond the immediate Chicago/Milwaukee area.
In addition to retailing and distribution, Beerbohm again published comics during this era.
Best of Two Worlds went out of business in February 1987 due to the massive flooding of its central warehouse in Emeryville, California a year earlier in February 1986.
Best Comics and the Rick Griffin art gallery
After the demise of Best of Two Worlds, Beerbohm maintained just one store. He shortened the name to just Best Comics in the Haight Ashbury, which operated from 1987–1992. That last location was immortalized in Terry Zwigoff's 1994 documentary Crumb, in the scenes where Crumb and his former publisher Don Donahue are in a comic book store discussing comics.
In June 1991, Beerbohm, with partner Edward Walker, opened Best Comics and Rock Art Gallery, an art gallery centered on seminal rock poster illustrator Rick Griffin in Fisherman's Wharf at The Cannery. The store's grand opening party June 1, 1991, featured bands like Big Brother and The Holding Company, New Riders of the Purple Sage, members of Quicksilver Messenger Service, It's a Beautiful Day, the Irish band Phoenix, and others. Tragically, two and a half months later, Griffin was killed in a motorcycle accident; Beerbohm and Walker were forced to close the gallery in 1992.
With his friend Steve Johnson, Beerbohm publishing five issues of the fanzine Fanzation in 1969–1970. #3 (1969) contains a letter by Amazing Spider-Man creator Steve Ditko on creativity quoted by Dr. Fredric Wertham in his last book The World of Fanzines (1974). #5 contains articles by Ted White and Jack Promo on origins of 1950s EC fandom and fanzines. Also, articles by Jerry Bails on the origins of Alter Ego and Bill Wallace on origins of Houston fandom amongst others.
Beginning in the 1980s, Beerbohm worked as a consultant on a number of publication related to popular culture, specifically comics and rock music. Clients included the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide (1981–2013), The Big Little Book Price Guide (1980–1983), and The Underground and New Wave Comix Price Guide (1981) among many others. He has been invited back inside Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide every year since #27 1997.
As a comics historian, Beerbohm rediscovered the first comic book in America, Rodolphe Töpffer's The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck, published on Sept 14, 1842, by Wilson & Co., New York City, as Brother Jonathan Extra #9, which is in the same format as a "modern" day comic book, sans staples, which had not yet been invented.
In the 1990s and 2000s, since closing down brick and mortar outlets and converting to more of an Internet presence, Beerbohm has authored and co-authored numerous articles for the comics trade press on such topics as the history of American comics, the evolution of the direct market, and individual creators.
Beerbohm, retailing partner Bud Plant, Terry Stroud, and Dick Swan were involved in a van accident in June 1973 coming out of the Houstoncon. Beerbohm suffered long term damage to his hip joint cartilage which caused him to eventually have hip replacement surgery in October 2009.
- "The Big Bang Theory of Comic Book History" (Comic Book Marketplace, 1997)
- "The Mainline Comics Story: An Initial Examination" (Jack Kirby Collector #25, 1998)
- "Secret Origins of the Direct Market Part One: 'Affidavit Returns' - The Scourge of Distribution" (Comic Book Artist #6, Oct. 1999)
- "Secret Origins of the Direct Market Part Two: Phil Seuling and the Undergrounds Emerge," (Comic Book Artist #7, Mar. 2000)
- "The Illustrated Books of Frank King" (Comic Art #1, 2001)
- "Topffer in America" (Comic Art #3, 2003) (with Doug Wheeler and Leonardo De Sa)
- "The American Comic Book: 1929-Present: The Modern Comics Magazine Supplants the Earlier Formats" (Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide #40, 2010) (with Richard Olson, PhD) — article has been continuously expanded and revised every year by the authors since Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide #27 (1997)
- Beerbohm profile, Who's Who of American Comic Books, 1928–1999. Accessed May 29, 2012.
- Beerbohm LinkedIn profile. Accessed May 29, 2012.
- Beerbohm, Robert. "Update to Comics Dealer Extraordinaire Robert Beerbohm: In His Own Words," Comic-Convention Memories (June 24, 2010).
- Nolan, Michelle. "Newswatch: Pioneering Comics Retailer John Barrett Dies at 50," The Comics Journal #233 (May 2001).
- Benhari. "First Comix Con Right On?", Berkeley Barb (April 27—May 3, 1973).
- Comics & Comix entry, Grand Comics Database. Accessed Oct. 8, 2016.
- FOLKART, BURT A. (20 August 1991). "Rick Griffin; Psychedelic Artist Adorned Rock Music Posters". Retrieved 24 October 2016 – via LA Times.
- Duin, Steve, and Richardson, Mike. Comics Between the Panels (Dark Horse Comics, 1998), p. 333–335.