Bud Plant Inc.
|Comic book distributor|
|Defunct||1988 (as distributor; still operates as mail-order business)|
|Headquarters||San Jose, California, then Grass Valley, California|
Bud Plant was a wholesale comics distributor active in the 1970s and 1980s during the growth of the direct market. Starting in 1970 as a mail-order distributor specializing in underground comix, Plant absorbed some of his smaller rivals in the 1980s, and then sold his business to Diamond Comics Distributors in 1988.
Plant (born 1952) was a comics and illustrated books enthusiast from San Jose, California, who throughout his high school years bought and sold back issue comic books through ads in fanzines such as Rocket's Blast/ComicCollector. In 1968 he co-founded Seven Sons Comic Shop with five friends (including John Barrett), in San Jose. Selling Seven Sons within a year, Plant and three partners then opened another San Jose-based comics shop called Comic World.
In 1970 Plant founded Bud Plant, Inc. as a mail order company specializing in underground comix. (His Holly Drive address appears as the publishing address of the first issue of Promethean Enterprises in 1969.) In 1971, Plant and five friends spent the summer dealing comics at conventions in Houston, New York, Dallas, San Diego, Miami, Boston, and Washington, D.C.
Plant had met direct market pioneer Phil Seuling on the convention circuit; in late 1973 Seuling called Plant to inform him that he had just cut a deal to ship Archie, DC, Marvel, and Warren comic books from a new distribution center in Sparta, Illinois. Seuling offered the West Coast region to Plant, but Plant turned him down, preferring then to concentrate on the proliferating underground comix market.
Plant entered the publishing field in 1969 as one of the three publishers, along with Al Davoren and Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr., of Promethean Enterprises — a fanzine that attempted to straddle the comic/comix boundary. (Promethean Enterprises lasted from 1969–1974.) In 1972, Plant took over the publishing responsibilities of the fanzine Anomaly from Jan Strnad who had published three issues since 1969. Plant published issue #4 of Anomaly, evolving it into an underground comic.
As part of his retailing enterprise Comics & Comix (see below), in 1974 Plant co-published one issue of the underground/sword and sorcery hybrid Barbarian Killer Funnies; moving from there to the similarly themed The First Kingdom, written and illustrated by Jack Katz. (Under various publishing names, Plant published 24 issues of The First Kingdom, from 1974 to 1986.) Comics & Comix also published three issues of Jim Pinkoski's Spaced in 1974–1976; two issues of Dan O'Neill's Comics and Stories in 1975; and two issues of Alfredo Alcala's Magic Carpet in 1977–1978.
Around 1978, Plant was approached by Wendy & Richard Pini about publishing Elfquest, but he turned the couple down, as he was getting out the comics publishing business. (The Pinis went on to much success as self-publishers.)
From 1980 to 1985, Comics & Comix also published the industry trade journal Telegraph Wire.
- Promethean Enterprises (5 issues, 1969–1974)
- Anomaly #4 (Nov. 1972) — taking over from Jan Strnad
- Barbarian Killer Funnies (1974) — by Tom Bird
- The First Kingdom (24 issues, 1974–1986) — by Jack Katz
- Spaced (3 issues, 1974–1976) — by Jim Pinkoski
- Dan O'Neill's Comics and Stories vol. 2 (2 issues, 1975) — by Dan O'Neill; picked up from Company & Sons
- Magic Carpet (2 issues, 1977–1978) — by Alfredo Alcala
- Telegraph Wire (24 issues, 1980–Dec./Jan. 1985) — trade journal
Comics & Comix
In August 1972, while still an undergraduate at San Jose State University, Plant co-founded what became the comics retailer Comics & Comix in Berkeley, California, with John Barrett and Plant's housemate Robert Beerbohm. In 1973 Comics & Comix helped host the first Bay Area comics convention, Berkeleycon 73, in the Pauley Ballroom in the ASUC Building on the University of California, Berkeley campus. At that show, Comics & Comix acquired over 4,000 Golden Age comic books owned by Tom Reilly. 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.
In the early 1980s Plant supplied product to Destiny Distributors, a sub-distributor based in Seattle and Vancouver, started by Phil Pankow (which was acquired by Diamond in 1990). In 1982, Plant bought out regional rival Charles Abar Distribution, based in Belmont, California.
The year 1985 brought two important developments in the distribution industry, the bankruptcy of Seuling's Sea Gate Distributors (Seuling himself had died in 1984), and the failure of Plant's West Coast rival Pacific Comics (which by that point was also a large independent comics publisher). Plant and Midwestern distributor Capital City Distributors opened "an expanded facility in Seagate's old space in Sparta, Illinois, alongside [Pacific's old] printing plant". In 1987, Plant acquired Alternate Realities Distributing, Inc., based in Denver, Colorado, a wholesale distribution operation run by Nanette Rozanski.
By 1988, Plant dominated distribution of comics in the West Coast, finally fulfilling Seuling's 1974 vision.
Sale to Diamond
In the summer of 1988, Steve Geppi of Diamond Comics Distribution bought Plant's distribution warehouses, allowing Diamond to go "national", "thereby assuming control of "40 percent of the direct-sales market".
Later in 1988, Plant also sold Comics & Comix.
Back to basics
Since divesting himself of his distribution and brick-and-mortar retail businesses, Plant has maintained a mail-order (and now Internet) presence in art books, trade paperbacks, and rare books. Plant is known for the colorful titles of his sales catalogs:
- Bud Plant's Incredible Catalog (1987–1994)
- Bud Plant Illustrated Books (1987–2005) — out-of-print/rare book catalog
- Bud Plant's Comic Art Update (1993–2002)
- Bud Plant Comic Art Wholesale Catalog (Winter 1996)
- Bud Plant's Incorrigible Catalog — pinup art, erotic comic books, etc. (Winter 2001–2002)
- Bud Plant's Incredible Update (2003–present) — continuation of Comic Art Update
On July 5, 2011, Plant announced plans to sell his mail-order business and retire. Then in April 2012 (after failing to find a buyer) he announced plans to downsize (eliminating print catalogs) but continue operations.
- 1985: Named as one of the honorees by DC Comics in the company's 50th anniversary publication Fifty Who Made DC Great.
- Plant was the recipient of an Inkpot Award at the 1994 San Diego Comic-Con.
- "Plank" to "Plantu", Michigan State University Libraries, Special Collections Division, Reading Room Index to the Comic Art Collection.
- Plant is listed as a member of the Merry Marvel Marching Society in Fantastic Four #40, published July 1965.
- "THE TOUCAN INTERVIEW: Bud Plant: Comics Retailing Pioneer," Toucan: The Official Comic-Con & Wondercon Blog (June 28, 2013).
- Jacobson, Aileen. "Serious Comics Fans", The Washington Post (Aug 16, 1971), p. B2.
- Beerbohm, Bob. "Please Consider Buying Some Comics From Industry Icon Robert Beerbohm", The Comics Reporter (March 14, 2008).
- Comics & Comix entry, Grand Comics Database. Accessed Oct. 8, 2016.
- Beerbohm, Robert. "Comics Dealer Extraordinaire Robert Beerbohm: In His Own Words", Comic-Convention Memories (Jan. 6, 2010).
- Nolan, Michelle. "Newswatch: Pioneering Comics Retailer John Barrett Dies at 50", The Comics Journal #233 (May 2001), p. 18: Barrett died March 14, 2001.
- "Newswatch: Independent Meets Its Destiny", The Comics Journal #139 (December 1990), pp. 12–13.
- Duin, Steve and Richardson, Mike (eds.) "Bud Plant" in Comics Between the Panels (Dark Horse Publishing, 1998) ISBN 1-56971-344-8, p. 356–357.
- "Phil Seuling, father of the direct-sales Market, dies at age of 50", The Comics Journal #93 (September 1984), pp. 13-14.
- "Newswatch: Pacific Comics liquidated", The Comics Journal #95 (February 1985), p. 10.
- Sanford, Jay Allen. "Two Men and their Comic Books", San Diego Reader blog (Aug. 19, 2004).
- Rozanski, Chuck. "Returning to the Topic of My 1979 Visit to the Marvel Offices", Tales From the Database, MileHighComics.com (March 2004).
- "Bud Plant Sells Out to Diamond", The Comics Journal #124 (Aug. 1988), pp. 9–10.
- Warshaw, Michael. "From Mailman to Tycoon", Success (June, 1994), pp. 28–32.
- "Newswatch: "Comics & Comix Sold", The Comics Journal #125 (October 1988), pp. 23–24.
- Bud Plant (July 5, 2011). "Bud Plant to Retire-- Offers Catalog & Internet Business of 41 Years for Sale". blog of BudsArtBooks.com. Archived from the original on August 12, 2011. Retrieved October 28, 2011.
- We're Back! Big News.
- Marx, Barry, Cavalieri, Joey and Hill, Thomas (w), Petruccio, Steven (a), Marx, Barry (ed). "Bud Plant Comics Retailing Expands" Fifty Who Made DC Great: 47 (1985), DC Comics
- Schelly, Bill. "Finding the Inner Bud". Pt. 1 Alter Ego #47 (April 2005) pp. 67–73; pt. 2 Alter Ego #48 (May 2005) pp. 68–73.
- Schelly, Bill. Founders of Comics Fandom. "Bud Plant (b. 1952)". Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2010. pp. 46–48.