At the end of last week's column, I promised you that I would expand upon my
theory of being a counterculture capitalist. This is a description of a very
personal nature, as I feel it helps define in many respects why I have been
successful. In beginning this explanation, I certainly realize that there
are still many among you who believe that my happenstance discovery of the
Edgar Church collection of Golden Age comics, all the way back in 1977,
provided the basis of my career in the world of comics. While I certainly
acknowledge that having that fortuitous injection of working capital helped
my career, I would disagree with those of you who believe that working
capital alone, can guarantee success. I think that my attitudes about how
to treat others fairly has made more of a difference than any other factor,
and I think they are the key for anyone seeking to start their own business.
Since striking out on your own is the Great American Dream, I thought you
might find it interesting to hear what works from someone who has actually
lived that dream.
I'll begin by stating that there are no saints or angels walking this earth.
What I mean by that statement is that we are all human, and that we all make
mistakes and misjudgments. There's not a day that goes by where I don't look
back upon one or more of my actions and ask myself "Why did I do that?"
Wishing that you could take back an action where you inadvertently did
wrong to another is nothing of which to be ashamed. In fact, I believe
that critically analyzing your past interactions with others to be sure
that you're obeying the Golden Rule is one of the most important steps
that you can take if you wish to achieve success.
Another major factor in achieving success in life, or business, is an
awareness of the critical nature of the relationship of yourself, and your
context. In my case, my context has almost entirely been the world of
comics. I started selling comics at the age of 14, and now have been helping
other fans with their collections for over 32 years. When I first started,
I viewed the world of comics as this gigantic worldwide enterprise, where
the actions of any one individual had little, if any impact. As a result of
that perception, I never considered the consequences of my actions as they
effected the world of comics. I simply assumed that comics would survive,
regardless of my actions.
As I grew older, I began to realize that the comics business was critically
ill. Newsstand sales were dropping precipitously in the early 1970's in the
face of alternative forms of entertainment (especially television), and
fewer and fewer retail outlets were even bothering to install a spin rack.
Even in my late teens, this decline was so clearly evident that I hesitated
at first to commit myself to a lifetime of selling comics. Why dedicate you
life to a context that was on the edge of disappearing forever?
In the end, I couldn't resist the challenge. I saw what Phil Seuling was
doing in distributing comics directly to comics shops with his newly formed
Seagate Distributing (1972), and I thought I saw a chance that comics might
survive. That was enough inspiration for me to drop my full scholarship to
the University of Colorado in 1974, and instead choose to live in the back
seat of a 1963 Chevy Impala, traveling from comics convention to comics
Where my history is critical to this discussion is that my decision was
based almost entirely on passion, not on common sense. In my interpretation,
the essence of counterculture capitalism is that it seeks to create value
in areas where others see no opportunity, and that it strives to achieve
that success in a manner which nurtures growth in its overriding context.
In committing to building the context, the individual recognizes that his
or her success is dependent not only upon their own success, but also the
success of their context. If this sounds familiar, that might be because
it is a loose paraphrasing of the economic theory which won the Nobel
Prize in Economics for John Nash, the subject of the film "A Beautiful
To take this all out of the theoretical, and make it more concrete for you,
I had a heated discussion with another major comics retailer at a
invitation-only Marvel Comics retreat in Tarrytown, NY in 1996. The topic
of the debate was the newly introduced proposal by Marvel to stop all of
their existing numbering sequences, and restart all their titles with
issue #1. This other retailer strongly believed that a fortune could be
made by hustling these new #1 issues to speculators, and that I should
eagerly embrace such a proposal. I countered with the argument that while
I agreed that short-term revenues would increase, I was far more concerned
that many long-term collectors would be disillusioned by such a marketing
ploy, and would see this as an opportunity to simply stop collecting those
titles. What was the value of short term gains, if we diminished our core
readership even further than had already occurred in 1996? The response of
this other retailer (who is now blessedly out of business) was "Why should
I care? If I'm still in this business in five years, I'll consider myself a
To be continued...
Please send your e-mails to
your letters to:
Mile High Comics, Inc.
Attn: Chuck Rozanski
2151 W. 56th Ave.
Denver, CO 80221