DC Entertainment SR VP Sales Bob Wayne will retire — and nothing will ever be the same

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When DC announced their move to Burbank, I was told the first name on the list of people who weren’t going was SR VP of Sales, Bob Wayne. Wayne was already near retirement age, and had been dealing with some health issues. Plus he pretty much invented everything that we know about the current direct sales market…so why add another disruptive move to his CV when he’d done it all already?

It’s being reported that Wayne confirmed his retirement following 28 years of service at DC at the recent Diamond Summit—despite the same website previously reporting he was moving. Well, this time I chose to believe the reports.

Bob is just about the last of the founding father of the comics shop era to remain in a position of power, and once he leaves everything will truly change. It was going to change no matter what, so I hope Bob enjoys his VERY well deserved retirement to Texas at long last. (I’m told Diamond retailer summits used to be held in Texas just so Wayne could visit his old haunts.)

It’s pretty impossible to overstate the importance of Bob Wayne to the direct sales market. He was the single most influential voice to comics retailers. At a previous summit, I noted that a picture of an actress in a bikini elicited tepid enthusiasm, while a photo of BOB WAYNE ON THE COVER OF MAD MAGAZINEdrew raucous cheers.
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Why the mad love? Bob understood comics retailers and their issues as no one else did, and spoke their language. Perhaps it was his background as a shop owner himself in Texas, he knew the sweat of unpacking boxes and the excitement of seeing a new issue of your favorite character. Setting up an actual department to call up retailers and get them to order more copies of books? Offering returnability on risky issues? Giveaways like posters, co-ops, Green Lantern rings? All things that Wayne invented or championed. While Marvel adopted a more “tough love” approach to retailers—and remained the #1 publisher most months—Wayne and his people were always there to listen and to hold hands. It’s not a question of why they weren’t number 1 during Wayne’s tenure, but how much bigger the gap with Marvel would have been had Wayne not been there.

For conspiracy theorists, there’s also the fact that things Bob Wayne didn’t like—formats, genres—tended to be looked at as risky long after other places had proved they weren’t. Whether this was just Bob’s caution or his canny reading of retailers’ likes and dislike is up to historians to judge.

Wayne’s departure from DC when it moved as, as mentioned, pretty much a given among everyone I’ve spoken with. I’m sure DC’s Burbank managers already have a “replacement” plan although Bob is definitely irreplaceable. I know a bunch of folks from the sales department are making the move, so there will be some continuity. I understand there is a new DC exec who replaced the departing John Rood, but when I asked back in December I was told that DC’s retail operations would stay under co-publisher Dan DiDio and Jim Lee. However I was also told that “Bob Wayne isn’t going any where!” so…

I don’t get the feeling that the Burbank Warners establishment has any desire to deal with the quirks and individualized complaints of comics retailers—where every bent corner requires an apology and a pledge—and WB is ditching every other magazine department, so we’re unlikely to see anyone every develop this particular skill set again.

One thing is for sure, nothing about comics retailing will ever be the same. With Bob’s retirement, it’s like when Gandalf went to the Grey Havens. The little hobbitses will have to fend for themselves in the Age of (Studio)Men.

On a personal note, although we’ve had our testy exchanges, as did everyone who knew Bob, he’s one of my oldest friends in the business, and I’ll never forget the time he drove me and some pals to Stonehenge. Or our lunch at that dreadful restaurant in Bristol on the same trip. Or many other things, like him showing me a pile of cookies at a San Diego con. I hope he gets the relaxation and rest he deserves. And I know he’ll be watching the unfolding of comics with a wry grin and a tart observation. I hope we get to hear a few of them!

Comments

  1. Bob deserves every accolade coming his way. As I’ve said at other times and in other places, working alongside him was one of the highlights of my brief tenure at DC. He was able to teach this particular old dog some new tricks and I will forever be grateful for that. He also has great taste in music and barbecue. And when he writes his book, I hope he gives me a cool name.

  2. Torsten Adair says:

    I met Bob at San Diego one year, back in the 90s. DC was announcing forthcomng collected editions, and even asked the audience (a tiny, standing-room-only panel room back near the fan clubs) for suggestions.

    I took my business card, and filled up the back with teeny-tiny ideas, and handed it to him as the room cleared.

    A few months later, he asked me if I had any more ideas, and invited me to 1700 Broadway for a meeting. I handed him a print-out of about 20 more ideas, some which I’m sure they were already thinking of. (I still want to see a “death” collection…and a Showcase Cancelled Comics Calvacade.)

    He always had time for my crazy questions whenever our paths crossed, and usually a good reason why it wasn’t done.

    He even suggested I interview for a position at DC, which is probably the highest compliment.

    Oh, and you forgot one thing… he also wrote the occasional comic book!
    Retailer, comics writer, Senior VP… Hmm… Maybe DC should hire Mark Waid to replace him!

  3. Tom Mason says:

    Aw, man, I figured he wouldn’t make the trek. Good for him, though, and I hope he enjoys retirement. He’s always been a great guy and I’ve enjoyed running into him on the convention circuit over the years.

  4. Johnny Memeonic says:

    A few months later, he asked me if I had any more ideas, and invited me to 1700 Broadway for a meeting. I handed him a print-out of about 20 more ideas, some which I’m sure they were already thinking of. (I still want to see a “death” collection…and a Showcase Cancelled Comics Calvacade.)

    I hope you got paid a consultation fee for this.

  5. Jackie Estrada says:

    Bob was also the architect of “Wayne’s World,” as the DC booth at Comic-Con was nicknamed when it debuted at the brand-new San Diego Convention Center in 1991.

  6. Bob Wayne, Paul Levitz, Karen Berger… the list of the Old Guard leaving just gets longer as DC plows ahead towards its own costly destruction.

    When Fables ends, when Sandman: Overture is finished, when DC finally gets around to publishing Seaguy, what will be left? – other than a bunch of corporate Californians left in charge of cultural icons they have no earthly clue how to properly handle.

    Also – despite the profits, I’ve seen used toilet tissue used for better creative means than any screenplay written by David Goyer. It had to be said.

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  1. […] DC was not taken aback by Bob Wayne’s official announcement of his retirement, as the new SVP of Sales and Business Development was waiting in the wings. 16 year WB vet and […]

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