From Mail Buy to Brick and Mortar Retailers to E-Commerce, Immediate Marketplace Pioneer Buddy Saunders is Continue to Adapting

In junior large in Texas, Buddy Saunders almost never ate college lunch.  He most popular to help save the 35 cents his mother gave him every day so he had more to spend on comics.

“I was truly a skinny kid,” he explained.

He utilised lunch revenue, an allowance and proceeds from a paper route to build a gigantic selection of comics.  Science fiction titles ended up his favorites, like DC’s Mystery in Place and Peculiar Adventures.  By 1961, when he was 14, he commenced to offer some of his stock via mail get in early fanzines.

Saunders built his identify in mail get, expanded in the 1970s to bodily suppliers in the Dallas-Fort Well worth area beneath the name Lone Star Comics, and in the 2010s offered his merchants to target on his company’s flourishing web-site,  Today, the website is a person of the premier sellers of new and back situation comics in the world.

Saunders, 76, has demonstrated a knack for taking care of via adjust.  He profited from the booms and survived the busts in a vocation that spans the full modern background of comics retail.  And, he expanded into e-commerce before most of his friends, acknowledging how the achieve of a website was nicely-suited to satisfy the wants of comics consumers.

In interviews this thirty day period, speaking by mobile phone from his little, windowless workplace at the warehouse in Arlington, Texas, he reflected on the evolution of his enterprise.  He provides much of the credit for the latest achievements to his son, Conan, who is now president and a co-proprietor, and whose capabilities as a pc programmer have been critical for creating the web-site.

But comics retail is only section of Saunders’ tale.  While in college in the 1960s, he wrote horror and sword and sorcery comics tales for editor Archie Goodwin at Creepy and Eerie magazines.  In the 1970s, he co-wrote science fiction prose tales and a novel.  He recalls that he could have concentrated on composing, but he allow it convert into extra of a interest as his company grew.

“Comic retailing took more than my daily life,” he stated.

He is nicely-recognized to comics retail insiders and to the 30,000 or so persons who get his company’s weekly newsletter.

“Buddy is merely a incredibly sensible man with pretty fantastic organization sense,” reported Bud Plant, owner of Bud’s Artwork Publications, and an individual with his personal loaded record in comics retail as a retailer owner and a distributor.

Plant is talking as anyone who has recognised Saunders for decades as a fellow retailer but also as a client.  He buys comics from, and, when he is advertising comics from his particular collection, he typically does so on consignment by means of the web site.

“He has fantastic people doing work for him he evidently trains them effectively,” Plant explained.  “And maybe just as critical, he enjoys what he is performing.  He is a comics admirer initial and foremost.”

Saunders When Sold a Wonderful 4 #1 for 25 Cents
Growing up typically in Texas, initial comedian guide he can remember obtaining for himself was Donald Duck #71, released in 1960, which displays the solar shining through a telescope and burning Donald’s tail. He soon was looking through science fiction and superhero comics.

Saunders had a deep collection by the time Marvel started its new tremendous hero line with titles like Great 4 #1 in 1961.  By then he also experienced started promoting and trading comics via the mail, promoting in fanzines like Rocket’s Blast Comicollector.  He recollects advertising a around-mint situation duplicate of Great 4 #1 for 25 cents.

“I doubled my money,” he stated.  The address selling price was 10 cents.  “That was very good at the time.”

He produced good friends between fellow comedian visitors at his college in Arlington and fashioned connections with friends in comics and science fiction fandom.  He and two mates in Texas, Larry Herndon and Howard Keltner, started publishing a fanzine, Star-Studded Comics, in 1963.

Now in high faculty, Saunders wanted to be a comedian ebook artist and his illustrations appeared in fanzines along with the do the job of artists who would go on to turn into comics gurus, like Dave Cockrum and Jim Starlin.

“My ambition by way of junior significant and significant college was to develop into a comedian book artist, but God blessed me with not adequate talent,” he reported.

What he signifies is that, in hindsight, he is familiar with that he would not have been delighted with the daily life of a freelance artist, so it was fortuitous that he was not superior more than enough to severely pursue artwork as a career.

He shifted to target more on writing, together with operate co-written with his school classmate Howard Waldrop.  The two of them were being section of a modest group of aspiring science fiction writers who would meet up with just about every number of months to critique each and every other’s do the job.  Among the other associates was George R.R. Martin, now most effective recognised for A Song of Fireplace and Ice, the sequence that he helped to adapt for the television clearly show Recreation of Thrones.

Saunders graduated from high school in 1965 and obtained a instructing diploma from East Texas Condition University in 1970.

His system was to teach and use the summers to compose, and he obtained a task training art at a middle college around Arlington.  He became a revealed novelist a few years later with the launch of The Texas-Israeli War: 1999, co-penned with Waldrop.

But he in no way stopped examining, getting and offering comics.  His mail-purchase business continued and took up a spare bed room.

All through this similar period of time, Phil Seuling and Jonni Levas in New York had started off a corporation that would provide comics from big publishers straight to firms like the a person Saunders was working (see “Phil Seuling: The Guy Who Invented the Immediate Market place”).  In advance of that, comics retailers essential to obtain from a community of newspaper and journal distributors who usually experienced small appreciation for comics.  The 1973 begin of Seuling and Levas’ organization, later known as Sea Gate Distributors, is the commencing of the Immediate Current market period in which comic shops blossomed (see “Direct Industry 50th Anniversary”).

Saunders’ enterprise grew so substantially that he felt a will need to open up a actual physical retail location, which he did in 1977.  The 700-square-foot room was the initially of what would be many spots of Lone Star Comics.

By this time, he was married to Judy, who did not to begin with operate at the organization, but would be a vital portion of it in later several years.

He ran the retailer and ongoing to instruct, but he and Judy agreed that he would go away his occupation as an art teacher if and when the earnings from the retail store grew to extra than his training wage.  It finished up occurring quicker than they envisioned, inside one particular year, and he grew to become a total-time retailer.

Comedian shops went as a result of speedy growth in the 1980s, and in the Dallas-Fort Value region that advancement was noticeable through the growth of Lone Star Comics from one compact locale to, at its peak, eight places, along with a host of competing outlets.

To assistance take care of the growth, Judy still left her administrative career with the federal govt and joined the family members enterprise entire time, running human sources and accounting.  Buddy Saunders reported this was an vital second for the company’s progress because Judy was extremely effective at handling the areas of the enterprise that he was not as at ease with, and that permitted him to focus on the blend of products and solutions the outlets had been offering.

Even though some shops had been purists in concentrating pretty much completely on comics, Lone Star had a willingness to grow into other product or service regions, like function-participating in games in the 1980s and Pokemon cards and Beanie Toddlers in the 1990s.

“I hated Beanie Toddlers, but they were warm at the time, so I discovered as substantially as I could about Beanie Toddlers,” Saunders explained.

Lone Star Goes On line, and Conan Will save the Day
All along, Saunders attempted to keep on being in advance of the curve in using technologies in his merchants for issues like tracking stock.  So, when businesses begun to get web-sites in the 1990s, he saw an opportunity.

The first iterations of the Lone Star web-site were crude, but in the late 90s, Saunders took one of the major threats of his occupation by placing aside about $200,000 to seek the services of an outdoors organization to layout a absolutely functional e-commerce web page for the mail purchase portion of his business enterprise.

It was a catastrophe. Although the contractors were good programmers, they did not realize the nuances of comics gathering, with a broad number of products and details for each and every merchandise. The consequence was a internet site that Saunders felt was unusable and nowhere close to remaining completely ready to go stay.

“They just were being not capable of executing something as complicated as what we desired,” Saunders reported.

His son, Conan, who was an undergraduate at MIT, available to get a glance at the web site and see what he could do.  At this stage, Saunders has retold the tale of Conan’s rescue of the internet site so a lot of occasions that it has the really feel of a tall tale, but he assures that it’s all accurate: In-among lessons and research in Massachusetts, Conan wrote the code to construct the web site nearly from scratch.

Conan acted as a portion-time software program developer for the loved ones organization through higher education, graduate school and then many years in careers with other corporations.

Then, in 2010, he came to operate at entire time as vice president.  In 2021, immediately after his father experienced a stroke, Conan became the company’s president.

Right now, the firm is as big as it has at any time been, with about 130 employees, which include about 40 men and women who do absolutely nothing but grade the situation of back again difficulty comics, and 5 programmers who retain the web-site.  The company’s primary problem is maintaining up with expansion, stated Buddy Saunders, who has recovered from his stroke and again at perform.

Conan grew up in the business.  He utilized to bag and board comics and do odd jobs at the shops as a youngster. He remembers that the comics he browse as a little one tended to be decades outdated mainly because they had been kinds all around the house.

His upbringing prepared him to operate the business, both of those from staying around the firm and looking at his father in action.

“He is extremely structured,” Conan said.  “He’s superior at developing methods and documenting factors and creating factors.”

Conan described a area the place factors operate easily and in which people today are predicted to act with integrity.

“He is established a terrific case in point for me in my complete daily life,” he reported.

Component of that example is a feeling of pleasure about executing the perform of comics retail.  When asked how very long he ideas to hold functioning, Buddy Saunders reported this:

“If I retire, it’s going to be to a cemetery.”

This short article is remaining offered as part of ICv2’s Direct Market 50th Anniversary celebration for much more, see “Comics Direct Marketplace 50th Anniversary.”