With Further Ado #81: Staying in the Business, A Tribute to Victor Gorelick

It was a real drag to learn of the passing of Victor Gorelick over the weekend. The longtime Archie Comics Editor-in-Chief was quite a guy, and the industry will be that much smaller without his contributions.   Just one of the most amazing things about Victor was that he knew how to keep a job. He started at Archie at age 16, and stayed there for over 60 years!

When I graduated UNC with my MBA many years ago, the conventional path was finding a job with a big company. This was well before the current fascination (rightly so!) with entrepreneurial ventures.  I chased after the big company jobs, just like everyone else.  But even back then I had an idea that “geek culture”, although we never called it that, had the potential to be a big deal both creatively and for business, although I never anticipated the unparalleled success of something like the Marvel Movies.

So, during my job search at business school, I reached out to comics companies, most of whom had no idea of the job I was envisioning.  I was offered the opportunity to interview with Archie Comics. Publisher Michael Silberkleit invited me to their famous Mamaroneck, NY headquarters.  We had a great time getting to know one another and discussing the industry and where it might go.

Silberkleit was especially excited because a new live-action Archie show was about to debut on TV.  To Riverdale and Back Again turned out to be disappointing, but it was kind of the like the kooky grandfather that begat the CW’s Riverdale.

In the end, they just didn’t have any idea about what to do with a classically trained marketing guy who saw a much bigger business role for comics.  And I ended up taking a corporate job with Unilever on Park Avenue in NYC.

But during that meeting I met Victor Gorelick. He was a kind, encouraging guy with an obvious love for comics and for the industry.  Instantly, you knew he was the real deal – genuinely excited about the creative product they were producing and the boundaries they could push.

Our paths crossed may times professionally over the years. Most recently, Victor helped me research Archie’s old Red Circle Sorcery line of horror comics for an in-depth Back Issue Magazine article I wrote. One could argue that this Red Circle Sorcery series led to the Netflix Sabrina series. In fact, Sabrina started out as the host of those comics!

Victor’s ability to work at a company he so loved, and stay there, for all those years is simply astounding.  The comics world is full of folks with passion and success, but for some reason or another, are squeezed out of it. Not so with Victor. He found a way to make it work for all those years, and we’re all the better for it!

His legacy reached far and wide.  Artist and creative entrepreneur Holly Golightly shared her thoughts with me:

“Victor felt like family to me- he mentored me we laughed, he teased me, we fought, he made me a better Artist & storyteller – he made me feel special – looking on Facebook I see other Artists that share similar experiences. Victor made comics and families. Thank You, Victor, for adopting me into this crazy comic book family.”

I can’t help comparing and contrasting his time with that of the entrepreneurs behind start-up company Bad Idea.  This new publisher has just revealed their unorthodox launch plan. Their vision is to produce only top-notch comics by top-notch creators and eschew digital versions, TPB collections and the traditional distribution channel. Furthermore, they plan on only selling in a limited number of comic shops.   Some fans, and industry professionals, are smugly proclaiming this is all a…well…very bad idea.

But Bad Idea was founded by some smart folks who have worked in the industry. I have a sneaking suspicion that they’ve war-gamed their every move and know just what they are doing. Only time will tell.

Victor Gorelick by Dan Parent

But the point is that these guys behind Bad Idea, many of whom parted ways with Valiant Entertainment,  want to stay in the field.  They want to stay in comics. And that can be hard. Not everyone is Victor Gorelick and not everyone (i.e., practically no one else) can make that work.

It’s hard to stay in any industry for 60 years, let alone this industry. Kudos to Victor Gorelick and everyone who aspires to be like him.