As you can read in this issue’s observations from Melissa Bowersox, Steve Geppi, Bob Overstreet, Michael Davis, Steve Borock, John Jackson Miller, and J.C. Vaughn, former Comics Buyer’s Guide editor Maggie Thompson has made a tremendous impact on comic book collecting. FAN talked with her about what got her started and what keeps her going.
FAN: What was the first thing of which you would consider yourself a fan and how did it come about?
Maggie Thompson (MT): My comics collecting began before I could read. I received a dime a week in allowance and spent it (after exhaustive examination of everything on the newsstand) on a comic book. Mom then was often condemned to read that comic book to me for the ensuing week. She found that she enjoyed the stories by Walt Kelly as much on Day Seven as on Day One, and she and Dad wrote a fan letter to Walt. Correspondence – and the family’s Kelly Collection – ensued.
FAN: We hear lots of stories about parents encouraging or discouraging collecting. Where did your parents fit in on that spectrum?
MT: I bet you can guess my response by looking at my response to the question of what made me a fan. Mom and Dad not only encouraged my comics collecting but also facilitated it and even commented on it in their own (non-comics) fanzine.
FAN: Aside from comics, what (if anything) else did you collect as a youngster?
MT: I guess collecting would be items for which I hunted and paid. So nothing else. I listened to what is now called Old Time Radio. I went to the movies every Saturday. I lived in a home well stocked with records, books, and magazines and supplemented that with a weekly trip to the library. But buying and holding onto other items myself as a collection? Well, a very few paperbacks and LP records in my teens. But not really as a collection, so, no, nothing else.
FAN: How did your reading and collecting tastes change as you grew up?
MT: I learned to read, thanks in part to comic books. The first non-Kelly work I focused on as an older collector was the E.C. line, starting with Mad #9, when I was in seventh grade.
FAN: What made you passionate about this stuff rather a casual fan or someone who could take it or leave it?
MT: If you didn’t buy one month’s comic book, you couldn’t buy that issue a month later. That lesson learned made me pretty obsessive pretty quickly. I can still tell you a couple of comic books I looked for but missed on the stands: Dell’s Easter with Mother Goose for 1947 and – later – E.C.’s Extra #1. The latter never went on sale via my local newsstands. Topping that off was an increasing curiosity regarding the people who were writing, drawing, and editing the comic books I enjoyed.
FAN: What are some of your favorite experiences that you attribute to being involved in fandom?
MT: Hmm. Let me ponder. For hours. Or I could just mention that I met Don Thompson via fandom. Mind you, it was science-fiction fandom, rather than comics fandom (which didn’t yet exist as we know it today).
FAN: Well, now we have to ask. How did you and Don meet?
MT: Mom and Dad were science-fiction and fantasy fans, and Mom was a science-fiction writer you’ve never heard of (Betsy Curtis). June 8, 1957, Mom and we kids went to a picnic at the home of science-fiction writer Basil Wells. It was a get-together for writers and fans; other attendees included P. Schuyler Miller, Ed Hamilton, Leigh Brackett, and Andre Norton. And Don had received an informal invitation as a fan. He and I spent the day talking about pop culture years before the term “pop culture” was in common use.
FAN: When you and Don started at CBG, how long did you think you’d be there?
MT: Our goal was to be there for the long haul, which turned out to be three decades for me. Our goals were always long-term, and we always worked to make CBG the best we could make it with those goals in mind.
FAN: When CBG ended, what was your initial thought about what you’d be doing afterward?
MT: My first concern was for the wonderful people at F+W Media with whom I’d worked and without whom CBG could never have lasted as long as it did. Understand that I had been working in a “casual part-time” status since I had access to Medicare. I still did pretty much everything I’d been doing editorially on the magazine in the time allotted. But it was on an hourly basis, and I didn’t depend on the salary, health benefits, and the like. I had been especially delighted in the closing year with the opportunity to work with Brent Frankenhoff and contributors Snow Wildsmith and Scott Robins to put together A Parent’s Guide to the Best Kids’ Comics—the first reference of its kind—and it would have been terrific to be able to continue to produce that sort of project.
As for me, having my time freed of the monthly deadline has enabled me to tackle the vast number of personal projects that I’ve been working on ever since.
FAN: How has that worked out so far?
MT: It’s going wonderfully well, thanks! No complaints – aside from a feeling of guilt that I haven’t yet been able to get back to tending to my own website properly. But it’s on my agenda.
FAN: You’ve sold some of your comics and original comic art in a rather high profile series of auctions with Heritage. Some people took that as a sign that you were done, you were getting out. How wrong were those folks?
MT: I don’t know who took it as that sign, but they certainly weren’t paying any attention to either what I’ve said about it in every interview or to the work I’ve been doing ever since. How wrong were they? As wrong as they could be. I’ve lost some touch with the daily comics news, mostly because there are 24 hours in a day, I have many projects, and the incredible volume of comics output these days is stunning. But getting out? Hah! I just bought a set of the magazine (1835-1853) of classic artist George Cruikshank at – yes – Heritage auctions a couple of weeks ago. And I’ve begun to replace (with crummy-condition copies) what I’ve sold at auction. Heritage has been incredibly helpful throughout!
FAN: There are obviously some differences in various areas of fandom. What would you say are the similarities between comic-book fans, science-fiction fans, and other arenas?
MT: This could be the basis for a minimum of a master’s thesis—and it brought my responses to a stunned halt. Given that I’d like to respond sooner, rather than later, and my answer has been dancing around my brain for more than an hour … I’ll conclude with two responses: The similarity is a happy obsession with the object of the fan’s fascination. The difference that comics, science-fiction, fantasy, mystery and other readers of genre fiction share from other fans is a devotion to reading for pleasure.
FAN: A follow-up to our earlier question: What keeps you passionate about this stuff?
MT: I think it was Harvey Pekar who said there’s no limit to how good the words can be or how good the pictures can be. There’s no limit to how good comics can be, and I live in admiration of the art form. Let’s face it: Comics creators tackle one of the trickiest forms of entertainment; when they make it work, it is not to be missed.