In 1977, an unsuspecting television audience got to meet a smiling comics dealer from Brooklyn. Phil Seuling was a guest on The Mike Douglas Show, joined onstage by Jamie Farr of M*A*S*H. At that time, Seuling had a growing business, acting as a middleman between publishers and a burgeoning network of comics specialty shops. In writing my book, I watched this YouTube video dozens of times, trying to get a better sense of this impetuous entrepreneur. He was in many ways the father of comics’ direct market.
The other guests included William Westmoreland, who had commanded the U.S. forces in Vietnam; and Fabian, the singer, actor, and former teen idol. It epitomized the late 1970s almost to the point of parody.
Near the end of his TV appearance, Seuling says he’s brought a special guest, a superhero. Instead of Spider-Man or Batman, this hero is Red Sonja, played by Wendy Pini, who would go on to co-create Elfquest, a self-published comic book that helped to pave the way for other creators who wanted to work outside of the major publishers.
Notice, as the show cuts to commercial, that Farr says this about Pini: “Now that’s a superhero.”
“The audience loved it,” Wendy Pini told me. “But we heard, later on, that Mike Douglas
was quite upset by my racy costume, which didn’t fit in with the tone of his show. C’est la vie.”
Her husband and business partner, Richard Pini, was in the audience, and we can see this video today because decades later he obtained a copy and uploaded it. Richard and Wendy were key players in the development of the direct market, and I am grateful for all the time and help they have given me.
Hat tip to the indispensable Mark Evanier wrote about Seuling and the Pinis in 2004, and then re-posted it in 2015 with a link to the video, which is how I found it.