Gary Reed passed away on October 2
Dave Olbrich, the publisher of Malibu Graphics, introduced me to Gary at a meet and greet at a Capital City distributor show in the late eighties. I was freelancing for Malibu and lived fairly close to Madison, Wisconsin, Capital’s home base, so Dave had asked me to attend the show. It was the only time I saw Gary wearing a suit jacket, but he was also wearing jeans. Still, that was pretty dressed up for Gary, who was there representing his company Caliber Press. All I knew about Caliber was what I had read in one of the company’s Caliber Rounds promo papers, so I kept quiet while Dave and Gary talked for a few minutes, and then we moved on.
I’ll be honest, Gary didn’t impress me as anyone special, but that would change.
That may have been the end of my story if not for my friend Christopher Jones. Chris was drawing a mini-series for Caliber, Boston Bombers, and suggested I contact Gary, who was interested in having Chris draw an adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s historical romances, Sir Nigel, for Caliber’s Tome Press line. Chris knew I am a huge Doyle fan, so he suggested me as a writer for the project. Gary had read Chris and mine Street Heroes 2005 comic from Malibu and liked it, so he agreed to talk with me. Gary was no-nonsense, to the point, but friendly. He told me Caliber would only publish an adaptation if Sir Nigel could be adapted adequately in 24 pages, and then we spent the bulk of the call talking about history and Sherlock Holmes. Gary eventually sent me a contract, but I would have trusted him with a handshake deal, and did so on many future projects.
At that time, I had been trying to break into the comics industry as a writer for several years, and had only been published by Malibu. I liked independent comics, but, like many of my peers, I wanted to work for Marvel or DC. My quest had brought me into contact with numerous editors and publishers, and, while all of these experiences have been educational, most have left me disappointed. You see, I grew up watching my father, Donald Jones, manage and then own his own customer service business (managing parking ramps and parking lots), and I saw how Dad was respected by his customers as well as the business owners and city fathers he dealt with because he was smart, dependable, helpful, no-nonsense, and friendly. My brothers and I have done our best to follow Dad’s example in our respective careers, but, in the comics industry, Gary was one of the few editors or publishers I have met who behaved this way.
Since Gary’s unexpected passing last Sunday, more eloquent people than I have expressed the tremendous impact he had and will continue to have on the comics industry. So many fan-favorite creators got their start at Caliber, Gary giving many of them an opportunity when other publishers refused. Gary also published comics he believed were good, regardless if he was a fan of the genre or creator’s style.
I am proof of that.
I am a popular genre writer. Along with several H. P. Lovecraft adaptations and two Sherlock Holmes pastiches, my Caliber titles include Nightlinger, a mainstream masked mystery man series, and Talismen, an all-ages series co-created with Barb Jacobs. Gary not only published these stories, but, in the 1994, he offered me an editorial position with Caliber, thinking someone like me might push Caliber in directions he wouldn’t naturally take the company, and thus make it stronger. I was unable to accept that editorial job, but, last February, Gary asked if I would edit an anthology series of popular genre material for Caliber. Gary was already editing an anthology, Caliber Presents, of which he was justifiably proud, but, to use his words, it was focused on the more Vertigo-ish kind of stories he enjoyed. Gary never denied he wasn’t a fan of popular genres, but he recognized many readers like more mainstream material, so he wanted to give it a try. I accepted, but other projects got in the way, so Gary eventually asked if we could postpone the anthology for now, and, in the meantime, requested I assemble a one-shot anthology of some of my old short comics stories. I finished that project, which I dedicated to Gary for all he has done for me, and emailed it to him last Saturday.
The point I’m trying to make is that good publishers and editors are not snobs. They put readers in front of themselves. They treat creators with respect. They ignore market projections and go with their guts.
Gary did all this and much, much more.
In “The Final Problem”, Dr. John H. Watson writes that he shall always regard his recently departed friend, Sherlock Holmes, “as the best and the wisest man whom I have ever known,” and that sums up my feelings about Gary. Gary was also a wonderful teacher, and, most importantly, a loving husband and father, who leaves behind a terrific wife, Jennifer, and four incredible daughters, Stephanie, Jessica, Alison, and Erica. For all these reasons and so many more I could go into, Gary Reed was, and always will be, indeed, someone special.