In 1995 Hart had a few hundred “Marvel Can Suck My Cock” t-shirts made up and managed to sell them all quite fast at Comicon that year. For those of us with bad memories he discusses the feeling in the air at the time amongst the indie-comics community.
by Hart D. Fisher
The Marvel Can Suck My Cock shirts were a specific response to Marvel’s business practices. This was when Dark Horse, Caliber, First Comics, Eclipse and the other indies started taking a bite out of Marvel’s sales figures. Then Image was formed and frankly, the powers that be behind Marvel wanted to punish them (Todd, Jim and Rob) for daring to leave at the peak of their success and start their own thing. To crush the competition Marvel came up with this horrendous boondoggle (it really fucked up the industry) of a plan to wipe them from the stands, literally. A comic book store has limited wrack space. They felt that when push came to shove, a Marvel title would always win out in a fight with an Indie for shelf space. So these morons decided to push the comics off of the stand physically by weight of numbers. Marvel nearly tripled their output to push the other books off the shelves, they were looking to bury guys like me with sheer weight of numbers.
A lot of comic book stores got hurt with this move. More than a few stores bought this line of crap and ended up with boxes of sub par comics stinking up the back of those stores. But hey, Marvel got paid, what the fuck do they care? Right? At this time, Marvel was also making noise about Marvel marts and about pulling their books from all other stores. Real stupid short sighted thinking. Just like the greedy idiots that want to erode the window of when films move from the Theater into your home on DVD. If they release DVD’s of theatrical releases in a bid for a quick buck they will kill the theatrical business and when that’s gone, you’re in trouble. This happened in comics. Stores started going out of business for buying Marvel. I knew several personally that got burned. The general thinking amongst many of the indies I knew was the stores that fell for it deserved what they got. I didn’t feel this way. I felt the comic book store owner was my partner in business and without him I was fucked. Marvel did not act that way at all.
I couldn’t say “Fuck You” to the suits in any other way than publicly. I wanted to make it hurt. I wanted to humiliate them. I grew up a died in blue Make Mine Marvel! Bullpen bulletin reading maniac fan. I also felt betrayed by their practices as a fan of comics. By doing something public like this, I could steer the conversation and outrage to the business practices they were perpetrating. You don’t like the comic business the way it is today? You can thank Marvel Fucking Comics and the rest of the lemmings that followed their lead during the distribution wars. My t-shirt was my voice telling them and everyone else, I’m here for a fight and I’m not leaving these wracks quietly. It was a declaration of war. I’ve always felt that you could outspend me, but you couldn’t out think me. And these gimps certainly go tow to tow with me in the gutter.
I took their money away, all of their status, and sold out of 100 shirts in less than one day. I sold the shirt off of my back twice for double the price. Then I heard about John Romita Jr. getting tough with some of the kids that wandered around the booth with their shirts on. I mean, he was getting physically violent and verbally abusive with this one guy from Fantagraphics or Slave Labor. So I went over there and took a walk around the Marvel booth, talked to some folks I knew, and sauntered away with that loud mouth bully sulking but not saying a word to someone he can’t bully.
I fucking HATE bullies.
I sent people over to their booth after that. The Marvel guys all thought my Kill Image comic was pretty funny until the joke was on them. They threatened to sue the San Diego Comicon if they didn’t kick me out of the show and make me stop selling the shirts. My publicity stunt changed the language of the booth display contract all vendors sign now because of this. Now there is a clause in the contract that states you can be ejected from the show for doing anything that is derogatory to another publisher OR to comics as a whole. Who the fuck could possibly decide what is derogatory to the comics industry as a whole? Gee, how do you figure that out? You don’t. Now they can arbitrarily throw you out for anything they feel like coming up with. This is one of the many reasons you will not see me at the San Diego show.
The Marvel shirts stirred the scarred little boy/men that ran many of these shows. I know of many people kicked out of shows around the country for wearing their shirt. I’ve had to cover up the word Cock several times on the shirt with Duct tape to keep selling it. One time at the Wizard World Chicago show, right after they bought it out and were running it for the first time they shut me down. Told me I couldn’t sell the shirt. I said no problem. Instead I gave the t-shirt away with any copy of Rectum Errectum (the book is even more crazy than the title) I sold until I got to the head guy at the show and we came to an agreement as to how to sell the shirts and then I sent my mom around the show on foot selling shirts.
If you’re smart enough, you can always figure out a way to make yourself heard in one way or another. You have to fight for your voice. That is what I taught all of my Boneyard Thugs. The fans were fucking pissed about what Marvel was doing. Store owners were furious. They were betrayed. The shirts were embraced for years after that until I got bored doing them. This wasn’t just my voice being raised, Dianna Schutz bought about 6 shirts for her editorial staff and one for Frank Miller. Hell, if you watch Chasing Amy, the Kevin Smith flick, you can see the Marvel Can Suck My Cock on a fan at one of the comic convention scenes, a Bill the Bull shirt made it in there also.
But people were really angry about Marvel then.