Alan Brennert reports on FB that comics retail founding father Richard Kyle has passed away at age 87. Kyle had been in ill-health for a long time.
As the owner of Richard Kyle Books (and the earlier) Graphic Story Bookshop in Long Beach, Kyle was not only a pioneer in selling comics, but the inventor of the term “graphic novel” which was used on George Metzger’s Beyond Time & Again, an early example of the form that he published.
Kyle was also a key member of the west coast fan enclave that gave rise to such comics revolutions as the direct sales market and the San Diego Comic-Con. Mark Evanier has a good write-up of course.
Richard saw trends coming. He and a fellow named Fred Patten opened a shop in Long Beach — a newsstand that specialized in comics and imported comics. Nowadays, you walk into a comic book shop and see hardcover comics, magnificently-printed comics, high-ticket comics. When Richard and Fred opened the Graphic Story Bookstore in Long Beach, it was amazing to see so many comics not printed on the cheapest paper stock. They’d scoured the world to find them and I recall Jack Kirby at the grand opening, holding court and predicting (correctly) that soon, there’d be comic book shops in every city filled with graphic novels and deluxe collections.
The store went through several names and locations, and Richard delved into publishing. I mentioned his magazine Graphic Story World, which he later retitled Wonderworld. He published other things, such as when he obtained the rights to the then defunct Argosymagazine and revived it with disastrous financial failure. Still, he was proud that he’d done it and of several things that were done for it.
Brennert has a further write up here.
Wonderworld was a magnet for local enthusiasts of all genres, including aspiring cartoonists Phil Yeh and Roberta Gregory, comics artist D. Bruce Berry, protostar science fiction novelist Greg Bear, future animation artist Glen Murakami, and many more whose names would be unfamiliar to you but who were, trust me on this, colorful characters in their own right. There was the Amazon-loving patron who wished to be stomped and humiliated by Lynda Carter; this young man was also a shoe fetishist who would bear down on and inquire of every female customer (through clenched teeth), “Ahhh, excuse me, but I’m conducting a survey on women’s shoe sizes and I was wondering what size you wear?” One day he put this question to my friend Mary Gilmore (later to become half of the comics writing team of Tom and Mary Bierbaum) and she just shot him a withering look and said, “You used that line on me last week.” He replied hastily, “Oh, well, in my research I sometimes overlap,” and scurried off in search of other feet to measure.
And here’s an interview with Kyle from Jamie Coville, from which the above photo was taken.
And more memories:
I remember hearing a lot about Richard Kyle when I moved to the West Coast way back in the day and meeting him at Comic-Con; he was an important and seminal figure in the growth of comics. I hope somebody is writing a good book about all this, becuase the founding fathers and mothers are leaving us quickly.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.