Carol Kalish

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Carol Kalish
Carol Kalish at Minneapolis Comic-Con.jpg
Carol Kalish at the October, 1982 Minneapolis Comic-Con.
Born(1955-02-14)February 14, 1955
DiedSeptember 5, 1991(1991-09-05) (aged 36)
Nationality United States
Notable works
Vice President of New Product Development, Marvel Comics
Awards Inkpot Award, 1991
ComicsPRO 2010 Industry Appreciation Award (posthumous)

Carol Kalish (February 14, 1955 [1] – September 5, 1991) was an American writer, editor, comic book retailer, and sales manager. She worked as Direct Sales Manager and Vice President of New Product Development at Marvel Comics from 1981 to 1991. [2] She is credited with pioneering the American comics direct market when it was in its adolescence, in part through a program wherein Marvel helped pay for comic book stores to acquire cash registers. She was the winner of an Inkpot Award in 1991, [3] and in 2010 was posthumously awarded the first ComicsPRO Industry Appreciation Award, beating nominees such as Will Eisner, Julius Schwartz and Phil Seuling.

Direct market Dominant distribution and retail network for American comic books

The direct market is the dominant distribution and retail network for American comic books. The concept of the direct market was created in the 1970s by Phil Seuling. It currently consists of one dominant distributor and the majority of comics specialty stores, as well as other retailers of comic books and related merchandise.

Marvel Comics Company that publishes comic books and related media

Marvel Comics is the brand name and primary imprint of Marvel Worldwide Inc., formerly Marvel Publishing, Inc. and Marvel Comics Group, a publisher of American comic books and related media. In 2009, The Walt Disney Company acquired Marvel Entertainment, Marvel Worldwide's parent company.

The Inkpot Award is an honor bestowed annually since 1974 by Comic-Con International. It is given to professionals in the fields of comic books, comic strips, animation, science fiction, and related areas of popular culture, at CCI's annual convention, commonly known as "San Diego Comic-Con". Also eligible are members of Comic-Con's Board of Directors and convention committee.


Early life

Kalish had a sister named Candace. [4] She graduated from Radcliffe College with Honors in Geology and a specialty in History. [1] From the age of three, she was fascinated by dinosaurs which may explain her devotion to Jack Kirby's creation Devil Dinosaur.

Radcliffe College former womens college in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Radcliffe College was a women's liberal arts college in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and functioned as the female coordinate institution for the all-male Harvard College. It was also one of the Seven Sisters colleges, among which it shared with Bryn Mawr College, Wellesley College, Smith College, and others the popular reputation of having a particularly intellectual, literary, and independent-minded female student body. Radcliffe conferred Radcliffe College diplomas to undergraduates and graduate students for the first 70 or so years of its history and then joint Harvard-Radcliffe diplomas to undergraduates beginning in 1963. A formal "non-merger merger" agreement with Harvard was signed in 1977, with full integration with Harvard completed in 1999. Today, within Harvard University, Radcliffe's former administrative campus is home to the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and former Radcliffe housing at the Radcliffe Quadrangle has been incorporated into the Harvard College house system. Under the terms of the 1999 consolidation, the Radcliffe Yard and the Radcliffe Quadrangle retain the "Radcliffe" designation in perpetuity.

Kalish was a childhood friend of writer Paul Dini, who credits her with introducing him to the character Wonder Woman when they were children. [5]

Paul Dini writer

Paul Dini is an American animator and comic creator. He is best known as a producer and writer for several Warner Bros. Animation/DC Comics animated series, including Tiny Toon Adventures, Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, The New Batman/Superman Adventures, Batman Beyond, and Duck Dodgers. He developed and scripted Krypto the Superdog and contributed scripts to Transformers, Animaniacs, Freakazoid and Static Shock. After leaving Warner Bros. Animation in early 2004, Dini went on to write and story edit the popular ABC adventure series Lost. He has written a number of comic books for DC Comics, including Harley Quinn and Superman: Peace on Earth. October 2010 saw the debut of Tower Prep, a new live action/drama series Dini created for Cartoon Network. It was announced that after two decades of doing DC-related animated projects, Paul Dini had gone over to Marvel to serve as a writer and producer for Ultimate Spider-Man and Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H..

Wonder Woman superhero appearing in DC Comics publications and related media

Wonder Woman is a fictional superheroine, appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. The character is a founding member of the Justice League. The character first appeared in All Star Comics #8 in October 1941 with her first feature in Sensation Comics #1, January 1942. The Wonder Woman title has been published by DC Comics almost continuously except for a brief hiatus in 1986. In her homeland, the island nation of Themyscira, her official title is Princess Diana of Themyscira, Daughter of Hippolyta. She has no father; she was created out of clay and brought to life by the gods of Olympus. When blending into the society outside of her homeland, she sometimes adopts her civilian identity Diana Prince.


Carol Kalish, on a Women In Comics panel in 1982. Carol Kalish.jpg
Carol Kalish, on a Women In Comics panel in 1982.

Kalish worked as a comic book retailer and wholesaler. Kalish's first work in circulation was two years as circulation manager on the science fiction publication Galileo , which folded in early 1980. This led to a dual position with Hal Shuster's New Media/Irjax: assistant editor on a line of comic books with New Media Publishing, and, with her partner Richard Howell, running the Shuster-owned Boston-area distributor Solar Spice and Liquors [6] (named after a fictional corporation created by science fiction writer Poul Anderson).

Comic book Publication of comics art

A comic book or comicbook, also called comic magazine or simply comic, is a publication that consists of comics art in the form of sequential juxtaposed panels that represent individual scenes. Panels are often accompanied by descriptive prose and written narrative, usually, dialog contained in word balloons emblematic of the comics art form. Although comics has some origins in 18th century Japan, comic books were first popularized in the United States and the United Kingdom during the 1930s. The first modern comic book, Famous Funnies, was released in the U.S. in 1933 and was a reprinting of earlier newspaper humor comic strips, which had established many of the story-telling devices used in comics. The term comic book derives from American comic books once being a compilation of comic strips of a humorous tone; however, this practice was replaced by featuring stories of all genres, usually not humorous in tone.

<i>Galileo</i> (magazine) magazine

Galileo Magazine of Science & Fiction was a science and science fiction magazine published out of Boston, Massachusetts.

New Media Distribution/Irjax Enterprises was a comic book distributor and boutique publisher active in the 1970s and early 1980s during the growth of the direct market. After the distribution arm of the company went out of business in 1982, its processing centers and warehouses formed the basis for Diamond Comics Distributors, the now-dominant comics distributor. New Media's publishing arm continued in the business until 1985.

In 1981, she began working at Marvel, [1] having been hired by Ed Shukin, Marvel’s Vice President in charge of sales. [7] She was known as Marvel's "Mistress of Propaganda," [1] and "discovered" Alex Ross [8] and Peter David, who worked with Kalish as Assistant Sale Manager in Marvel Comics' Sales Department, [9] [10] [11] along with Sandy Schechter. [12]

Alex Ross American comic book artist

Nelson Alexander Ross is an American comic book writer/artist known primarily for his painted interiors, covers, and design work. He first became known with the 1994 miniseries Marvels, on which he collaborated with writer Kurt Busiek for Marvel Comics. He has since done a variety of projects for both Marvel and DC Comics, such as the 1996 miniseries Kingdom Come, which Ross co-wrote. Since then he has done covers and character designs for Busiek's series Astro City, and various projects for Dynamite Entertainment. His feature film work includes concept and narrative art for Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2, and DVD packaging art for the M. Night Shyamalan film Unbreakable. He has done covers for TV Guide, promotional artwork for the Academy Awards, posters and packaging design for video games, and his renditions of superheroes have been merchandised as action figures.

Peter David American writer of comic books, novels, television, movies and video games

Peter Allen David, often abbreviated PAD, is an American writer of comic books, novels, television, films and video games. His notable comic book work includes an award-winning 12-year run on The Incredible Hulk, as well as runs on Aquaman, Young Justice, Supergirl, Fallen Angel, Spider-Man 2099 and X-Factor.

Beginning in the mid-1980s, Kalish spearheaded the expansion of the Marvel's distribution into theretofore unexplored retail outlets, including major bookstores such as B. Daltons and Waldenbooks. [13]

Waldenbooks, operated by the Walden Book Company, Inc., was an American shopping mall-based bookstore chain and a subsidiary of Borders Group. The chain also ran a video game and software chain under the name Waldensoftware, as well as a children's educational toy chain under Walden Kids. In 2011, the chain was liquidated in bankruptcy.

Kalish also conducted numerous trips to comic book shops during the course of her work and on her vacation time, during which she would offer advice to retailers on how to improve their stores. During these visits, Kalish consistently observed the absence of cash registers on the part of retailers, and was inspired to originate Marvel's cash register program, with which the company would subsidize, at bulk cost, registers for retailers, [14] which is credited with positively affecting the level of professionalism of the direct market. [15] [16]

According to a March 2010 piece by retailer and Comic Book Resources columnist Brian Hibbs:

Once upon a time Marvel, under Carol's DM sales team, was the most DM-friendly publisher. The cash register program, rack credits via the IADD, effective and scrupulous solicitations, these were all things that happened under Carol's watch. In fact, I'll still always remember being 16 years old, working at another person's store, and Carol was in town for a vacation, and she took the time to come in and make a half-dozen practical and direct suggestions as to how that store could be made better; not specifically for Marvel, but just a better store in general. That was a powerful memory for me, and the lessons that Carol taught us have stuck with me all of these years later. I thought, "that's how I want to be when I grow up", and I am, frankly, personally embarrassed that current Marvel management isn't willing to live up to her legacy, and engage the people who sell their comics for them, and represent them to the buying public. [16]

Kalish also set the official Marvel direct sales policy regarding retailer orders of back issue stock, emphasizing to retailers that they should order only what they could sell within a month’s time, and not order additional copies intended solely for back stock, as this would merely tie up their money. Although this was considered "heresy" at the time, Kalish advised retailers that was far wiser to keep capital available for the flow of new comics coming into stores. [7]

It was during Kalish's tenure in Marvel Sales that copies of the company's adaptation of the 1983 film Return of the Jedi was discovered by actor Mark Hamill on sale a month prior to the release of the film. After Hamill alerted Lucasfilm, Marvel, according to Kalish, swiftly recalled the book off the stands. Though none of the three people in the Sales Department were fired over the incident, it resulted in premature revelation of the secrets of the film's plot. [12] [17]

During the last year or so of her life, Kalish developed a line of religious books, Civil War comics, and "greeting card" comics to expand Marvel's market. She was also preparing to leave Marvel to start her own publishing firm. [18]

Personal life

Kalish's long-time boyfriend was writer/artist Richard Howell. [4] [19]

Death and legacy

Kalish died on September 5, 1991 from a pulmonary embolism, at the age 36.

Tributes to Kalish were generally complimentary, including a Peter David-written eulogy in the Comics Buyer's Guide , in which he credited her with making him a comics industry professional, and a memorial service arranged by Marvel Comics president Terry Stewart. The outpouring of grief seen in the letters pages of CBG was theretofore unprecedented. [4]

Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth, however, was less effusive. Although respectful of Kalish's personal qualities, Groth considers that these were not always used for the best of purposes: "Kalish, who I have no reason to believe was anything other than decent and personable in her personal relations, devoted her professional life to expanding the hegemonic power of a corporation that already owns all the distributors and most of the retailers...." [2] Groth's piece led to outrage on the part of Kalish's friend and former co-worker, writer Peter David, who named his youngest daughter after Kalish, [4] and found Groth's piece to be "vicious", and retaliated by parodying Groth as Louis Lance, a snobbish publisher of the only comics he considers to be "true art", who looks down on superhero comics published by large, work-for-hire companies, in a fictitious panel discussion that David ran in "Snob Appeal", an edition of his then-weekly column, "But I Digress..." in Comics Buyer's Guide . [20] David also took issue with attacks on Kalish by Mile High Comics retailer and columnist Chuck Rozanski. [13] [18]

When Glenn Hauman, the webmaster of David's website, reprinted David's eulogy to Kalish on David's site in 2002, along with a request to the site's visitors to link heavily to the post in order to displace Groth's 1991 piece as the top search result on Google, [4] Comics Journal online editor Dirk Deppey defended Groth's 1991 piece, saying that it was directed not at Kalish personally, but at her work and the outpouring of grief on the part of CBG letter writers and David himself, which Groth and Deppey perceived as "beatification", trite and inarticulate. [21]

In 2010, Kalish was awarded the first ComicsPRO Industry Appreciation Award in the posthumous category, a "Hall of Fame"-type award that was created to honor behind-the-scenes publishing personnel for helping to promote the comics market, beating fellow nominees Will Eisner, Phil Seuling and Julius Schwartz. The award was accepted by Richard Howell on her behalf. Though Howell was not present at the ceremony, writer/editor Paul Levitz read a statement by Howell, who stated that Kalish's goal was "to make the direct market as strong as it could be". [19] In 2018, Kalish was voted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame. Paul Dini accepted the award on her behalf.


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  1. 1 2 3 4 Kraft, David Anthony. 1984, "Sales Director Carol Kalish: Marvel's Direct Sales Manager Tells Her Side," Comics Interview, vol. 1, no. 18, pp. 57-71.
  2. 1 2 Groth, Gary (November 1991). "Lies We Cherish: The Canonization of Carol Kalish". The Comics Journal (146). ISSN   0194-7869. Archived from the original ( copy) on 2000-06-15.
  3. "Comic-Con International's Inkpot Awards". Comic-Con International. Archived from the original on 2011-07-25.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 David, Peter. "Carol" But I Digress; 1994; Krause Publications. pp. 113-116. Reprinted from Comics Buyer's Guide; October 11, 1991
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  8. Glenn Hauman (September 5, 2007). "In Memoriam: Carol Kalish". (photograph)
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  13. 1 2 David, Peter. "Reality check: Comics distribution"; August 9, 2010; Reprinted from Comics Buyer's Guide #1030; August 13, 1993
  14. "Diamond Readies ComicSuite" ICV2; October 4, 2007
  15. Hibbs, Brian. "More on barcodes" Archived July 26, 2011, at the Wayback Machine The Beat; September 28, 2007
  16. 1 2 Hibbs, Brian. "Tilting at Windmills"; Comic Book Resources; March 31, 2010
  17. "The Jedi returns but just a bit too soon!" Comics Buyer's Guide #1216 (March 7, 1997)
  18. 1 2 David, Peter. "Shooter in the Foot"; July 12, 2010; Reprinted from Comics Buyer's Guide #1022; June 18, 1993
  19. 1 2 Parkin, J.K. "Your video of the day: ComicsPRO honors Levitz, Kalish with awards" vimeo; April 1, 2010
  20. David; 1994; Pages 45-48; Reprinted from Comics Buyer's Guide, January 24, 1992
  21. Groth, Gary. "Lies we still cherish" Archived July 31, 2010, at the Wayback Machine The Comics Journal; December 14, 2002