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A Short Interview with Jesse Reklaw
posted November 30, 2003
 

Lurking among the various small press enterprises and solo acts at 2003's Super*Market show was a spread of comics and publicity material marking the debut of Global Hobo. The new distributor is Jesse Reklaw and Thien Pham's foray into providing quality comics retail outlets and the readers who lack them with under-represented mini-comics and boutique publishing efforts. Many of the people involved are cartoonists and should be familiar to those following small press and mini-comics. Reklaw is the Director of Operations, while Thien is the Director of Sales; Austin English, Trevor Alixopulos, Fredo, Eli Bishop and Andrice Arp have all pitched in on various small jobs related to the company's launch. The distributor plans to concentrating in its initial efforts on moving Bay Area mini-comics output and the line of books offered up by Portland's small comic publisher Sparkplug Graphics. The Fall 2003 catalog featured 34 books. The owners plan to expand as, or if, business dictates. Although the company has been following through on a few services here and there since the 2003 San Diego Con, Super*Market's November show marked Global Hobo's move into full business operations, with a web site to come in January 2004. Co-Owner Jesse Reklaw took a moment away from pressing catalogs into hands to speak about the strange and not necessarily fine line the business must walk in its start-up months.

TOM SPURGEON: Why do you feel a new distributorship is needed right now? What can your company offer that other, similar companies don't?

JESSE REKLAW: It's basically a formal extension of what we've been doing in San Francisco -- pooling resources when it comes to dealing with shows and stores. Thien (pronounced "tin," in case you're curious) and I offer a service to self-publishing cartoonists (starting with the San Francisco Bay Area as well as like-minded creators elsewhere) who don't have the time or the money to solicit many stores and attend many shows -- but who do produce comics that are worth getting out there. We're helping stores by giving them a single point of contact. We will also have a mail order website up by the first quarter of 2004.

We don't plan to compete with anyone. USS Catastrophe is a tremendous asset to the mini-comics medium, its creators and readers, and we'd like to be nothing but a complement to their online store. Last Gasp, Cold Cut, and Tony Shenton's distro likewise offer valuable help to small publishers. Where possible, we're trying not to solicit to stores that are already working with a mini distributor. And of course we don't plan on competing with creators themselves, if they already sell to a store directly, or they're attending a show.

Despite all that, there's plenty of territory for Global Hobo to cover. No mini distributor out there offers such comprehensive coverage of the market: tabling at shows, sales to stores, mail-order, and our web store -- which will feature written descriptions of the comics as well as scans of covers and interior art. Additionally, we will carry more hand-made, hand-bound books, with silkscreen or letterpress covers. This will give readers and retailers confidence in the quality of our catalog.

SPURGEON: How much business are you doing right now? How many stores do you currently service? And what do you perceive your business will be like when it's fully up and going?

REKLAW: Global Hobo is just getting started, so this is tough for me to answer with anything but vague, hopeful projections. We're starting small because we want to remain stable, keeping up good relations with creators, stores, and individuals. We have about 30 stores we're sending the catalogs out to, mostly in the San Francisco Bay Area. We plan to attend about ten indy shows next year across the country, and to manage a steady mail-order/webstore business. We will publish a new printed catalog of books on a quarterly basis.

I'd like to be able to say we'll double, triple, or duodectuple our profits by the end of 2004; that we'll pay interns to help ship orders; that we'll offer profit-sharing to our creators; that we may even hire real hobos as regional salespeople. But all I know is: we're making money now and we'll keep going as long as that's true. We'll expand into markets when we see a need that we know how to satisfy. Our mission statement is to provide a quality service to small-press comics creators and readers, and it's not worth expanding if we can't keep to that promise.

SPURGEON: Do you have contact information for potential customers and retailers?

REKLAW: For the next couple months, both readers and retailers can e-mail tindog@hotmail.com or mail Global Hobo, PO Box 11493, Berkeley, CA 94712-2493 -- and we'll send them a catalog.

SPURGEON: What about a cartoonist wanting you to carry their stuff. Are you even looking for more stuff to carry?

REKLAW: We're only carrying stuff by invitation right now, and we're only working with people in the greater SF Bay Area. But if someone wants to send us something, the PO Box above is good. We may be considering more stuff when APE comes around, so talking to us in person there might be the best bet.

SPURGEON: With what can you entice the readers of this magazine so that they'll pick up a catalog and perhaps order something?

REKLAW: Well, frankly, right now we're asking for a handout. All our creators have been very generous in letting us carry their books on consignment until we can build up the cash base to purchase stock outright. We're hoping stores and mail-order customers will similarly take a chance on a young venture. We carry a healthy sampling of the very best small-press comics today -- a few Xeric winners, plus 2003 Eisner, Harvey, and Ignatz nominees.