Tuesday 5 June 2012

Harry Kremer

Harry Kremer (1946-2002)
Portrait by Dave Sim (Cerebus #279, June 2002)

Harry Kremer Obituary by Dave Sim
The Comics Buyers Guide #1481 (reprinted in Cerebus 279, June 2002)

(from the interview at Coville's Clubhouse, June 2005)
I worked for Harry beginning December 1st of 1976 when he opened up the downstairs at 103 Queen St. S. which is across the street from where Now & Then Books is now. The hours were 10am to 9pm Thursday and Friday and 10am to 6pm Saturday and for that I got a grand total of $75 a month. It was all Harry could afford. And I rented my one-room apartment at 379 Queen St. S. for $120 a month which meant that I had to make $45 a month from drawing and writing just to keep a roof over my head. I had about $1,000 in the bank from selling Harry my comic-book collection to help buy some time, but it was definitely sink or swim. As it turns out it was sink, swim or move in with your girlfriend which Deni [Loubert] and I did in April of 1977 so I only had to come up with half of the rent which I think still worked out to about $120 a month. Harry helped in a lot of ways with Cerebus. For starters, he was running the comic-book store that I was living in (it was really my first home, my parents house was just where I slept and stored my comic books) when the direct market started and he was stocking new comic books as well as back issues, new comic books which included ground level titles like Star*Reach which showed me that there was room on the shelves next to Marvel and DC. Then he agreed to publish Oktoberfest Comics in 1976. Through that experience, I found out roughly what it cost to do a black-and-white comic on newsprint with a colour cover and realized that it was a lot more affordable with the new high-speed web offset presses than I had suspected which started me thinking about doing one of my own. And before the first issue was published, he agreed to take 500 copies which, when you consider that our two distributors - Jim Friel of Big Rapids Distribution and Phil Seuling of Sea Gate Distributors - were taking 500 and 1,000 copies respectively tells you what a great vote of confidence and commitment that was from a single comic book store. And then he would also buy artwork from time to time. He bought the complete issue 4 for $220, $10 a page. It may not sound like much, but it definitely paid for a lot of Kraft Dinners which Deni and I pretty much lived on for months at a time. We had our ups and downs over the years - he got seriously offended when I started charging $100 a page U.S. He liked my artwork but he really didn't think it belonged in that price range. But there's no question that Cerebus couldn't have made it through the first few years without his help and, particularly, without the existence of Now & Then Books.

Harry Kremer’s store, Now & Then Books in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, was one of the first comic book specialty shops in North America and The Harry Kremer Retailer Awards are named in his memory.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It might have been nice to mention that Harry's middle name was actually Victor (same as you, as I recall). I remember when this tribute came out and all I could think was that you mixed up Harry with one of the shadow's operatives: Harry Vincent. Might be a good time to set the record straight.