Robert Lee Beerbohm
|Education||University of Nebraska-Lincoln|
California State University, Hayward
|Occupation(s)||Comic book historian, publisher, distributor and retailer|
Robert Lee Beerbohm (born June 17, 1952) is an American comic book historian and retailer who has been intimately involved with the rise of comics fandom since 1966. Beginning as a teenager in the late 60s, he became a fixture in the growing comic convention scene, while in the 1970s and 1980s he was heavily involved in Bay Area comic book retailing and distribution.
Beerbohm has been a consultant and author detailing the early history of comics in the United States, including rediscovering the first comic book in America, Rodolphe Töpffer's The Adventures of Mr. Obadiah Oldbuck. He has supplied data and visual aids as listed in the acknowledgements of over 200 books on comics and counting.
Robert Beerbohm Comic Art
In October 1966, while still in junior high school, Beerbohm took out his first ad in Rocket's Blast Comicollector (a.k.a. RBCC) #47, launching what has eventually become known as Robert Beerbohm Comic Art. By the 21st century Beerbohm was selling vintage American popular culture artifacts (mostly comic books) via the Internet, and setting up shows across the United States.
Beerbohm estimated from June 1967 thru April 2012 he set up at a thousand comics shows. Two strokes saw him close it all down July 10, 2018.
Beerbohm was among the first generation of dealers to traffic in original comic book art, sourcing his originals from suppliers with sometimes questionable provenance, claiming to have bought hundreds of allegedly stolen pages of Marvel and DC art from dealers set up in a hotel room at the 1969 27th World Science Fiction Convention in St. Louis.
Comics and Comix
In late August 1972, ten days following the first El Cortez Hotel San Diego Comicon, with housemate Bud Plant and John Barrett, Beerbohm co-opened Comics & Comix on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, California.
In April 1973 Comics & Comix hosted the first Bay Area comics convention, Berkeleycon 73, in the Pauley Ballroom in the ASUC Building on the University of California, Berkeley campus. Berkeleycon was the first comic-con that highlighted underground comix.
During the Berkeleycon they were blessed with what became known as the Tom Reilly 'pedigree' collection of close to 4000 white-paper, never-opened NM/M comic books published summer 1939 thru summer 1945. Tom had enlisted in the Navy late Dec 1941. His parents in affluent Piedmont section of Oakland, Calif kept buying one of each. Placing them untouched on shelves in their son's bedroom. Tom is killed during a kamikaze attack in the Pacific summer 1945. His parents sealed the room. They died Dec 1972. The young men ended up with 7/9s of the collection April-June 1972. Within 3 months they had opened 3 more stores dubbing the corporate firm Comics & Comix.
Beerbohm, John Barrett and Bud Plant as Comics & Comix published the first three issues of Jack Katz' The First Kingdom beginning in 1974. They also published comics by Jim Pinkoski and Dan O'Neill during Beerbohm's involvement.
Best of Two Worlds
Beerbohm sold out in early 1975. He went 'solo' opening his first Best of Two Worlds early Nov 1976 at 1707 Haight St, San Francisco. By May 1977 he opened a 2nd Best of Two Worlds on Telegraph Ave near UC-Berkeley, taking over his ex-partner's old location a block apart.
On Oct 4, 1978, with partner Gary Wood he opened The Funny Pages on Pier 30, the first high traffic tourist location comic bookstore in America. San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf was then the 3rd largest tourist attraction in the world. This location sold high-end popular culture artifacts.
In 1980 Beerbohm opened a third Best of Two Worlds on 4th St in Santa Rosa.
In 1982 Gary Wood sold his 50% to Robert Borden. In early 1985 Borden and Beerbohm sold 14% to Rory Root.
In February 1986 snow-melt flood waters cascaded out of the Sierra Nevada mountains, causing widespread property damage in much of northern California. Best of Two Worlds central warehouse was mostly destroyed. It contained a million comic books, half a million cards, 10,000 concert posters, 3000 pages of original comic book art, plus 90% of Beerbohm's comics fandom archives 1966-1985.
After Best of Two Worlds was forced by natural disaster into bankruptcy, Beerbohm went solo again with a single store in Haight Ashbury, but moved to a better location at Masonic, a major bus transfer hub. Here Beerbohm rebuilt almost from scratch once again, with signings by notable comics artists like a December 1987 Bill Sienkiewicz event and a growing relationship with Rick Griffin, who moved into the neighbourhood in 1988.
Best Comics and Rock Art Gallery
On June 1, 1991, Beerbohm, with silent-partner Edward Walker, opened Best Comics and Rock Art Gallery, an art gallery initially centering on seminal rock poster illustrator Rick Griffin in Fisherman's Wharf at The Cannery. The store's grand opening party June 1, 1991, featured bands like Big Brother and The Holding Company, New Riders of the Purple Sage, members of Quicksilver Messenger Service, It's a Beautiful Day, the Irish band Phoenix, and others. Two and a half months later, Griffin was killed in a motorcycle accident.  Immediately after, the Griffin family attempted through legal means to restrict the sale of artworks through the gallery, but the lawsuit was dropped. Beerbohm and Walker closed the gallery in 1992.
As a comics historian, Beerbohm rediscovered the first comic book in America, Rodolphe Töpffer's The Adventures of Mr. Obadiah Oldbuck, published on September 14, 1842 in New York City, as Brother Jonathan Extra No. IX, which is in the same format as a "modern" day comic book, sans staples, which had not yet been invented.
In June 2006 Beerbohm's hip joints imploded going bone on bone on him. In October HMO Aetna canceled medical insurance creating havoc in his business life. Already-scheduled surgery was abruptly canceled citing "undisclosed pre-existing condition". Three years went by until October 2009 arrangements were finally made which necessitated dual replacements on the same day. In June 1973, Beerbohm riding 'shotgun' took the full-force brunt of a van accident. Bud Plant was driving. Terry Stroud and Dick Swan were also involved in this accident in coming out of the Houstoncon.
- "The Big Bang Theory of Comic Book History" (Comic Book Marketplace, 1997)
- "The Mainline Comics Story: An Initial Examination" (Jack Kirby Collector #25, 1998)
- "Secret Origins of the Direct Market Part One: 'Affidavit Returns' - The Scourge of Distribution" (Comic Book Artist #6, Oct. 1999)
- "Secret Origins of the Direct Market Part Two: Phil Seuling and the Undergrounds Emerge," (Comic Book Artist #7, Mar. 2000)
- "The Illustrated Books of Frank King" (Comic Art #1, 2001)
- "Topffer in America" (Comic Art #3, 2003) (with Doug Wheeler and Leonardo De Sa)
- "The American Comic Book: 1929-Present: The Modern Comics Magazine Supplants the Earlier Formats" (Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide #27, 1997 thru 49, 2019) (with Richard Olson, PhD) — Three articles grew in size and scope which were continuously expanded and revised every year by the authors covering a "Victorian Age" (1842-1890s), a "Platinum Age" 1890s thru 1934 as well as an in-depth Origin of the Modern Comic Book 1921-1970s which ran thru #40.
- Beerbohm profile, Who's Who of American Comic Books, 1928–1999. Accessed May 29, 2012.
- Beerbohm LinkedIn profile. Accessed May 29, 2012.
- Beerbohm, Robert. "Update to Comics Dealer Extraordinaire Robert Beerbohm: In His Own Words," Comic-Convention Memories (June 24, 2010).
- Johnston, Rich (2022-10-18). "Buying Neal Adams & Steve Ditko Original Art From a Hotel Room in 1969". Bleeding Cool. Retrieved 2023-11-14.
There was over 5000 pages in that 1969 St Louis hotel room. All 'saved from being thrown away' so they claimed so they liberated it all instead for themselves. They wanted to liberate $5 per page for ever one we wanted to haul out of that hotel room stuffed all over. We only had $1200. We could easily have spent ten times that if we had it. But we were just Midwest high school students from Fremont Nebraska meeting our first New York city slickers for the first time.
- Nolan, Michelle. "Newswatch: Pioneering Comics Retailer John Barrett Dies at 50," The Comics Journal #233 (May 2001).
- Benhari. "First Comix Con Right On?", Berkeley Barb (April 27—May 3, 1973).
- Comics & Comix entry, Grand Comics Database. Accessed Oct. 8, 2016.
- Johnston, Rich (2022-09-26). "From John Byrne's 1978 Uncanny X-Men to 1995's Speculator Burn Out". bleedingcool.com. Bleeding Cool. Retrieved 2023-11-11.
Best of Two Worlds went out of business in 1987 due to the massive flooding of its central warehouse in Emeryville, California a year earlier.
- Langton, Mark (October 1991). "Remembering the Cosmic Visions of Rick Griffin". The Comics Journal #145. Fantagraphics.
Just before Griffin died, he, Beerbohm and partner Ed Walker had just converted the Gallery into a Rick Griffin showplace.
- FOLKART, BURT A. (20 August 1991). "Rick Griffin; Psychedelic Artist Adorned Rock Music Posters". Retrieved 24 October 2016 – via Los Angeles Times.
- Mason, Clark (August 22, 1991). "Dispute over dead artist's work settled". The Press Democrat. Santa Rosa, California.
- The Adventures of Mr. Obadiah Oldbuck at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on March 13, 2012. "On September 14, 1842, a New York paper, Brother Jonathan, ran an English-language version of Oldbuck (published in Britain a year earlier) as a supplement."
- Beerbohm, Robert; Wheeler, Doug; De Sá, Leonardo (2003). "Töpffer in America". Comic Art. No. 3. St. Louis, Missouri. pp. 28–47.
- Heritage Comics and Comic Art Auction #824: Dallas, Taxas, May 3–4 2007, Heritage Capital Corporation, p. 1.
- Duin, Steve, and Richardson, Mike. Comics Between the Panels (Dark Horse Comics, 1998), p. 333–335.