Bob Beerbohm, RIP

By | Tuesday, April 02, 2024 Leave a Comment
I gather this news has already made the rounds, but I just learned that Bob Beerbohm passed away last week. I never met him in person, but we did talk many times. As one of the early pioneers of dedicated comic book shops, I had originally contacted him in the late 1990s to see if he would be open to being interviewed for a book idea I had on the history of comic book retailing. It turns out that it wasn't an original idea; Bob had himself been working on precisely such a book for several years already.

I'd loosely kept in touch with him over the years, and he always had interesting insights into the comic book industry. I certainly learned a fair amount from him, particularly on some of the late 19th century material that often gets shunted aside as if the Yellow Kid was created in a vacuum. He seemed to be annoyed that more people didn't know the history of comics -- well, not exactly. He seemed to be annoyed with people who claimed to know the history of comics and wrote about it with some measure of authority but didn't actually know the history of comics. He did a fair amount, though, to try to educate people and I think he did indeed push more people to look beyond the "accepted canon" of comics, though I don't know if he saw the repercussions of that.

He was very clearly a passionate man when it came to comics, and he argued vociferously on points he felt should be examined with more scrutiny, and not be taken at face value because this creator or that creator just said so. As a retailer, he also was pretty vocal about the business side of comics, and was one of the first people to call out slabbing comics as a scam. His strong opinions made him borderline villainous to people he called out but he always returned to the idea that he was just trying to ensure the record was set straight.

Bob had been working, as I said, on a book about the history of comic book retailing. The last I heard, his manuscript was over 800 pages long but he never published it. (At least in full. I gather he did use portions of it in various writings he posted online over the years.) A note from his daughter Katy suggests that she'll be looking to ensure it does get published in some capacity, and I truly hope it does. From what I've read of his work, it would probably need a strong editor, but the information he has included from only the small snippets I've read -- much of it first-hand -- would make for an invaluable resource if it were collected in a single volume.

Speaking of Katy, she does have a GoFundMe to help pay for funeral expenses. It looks like, as of this writing, it's already surpassed the goal but additional funds will go towards organizing his notes and materials, and getting things put together to finally publish his book. I know I'll be first in line for a copy.

My condolences to Katy and the rest of the Beerbohm family. He was very much a strong force in the comics industry, but that pales in comparison to the efforts I know he tried to put forth as a father. I wish the family all the best.
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