Behind the Curtain: Tales of Wonder

Last week, we left off with me about to create my own site with the help of a benefactor and some staff. We were going to do great things.
Then I got an email.
There was a website that had contacted me once when I still worked for SBC. They had wanted me to do content for their site too, but everything I did for their site would be exclusive to their site. I said I was interested, but they never got back to me.
Six months later, as SBC has disintegrated and I’ve began this bold new adventure of building a brand new site, ready to change the comic news world, they contacted me again. They gave a reason for never getting back to me the first time, though honestly I don’t recall what it was. Some things going on that shifted their attention from the site for a while or something.
Anyway, now they wanted me to come work for them full-time, doing what I did at SBC… or so I thought. This was early 2008. Iron Man was about to hit theaters, and they offered to fly me out to the Red Carpet Premiere of the movie in New York City. For reasons I won’t divulge here, I sadly had to decline that invitation. That was an amazing offer, and something I would have loved to have done, but I just couldn’t make it work at the time.
Since that didn’t work out, they offered to fly me to Georgia, where they are located, put me up in a hotel, and show me around. There, we could talk about the job and all the details.
Hotel I stayed in while there.
The company was Tales of Wonder. They are a huge trade/hardcover distributor, and you see them at a lot of the bigger conventions. I don’t know how well they’re doing now, but at the time, business was doing well. But they were looking to get more traffic to the website, hence the news content.
So, I fly out to Atlanta, and after waiting an hour for my luggage to be found, and then going to the wrong car rental place to meet the guy, I finally met up with him and he set me up with a car. I then drove 45 minutes from Atlanta to a smaller city to the North where they used to be located (their website now says Indiana, so apparently they’ve moved, or have another location now). Found my hotel, got settled in, and prepped myself for the week ahead. See, I would be spending a week at their warehouse learning the ropes.
That night, the two owners of the company treated me to dinner as a way to get to know me and to tell me a bit about the job. They were already impressed with me from SBC and eager to hire me, obviously. And they didn’t really hide that fact at dinner either. In fact, they more or less made me an offer that first night. But they also dropped two huge bombshells on me.
First, they informed me that the website content was only part of the job, and that they’d show me the rest the next day. Okay, I’m game, so I said that’s fine.
Second, after I had informed them about my own endeavor with Absolute Edition, they said that would be a deal breaker. If I came to work for them, I would have to be exclusive to them. I couldn’t do my own website.
I had a lot to think about. And I needed to confer with my benefactor about it as well. After leaving the restaurant and heading back to the hotel, that’s exactly what I did. And that’s where everything started to unravel.
The timeline of events is a little fuzzy looking back, so I’ll jump around a bit.
The next day, I went to the TOW warehouse and met a couple of other people, and got the grand tour. It was actually a modest sized warehouse. There was an office portion with just a few rooms pretty much in a straight line. And then there was a warehouse portion with several shelves of trades and hardcovers, and a bunch of boxes and pallets containing more books, from what I recall. There was also a small staging area with convention display shelves. And this is where I learned what the other part of the job was, little by little.
Turns out, 90% of the job wasn’t the website content at all. In fact, it was driving a big truck across the country to various conventions, and setting up the convention booth, and running the convention booth. Note that at this point, I had NEVER been to a comic convention in my life! So the next few days were spent showing me how they do set up for the cons.
They continued to woo me with a possible work laptop, selling the website portion, saying I could do it from the road, and so forth. Throughout the week, I was to look for an apartment in the area, which I did to no avail. Even though the amount of money they were offering me to start was considerable, and honestly more than I had ever made at a job before, rent was pretty high in the area. It was a very nice city that I actually fell in love with the first day I drove around it. Very clean, bright, lots to do. 
Picture of City Hall – kind of resembles the Hall of Justice, huh?
When I had trouble finding a place, one of the guys actually found me a place. Funny story: This friend of his was looking to rent out a room in his house. He lived alone, and was offering free reign of the kitchen and free wifi and cable. All I had to pay was rent and a portion of the utilities. In trying to get the room presentable for me, the guy tried to move a treadmill down the stairs by himself. It slid, he broke a leg I think it was, and the treadmill slammed into the front door, knocking it off its hinges. I had instructions to find the house (which was in a very nice neighborhood, I might add), and go through the unlocked back door, because you couldn’t get through the front. So here I was about 10pm wondering around this strange neighborhood, walking into the backyard of a house and going inside. lol I felt like a burglar. It was a nice house, though, and I was warming up to things.
To clear my mind and get some perspective, I went to a movie theater and saw (and loved) Iron Man. I’d see it again with my brother as soon as I got back home.
Somewhere in the midst of all this, my benefactor had emailed me back. It was bad news. She was not thrilled with the idea of me even entertaining this job offer. It wasn’t that she begrudged my success, but her reasoning was that if I considered this one, what’s to stop me from considering another one a year into the site. She pulled out of Absolute Edition then and there. My own site was dead, because I couldn’t afford to do it on my own.
So it appeared that my decision was made for me. Even then, I wrestled with the decision. The thought of driving a truck across country and setting up and working conventions before I even got to visit one as a fan or creator was not appealing to me in the least. But I was pretty much out of options. Honestly, I called my mother, talked to her about it. Then I prayed about it.
The last day I was to be there, I accepted the job. They were thrilled, but it would have to be a very fast transition. This was Friday. I was to fly home Saturday morning, pack, and be back to start the job on Monday. No time at all to wrap up anything.
There are two very important factors I need to mention here that were going on as well. One, I had gallstones at the time. I was having constant attacks, and was taking pain medication for them. I was in a lot of pain and needed surgery badly according to doctors. Two, my Papaw had just died. I had to miss his funeral for this trip. So emotions were running all over the place at this time, and I just didn’t know what to do.
When I got home, I emailed the guy thanking him for having me and all the niceties and pleasantries you’re supposed to say in a situation like that. Unfortunately for me, I also felt bold enough to mention that at first I was hesitant because the convention aspect of the job wasn’t that appealing to me. But that I was still excited and looking forward to the job.
For whatever reason, that did it. The guy emailed back and said the offer was off the table. Just like that. I called the next day and tried to, quite frankly, talk my way back in, but his mind was made up.
So here I was without a job, and my own website wasn’t happening either. In a week, I lost everything, right on the heels of losing my Papaw, and I was in pain. And if all that wasn’t enough, I had rekindled a relationship with my dad while in Georgia, where he lives and I was born, and he was going to help me get a car… as long as I lived there. Now all that was shot too, both the car and the relationship.
I was lost. I had no idea what to do or where to go. I was confused, angry, frustrated and sad.
Next week, how Comic Related & Haven Distributors changed my life.

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