Chatting with Greg Goldstein
Greg Goldstein, newly named COO for number four comics publisher IDW has been working in and around the comics field since joining Topps in 1983. Since then, he has worked for trading card and video game companies, always wheeling and dealing, building a deep network of friends and contacts.
Greg and I have known each other since 1980 when we first met while attending SUNY-Binghamton. Our paths next crossed when he wound up at Topps Comics and we have continued to work in the same field ever since.
As a result, Greg was more than comfortable in chatting about his new position despite barely setting up his new offices.
CMix: It’s been a long road from SUNY-Binghamton, from Topps to IDW. What’s a COO do anyway?
Greg Goldstein: It varies from company to company— here at IDW I will be managing the day to day to operations and helping launch new products. Ted Adams, our CEO and my boss, will then be better able to focus more on new strategic initiatives for the company.
CMix: IDW is the first real publisher you’ve worked at since Topps Comics. How do you see the comic book field change over those years?
GG: Call me Rip Van Goldstein. Seriously, the more things change, the more they remain the same. I think awareness and positive energy for comic books has never been higher — our mission is how to translate that enthusiasm directly into sales. The paradox of our business is that consumers spent more money on “comic book” films this past summer than ever before, but sales of many titles themselves are down.
On the production side of course, we were just beginning to utilize digital in the Topps Comics days. Today, it is the standard. This means less, lots less, FedEx deliveries with artwork each day, if at all.
And of course, we were only beginning to understand the impact of GN’s and TPBs in the early 90s. It’s great to be able to give classic material a whole new life in today’s marketplace. Much of that wasn’t possible back in the Topps days because of different set of economics.
CMix: What’s first on your To Do list at IDW?
GG: Rule #1, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. IDW does a lot of things very, very well, and it’s my goal to understand their processes and objectives as best as possible, before I jump in too deep. So I guess “downloading” is first.
CMix: Are you at IDW to organize what exists or prep them to expand?
GG: Both. In order to keep growing, as they have been doing so each year of their existence, they need more of the kind of experience I bring to the table.
CMix: You’ve also logged time at Inkworks and Upper Deck, how do trading cards and comic books compare or contrast?
GG: I will answer that with a line form my very favorite movie review capsule of all time. When Woody Allen’s Manhattan came out, the Newsday critic summed the film this way: “Like Annie Hall, but different.”
Cards and comics have had similar booms and busts over the years; unfortunately trading cards today (excluding TCG’s) are really only about sketch cards, autographs and collectability. Not enough people are buying cards for the joy of it. One thing we pretty much know for certain is that all those readers of graphic novels and collections are readers, not speculators.
CMix: You’ve worked with some real characters along the way, what sort of things have you learned from company to company?
GG: As far as the characters go, that will have to wait until my book. But I believe strongly in what’s now being called “best practices” — you take the things that work at each organization and bring it with you to your next job. Of course, you try to leave behind the things that don’t work as well. And not to sound like a Hallmark card, but “character counts.”
CMix: You’ve created publications in the past at Baseball Update; will you be creating new titles for IDW?
GG: I expect to be actively involved in all of the company’s initiatives, new title creation included. But my ideas will have to go though a thorough “vetting” process, same as everyone else.
CMix: You’re a New Yorker transplanted to San Diego, which team do you root for the Mets or Padres?
GG: In a perfect world, they each win their division and the Mets squeak by in a play off series. Not so perfect this year. And of course last night I had the opportunity to see the Jets humiliated by the Chargers. It’s been that kind of year.
CMix: With your work at Activision, Acclaim and Popmania Entertainment, you’ve cut deals with many studios. What’s the secret to deal making?
GG: Empathy and persistence. Its not about what you want, its about what they want, and sometimes they don’t know what they want, so you have to help them figure it out. A big checkbook doesn’t hurt either.
CMix: Seriously, though, how do you evaluate properties to license in or out?
GG: That’s a matter of understanding your customer base more than anything else and not becoming too emotionally involved in any one intellectual property. You also run each new idea through an appropriate and thorough litmus test before you jump in.
Even after that process, however, mistakes are made. Everyone has made them. The trick of course, is to make as few as possible.
CMix: IDW has a lot of strong, high profile licenses. Will you be involved in scouting out new properties?
GG: That will certainly be part of the mix.
CMix: What’s on your To Be Read stack today?
GG: About a zillion financial and sales documents. But after I get through that, I will try to read the fun stuff tonight: Steve Niles adaptation of I am Legend, Star Trek Archives 1 collecting some of Peter David’s better ST stories and Grant Morrison’s Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul.
CMix: Thanks for your time, Greg. It’s always good to catch up.
GG: Thanks, Bob. Always happy to chat.