Ben Fritzsching, a partner in the comic book show promotion group STX Shows, has a very simple explanation as to how he started collecting comic books: "My mom never made me get rid of anything. The next thing I knew, I was collecting." His parents took him to a couple of comic book shows and that moved him from the Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck comics he had been reading to superheroes and GI Joe. By the time he was 17, he had so many comics he decided to set up his own booth at a show, and his career as a part-time comic book dealer was born.
After selling collectables at comic book shows for about ten years, Fritzsching took a break from the business. "Everything was getting so expensive. The prices for everything were skyrocketing." Both Fritzsching and his wife were laid off and weekend comic book shows took a backseat to paying bills.
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Fast-forward to 2014, Fritzsching was surfing Craigslist for GI Joe toys when he saw an ad for a comic book show in Houston. He decided to give the business another try and signed up. Then, just days before the show, the promoter pulled out. Fritzsching and a few other dealers stepped in and hastily put together their own show using the same venue, and suddenly Fritzsching found himself in the promotion business. There have been some personnel changes at STX Shows, and the lineup now includes Fritzsching, Arturo Orozco, Andres Perez and Kevin Powell.
What he does: "I used to tell people, 'I sell comic books and comic book accessories.' Now, if somebody asks me what I do, I tell them I'm a show promoter. That means finding a viable location, contacting dealers to come to the show, contacting guests for the show and constantly being on the phone and [Internet.]" Fritzsching is also an actor. "I created this character, I call him the Godbrother. He looks like...ah, he..." Fritzsching demurs.
We finish the sentence for him. "He looks like a pimp."
"Well, yeah," he sheepishly admits. Fritzsching dons the Godbrother persona at shows and has partnered with another vendor/character, J.R. Cernoch of Wulf's Toys, who dresses as a Victorian-era gentleman. The two promote a fake rivalry between the themselves (think WWE wrestlers but with more clothes and less muscle, and add comic books).
Why he likes it: "I like the opportunities that it presents. The people you get to meet and the relationships you develop through this are wonderful. I went from not having participated in a show for years to being behind the show in less than six months. You couldn't do this in another business. It has been an amazing experience."
Another perk, Fritzsching tells us, is an upcoming comic book starring the Godbrother and his Victorian-era friend. "The Godbrother is just me dressed as a pimp but other than that, it's just me. Me [and my friend] have always said that our characters are [the people] other people will be dressing up like later. Now we got a comic starring us, that's the first step to getting people to dress up like us."
What inspires him: "As sappy as it may sound, I like making people happy." STX Shows is very dealer-centric, keeping prices low to allow more potential for profit. Over the past few months, Fritzsching has seen how the group's shows have made for a better experience for both vendors and artists. "Instead of just taking their money, here we are and we're treating them right, letting them know that they're important. It makes a difference for them. Seeing them be happy makes me happy. It makes me want to get the next show going."
If not this, then what: Is there a dream gig out there for Fritzsching, something else he'd love to do? "Make movies," he tells us. We ask, "As a producer, as an actor, as a director?"
"Yes," he says, laughing at his own joke. "I figure the only way that I can star in the movies that I want to make is if I'm directing them."
If not here, then where: "Houston is home base for us. We get to travel everywhere else for shows, so we can live where we want to and that's Houston."
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What's next: Fritzsching and his STX partners are hosting the STX Comic Book and Toy Show on Saturday, November 22. After that, a January show is in the works. The group's also planning a larger show in Bryan for next year, The Brazos Valley STX Comic Con. And, of course, there's that Godbrother comic book release to look forward to.
The STX Comic Book and Toy Show is at 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on November 22. DoubleTree Suites Galleria, 5353 Westheimer. For information, visit stxshows.com. $5.
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