b Papa Dog's Blog: Max Seeley

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Max Seeley

I wrote some time back about the cottage where we spent summers when I was a kid and how I used to eagerly await the sound of the mailman driving up the long dirt road, hoping always this was the day my padded mailer would arrive from Sherbrooke, PQ. In those days before every good-sized city in North America had a comic shop or three, a number of enterprising fellows made their living by selling back issues through the mail. Robert Bell, Robert Crestohl, a fellow named Phil Seuling who would shortly create something called the “direct market.” I’d explain that further, but it would bore most of you comatose. They bought ads in the back of Marvel and DC comics – little boxes that looked kind of like classifieds, or the cheap display ads in the yellow pages. They would tout the size of their collections (“1000’s!”) and their reach into the unfathomable past (“Golden Age!”). I suppose they bought current issues in wholesale lots and continuously raided all the garage sales in town for the rest, because they never seemed to run out of anything. Of all these entrepreneurs, the one closest to Ottawa was Max Seeley of Sherbrooke, and when I was ten I made like Mac (not Max) and gambled a stamp (and maybe a quarter) to get Seeley’s catalogue. I had never purchased anything through the mail before, and was naively thrilled that I was permitted to make this sort of transaction even though I was just a little kid. In fact, it occurred to me that there was no reason Max Seeley should ever know I was just a little kid. For all he knew, I could be one of those college guys I was always reading about in Stan Lee’s soapbox – the ones who dug the sophisticated take on the issues of the day to be found in your average issue of Marvel Two-in-One. For the first couple of orders, I may actually have passed for a grownup – insofar as Seeley could have given a rat’s ass how old the person sending him money orders from Ottawa was. But then one of my orders arrived with a note from Seeley – probably he had to substitute a FN for a VF or something – and that was that. I had to respond. I mean, here was a guy who made his living selling comic books. How could I, in my lonely suburban world where nobody understood my four-colour obsession but me, not fill out the blank side of my next order form with all my thoughts on why I was ordering these particular items? So Max Seeley of Sherbrooke, PQ, became my first pen pal; one of the best I ever had, too, because his notes always arrived in a padded mailer with a stack of comic books.

I’ve got to say, Seeley was a class act. He never ripped me off, and most of those guys were in business pretty much for the purpose of ripping off ten-year-olds. Even more to his credit, he took the time to read all my stupid little notes and always responded in kind, never condescending, never rude, and – apparently – never without a moment to spare for some geeky kid he’d never met. I remember apologising once for not having ordered in a while – I guess I thought it was mandatory that I return a new order every time I received the old one, and I had gone and spent my allowance on something else that month. I remember very clearly that he replied, “Don’t worry, we can’t be flush all the time.” I learned that sense of the word “flush” from him. I think I also learned the phrase “in lieu of” from one of his notes. Comics were always enriching my word power.

Anyway, I don’t even remember why I started thinking about Max Seeley today, but I did, and thought I’d write down what recollections of him I could dredge up. That’s the lot. Never met the guy. No idea what he’s up to now, or even if he’s still alive. I kind of feel like I should track him down. He was, in a way, a formative influence in my childhood.


Anonymous Mama Dog Duvalier said...

How Canadian of you to have apologized for not placing an order! The world needs more polite people like you!

9:19 AM  
Blogger ROBERT said...

I was surfing the net and came across your tribute to MAX SEELEY. I knew Max very well, we went to comic book conventions together during the 1970s and split up many a collection together...and you are right...he was a class act. Sadly to say...he passed away in June 1985.


9:27 PM  
Anonymous Sanjiv Purba said...

Dear Robert Crestohl,
As a youth i sent you an order which you could not fill. I sent in a substitute order for Davedevil 165. You replied that the prices had skyrocketed because of the Frank Miller art. You cashed my $12 check (a lot back then!) and i never got any comics or heard back from you again.
sanjiv purba

4:02 PM  

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