Back in the late-90s, a friend and co-worker of mine at a web design firm, Steve, created an early shopping cart program. He asked me if I wanted to help him market the software, so we formed an LLC called Grimm Productions, named after Benjamin Grimm AKA The Thing from The Fantastic Four.

Of course trying to sell this program wasn’t going to be easy. So, we decided the thing to do was to start small in a field that wasn’t very well represented online at the time and that we had a genuine interest in. We decided to start with a comic book shop.

I had a really good relationship with my local shop, so I approached them to see if they’d be willing to work with us and they agreed to give us a try. They didn’t have any kind of online presence at the time other than an AOL email address, so it was a perfect way for us to help them get more sales, as well as be a proving ground for Steve’s program.

But our goal wasn’t just to have one comic book shop using our shopping cart. What we envisioned was our own website, GrimmComics.com, being a central hub for small comic book shops to sell their wares. The comic shops would upload their inventory and then whenever a customer searched for, say, Spawn #1, they would get all of the Spawn #1’s in the system, regardless of what comic shop they came from. The customer would be able to decide which one to buy based on condition and price.

Once the customer made their choice and checked out, the comic shop would get an email saying they’d made a sale and that they needed to prepare the comic to ship. Once we got a USPS tracking number from the shop, we’d pay them for the comic plus shipping, minus a percentage for us. We handled all the behind-the-scenes tech, we handled the website design and promotion, all the shops had to do was ship comics, keep their inventories updated, and collect their payout.

We already had my local shop’s inventory, but we wanted to get more companies online. So, we went to Wizard World Chicago in the summer of 1999 to talk to the comic shops and dealers that would be at the show. We had brochures and business cards printed up, as well as a laptop with an offline model of Grimm Comics to show how everything worked. But we were also attending as fans, so we wanted to have some fun, do some comic book shopping of our own, and stand out among the crowd.

Enter the Gnome

If you weren’t on the internet in the mid-to-late 90s, there was this odd fad of the traveling yard gnome. Some people had their yard gnomes stolen, only to later receive pictures in the mail of the gnome visiting famous landmarks around the world. Other people would simply take their garden gnomes with them on vacation and use them as fun props for photo opportunities. There was even an underground Garden Gnome Liberation Front that operated primarily in France that would steal gnomes from peoples’ yards and “release” them into the forest because the statues yearned to be free. 1990s internet was a weird, yet wonderful, time.

With these stories in mind, we decided to find a yard gnome at Home Depot and use him as a memorable prop when we visited Wizard World. We named him “Floyd, the Drunken Yard Gnome”, but that would eventually get abbreviated and flipped around to become simply, “DYG Floyd” (pronounced “Dig Floyd”).

We hit Wizard World with the gnome in-hand and got a bunch of pictures so we could promote our trip on GrimmComics.com. The photos were taken with a disposable film camera and later scanned in, then resized for use on the low-bandwidth 1999 internet. Needless to say, they’re not the best quality, but it was just the limitations of the technology at the time. Unfortunately, the original photos got lost between moves, so these are the last remnants of our adventures with Floyd.

Let’s start off with a bang by featuring by far the most famous person to be photographed with Floyd, director Kevin Smith. Smith was the Guest of Honor at this Wizard World and I was lucky enough to get his signature on a Clerks poster, as well as this photo of him with Floyd. Unfortunately, the poster was destroyed when our basement flooded in 2015. But the memory of him clearly being so, so tired of this stupid fanboy crap will live on forever. But, he was a good sport about it, so for that, I say thank you, Mr. Smith.

Next up we have Alex Ross, one of the premier comic book artists in the industry today. Ross is well-known for his ultra-realistic paintings of superheroes that are a sight to behold. At the time, he was best-known for painting the 1996 limited series Marvels for Marvel Comics, as well as the DC series Kingdom Come. He was at Wizard World to promote the upcoming release of his post-apocalyptic Marvel series, Earth X, and he also seemed very confused about taking a photo with a yard gnome.

Now these two lovely fellows were more than enthused about getting their picture taken with Floyd! Here we have Humberto Ramos (hugging Floyd) and writer Francisco Haghenbeck, who were at Wizard World to promote their new comic, Crimson. Crimson was a story about a teenager who was attacked by a band of vampires. Left for dead, he was saved by a group who thought he might be “The One” who could take down the vampires once and for all. At the time, it was being published by Image and I was a huge fan, especially of Ramos’ artwork. I had brought along the debut issue of Crimson and had them both sign it. Unfortunately, it was also lost when my basement flooded.

My water-logged, signed copy of Crimson #1

Ramos has since gone on to become one of the big shots at Marvel, working primarily on Spider-Man titles. Sadly, Haghenbeck passed away from COVID-19 in 2021.

Although it’s kind of hard to tell because she’s kissing Floyd, this is actress Claudia Christian. She’s been in a ton of movies and TV shows since the mid-80s, but amongst the nerdy crowd, she’s best-known for playing Commander Susan Ivanova on Babylon 5. For me, she’s best-remembered for playing an alien-infested, gun-toting exotic dancer in 1987’s The Hidden.

This is former Playboy model Alley Bagget, who, in 1999, was a co-writer and star of her own comic book, Alley Cat, a short-lived title published by Image Comics. She was kind of an “it girl” for a brief period of time, but disappeared from the entertainment sphere in the early-2000s. She’s still doing work in the modeling field, as well as streaming on OnlyFans.

The rest of the photos from Wizard World are mostly cosplayers and booth girls (it was the 90s, we were in our 20s, give us a break), as well as some comic creators that I’m not familiar with. If anyone out there knows who these folks are, please leave a comment below!

More Gnome-ventures

Wizard World wasn’t the end of our adventures with Floyd. We would occasionally take him out to bars with us where we would order his own shot and take pictures with other fun folks. He was a regular at the now-gone White Horse Inn in Champaign, Illinois…

he came to Mardi Gras with us in 1999 where he collected copious amounts of beads…

and was there to ring in the new millennium at my friend’s “Y2K Suck Me!” party.

Unfortunately, Grimm Comics wouldn’t last too much longer after our Wizard World trip. Steve wound up selling the rights to the shopping cart software to an advertising firm in town and we both got hired on as the primary web design team. I only worked there for about a year before moving to St. Louis, but Steve was there for a few more before moving to Chicago, and then later to St. Louis. We’re still friends today.

Steve and I shared custody of Floyd for a number of years before eventually passing him on to Steve’s son when we went to college. When his son graduated, he passed Floyd on to an underclassmen that he knew and that’s where the trail ends.

I don’t know where Floyd is now – probably at the bottom of a landfill at this point – but wherever he is, I hope he’s happy and I hope he remembers the good times we had together.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *