First Comics co-founder Rick Obadiah died of a sudden heart attack on Sunday night, his First colleague Mike Gold posted on ComicMix. He collapsed at the gym as he got off the treadmill and died instantly.
Obadiah, a University of Wisconsin graduate, was a creative, clever marketer who became the publisher at comic publishing pioneer First Comics in 1981. Its first title was Warp, the comic adaptation of the theatrical production, for which Obadiah was the producer.
At a time when publishers other than the Big Two were known for less-than-perfect release schedules and professionalism, First maintained an incredible record of on-time performance, a key element of its positioning. First saw its competition as Marvel and DC, and ran its business that way, rather than focusing on other publishers closer to its fighting weight. First sued Marvel and top comics printer World Color Press in 1984, alleging anti-competitive practices, waging a battle in the courts for five years until the case was settled.
First Comics was focused on the then fledgling comic shop channel, which Obadiah nurtured at distributor meetings and other gatherings, and through its business practices.
After First Comics, Obadiah had a number of other careers, including as publisher of a horse enthusiast magazine, and most recently as President of Star Legacy Funeral Services, the largest online purveyor of funeral products in the U.S., with licenses from Major League Baseball, among others, and services that include shooting remains in the form of ashes into space, and compressing them into artificial diamonds.
A classic entrepreneur, at the craps table he would play the numbers and often press his bets when he won, convinced that he could ride his streak to a bigger win. Sometimes, he did, and sometimes, he didn't, but it was always a fun ride.
A pleasant soul with an upbeat disposition, Obadiah had a big personality, which he was unafraid to deploy in pursuit of his business goals. In this quarter, he’ll be remembered warmly both on a personal level and for his contributions to the comics industry as we know it today.