Every year, as his family made its annual camper trip up the Pacific Coast, Jeffrey A. Montgomery would bury his face in comic books. "What else was a kid going to do on a ride from Los Angeles to Oregon?" he asks. Now 27, he's still into comics, as chairman of Harvey Comics Entertainment. But this isn't child's play. "I look at myself as a character manager," he explains.
Montgomery is hustling to resurrect a galaxy of characters including Casper the Friendly Ghost, Richie Rich, and Baby Huey. When he bought Harvey for $8 million in 1989, it was producing only two comics a month, and its characters hadn't been on TV in years. He dug into the archives for old comic books to rerelease, first sprucing them up with modern language and fresh color. He now has 15 monthly titles, including the newly acquired New Kids on the Block.
The comics are intended to whet readers' appetites for bigger things. This fall, Harvey will begin syndicating 65 episodes of "color-upgraded" Casper & Friends TV shows. Warner Brothers is planning a Richie Rich movie with Home Alone's Macauley Culkin. MCA Inc., which paid $3 million for 20% of Harvey last year, has asked Steven Spielberg's production company for a Casper movie and a Baby Huey short. Harvey characters may show up at MCA's theme parks next year.
Montgomery, son of Great Western Bank Chairman James F. Montgomery, says Dad didn't help him buy Harvey. He swung the deal with well-heeled friends he met getting his MBA at the University of Southern California and later as a Columbia Pictures film producer. Projected at $5 million this year, Harvey Comics' revenues are up fivefold from 1989 and should generate $1 million this year in pretax profits, a 30% hike from last year. Richie Rich would certainly approve.