Before I start this column proper, I thought I should introduce myself to all of you. My name is Ken Meyer Jr. Some of you may know my work as penciler on the Clint the Hamster Triumphant comic of the late 80’s, the stories and covers I did for Kilroy is Here from Caliber in the 90’s, the many covers I have done for companies such as Revolutionary, the graphic novel from NBM called Gustav P.I., the handful of Marvel painted stories I have done, or my story in the new Comic Book Tattoo. While I am on the subject of Tori Amos, her fans might know me from the RAINN benefit calendar I did for a number of years. Some of you may know the work I have done in the role playing game market for Magic the Gathering, various White Wolfgame books and cards, and too many other companies to list. I would reckon none of you know of the jobs I have had in online gaming (Everquest), military contracting (Top Gun), or the dozens of other jobs I have had over the years (and there are a lot of years). Suffice to say I have been around awhile. I have been around long enough to be an enthusiastic participant in the fanzine scene decades ago…as a buyer and a contributor. In fact, I am so enthusiastic about these great publications that I wrote a little song, and it goes something like this…
All in color for a dime,
Comics made in a simpler time.
Batman, Superman and Spidey were kings,
Image was not yet everything.
Our heroes were not jaded and grim
Bones was DeForest Kelly saying “He’s Dead, Jim”
The Black and White boom had not become a crock
and Vertigo was still just a film by Hitchcock
Foil covers were not in style,
Cronkite would still be around for awhile.
Video game violence did not yet exist
there was no Clint vs. Wilhemina Fisk
When you got your thrills through the daily mail,
with a loud joyful voice, you would proudly wail…
in Black and White
what a beautiful sight
Please send me more
It’s a zip-a-tone war
in a simpler time
Mine all mine!
And so, without further affront to your musical sensibilities, let me tell you what I plan for this column. I have a collection of over 200 fanzines from the 60’s-80’s that I plan to scan and talk about, one at a time. I hope to have some of the participants answer a few questions. Many of those participants are established comics professionals now, while some have gone on to other things. I will show a few snippets from each zine and give you a link to download a pdf of the whole thing, which I hope all of you will do!
Our first fanzine is…
The Collector 27 (winter 1973)
Publisher:Bill G. Wilson
The Collector was one of those fanzines that started out small and probably just as amateurish as any other (I only started reading around issue 17), but near the end of its 29 issue run, ranked up there with the best in production values, variety and class.
Bill G. Wilson started the zine in 1967. By the time I saw it, Bill was featuring the late Don Newton and his gorgeous realistic brushwork frequently. Newton would remain with the zine until the very end, even after becoming a pro doing work for DC and Charlton.
Each issue got bigger and better, featuring the usual pro sketches and illustrations, but also showcasing the best fan work of the time, on big 8 ½ x 11 pages, and in the latter issues, full color.
Issue 27 is the first issue I will feature in this column, for no specific reason, except that I think it epitomized the quality the zine had come to possess. The cover for this issue is by the prolific Robert Kline, who I thought was surely destined for wide mainstream popularity…but, as far as I know, he went into animation and that is the last I heard of him. This issue only has one small drawing aside from the cover, but you will see him often in this column, as I feature other issues of The Collector as well as Gary Groth’s Fantastic Fanzine.
The stories in this issue are Jim Pinkoski’s fastidiously textured Noman (told in two parts), an 8 page political manifesto called J by Steve Ditko, and a campy fun 4 page Greenhorn story by the late Alan Hanley. Also featured are a western art portfolio by the under appreciated Don Newton, a wacky article on the fictional golden age comic called Rootwild by Jim Jones, and a lavishly illustrated interview with the late great realist, Gray Morrow. Rounding out the content are an article on Edgar Rice Burroughs by Bill Cantey (illustrated with a wonderfully detailed full page John Carter illo by Ken Barr), and a critique of DC’s Burroughs comics by Duffy Vohland (who went on to ink some Conan work for Marvel in the 70’s and wrote for a plethora of fanzines). The illustrations that filled the rest of the pages are by pros such as Joe Sinnott, CC Beck, and Jack Kirby; while the fan work consisted of John G. Fantucchio’s spiky linework, the beautiful Virgil Finlay like pointillism of Stephen Fabian, and a tiny Clark Kent head shot by some guy named John Byrne (quoted by Wilson as “…a relatively new artist…with many new ideas”).
What this issue exemplifies is Wilson’s attitude of all inclusiveness. Though he probably could have fully populated the pages with full page superhero vignettes by the current pros of the day, there are really only a few instances of that. He helped start the careers of artists such as Don Newton and Robert Kline, but also regularly included retro and/or just plain silly stuff such as Jones and Hanley, and always maintained as high a quality of print production as possible.
In a letter included this issue, Bob Fleming probably put it best while nominating The Collector for a ComicArt Award, when he said;
“Isn’t The Collector slick, well laid-out, extremely professional, and relatively high-priced? Yes, but is exactly the same fannish zine it was years ago…maintaining the atmosphere of a fanzine in a professionally done magazine.” Bill would produce one of the best looking fanzines around in the early 1970’s, but it always felt like you were reading the work of a friend.
I hope that all of you will be interested enough in this to download a pdf of the whole fanzine here. Keep in mind these fanzines are very hard to find nowadays. It might take a bit of time, being close to 60 megs, but it will be worth your time if you like the combination of comics and history that The Collector has become. I welcome any comments, requests or advice relating to this column.
As a postscript, I wanted to note that the person responsible for my interest and participation in the fanzine scene was Alan Light and his comic newspaper The Buyer’s Guide (which became CBG). As a high school kid just starting to be interested in these nuggets of gold, I wrote to Alan, after finding a copy of TBG 8 in my high school library. He not only wrote back, but sent me 3 or 4 zines (one of which was an issue of The Collector) for free, as well as a few issues of TBG. I only recently found out he was only a few years older than me when he started publishing TBG. You can see covers from the very first issue onward here. Most of the artists you will hear about in this column appeared in or on the gathering place that was TBG. Alan, you have my eternal thanks!
Alan Light’s flikr page, which has a Dynapubs section (publisher of TBG and other zines)
A Don Newton site is here.
Stephen Fabian’s website
A selection of John Fantucchio’s work is here.
Ken Meyer Jr.