Most fanzines were quick flash in the pans. Martin L. Greim’s Comic Crusader stuck around for a whopping 17 issues, and was the first to publish many great fan artists who later became pros.
Comic Crusader 10: 1970
Publisher and Editor: Martin L. Greim
Like Fantastic Fanzine, the entry of two weeks ago, Comic Crusader not only published professional work (garnered primarily at conventions), but also showcased most of the best fan artists of that time. This issue is a convention special, so not only are we treated to some great art and informative articles, but tons of photos of the comic luminaries of 1970!
Above you see only one of close to 50 photos of some of the best artists and writers in comics in not only the 70s, but of all time. The conventions of that time were less structured, more informal and arguably more fun than the more dealer’s room oriented conventions of today. You would consider yourself darn lucky to have a conversation with your favorite pro at all nowadays, and that only after waiting in line for hours. From what I hear (I was still a bit too young and did not live near enough to any of the cons back then to be able to write this from experience), many pros just gave away sketches and talked to fans at length. Ah, the good old days.
Though he did go on to create a character modeled after a big fave of his, Captain Marvel (the C.C. Marvel, that is) called Thunder Bunny, Greim told me his ‘zine was published purely for the fun of it. In the 17 issue run, he gathered a very impressive group of artists each issue to share their love of the comic book medium with the reading audience. Greim contributed his art to most issues, which was very clean, if sometimes a bit derivative (something Greim himself admits), as the Gil Kane inspired cover of issue 10 shows.
One of the many fan artists that Greim published on a regular basis is Dennis Fujitake (as well as Fujitake’s fellow Hawaii resident and buddy, Gary Kato, who went on to work on Greim’s Thunder Bunny character). Fujitake and Kato both did early work which showed a strong influence from Steve Ditko, while later work of Fujitake (seen in the last installment of Ink Stains) seemed more akin to Jeff Jones. The illustration to the left falls between those camps, as Fujitake’s work was starting to get more loose, more fluid and grew away from the Ditko style. Comic Crusader was in fact the first place Fujitake was published. Fujitake answered my email question of how he got started in fandom with, “this must be one of those trick questions where you test how atrophied that grey muscle I call a brain has gotten. I was about 17 or 18 and I was reading the back of a Marvel comic where Stan Lee mentioned something called a ‘fanzine’ published by a fellow named Martin Greim. Included was a mailing address and the pricey demand of $1 for 4 issues of Comic Crusader, a year’s subscription. This was my introduction to the world of fanzines. Here was a place where an aspiring comic artist could find someone willing to publish their work. A big bonus was the freebie issue in which the art ran.” Fujitake and Kato both affirm that Greim was their favorite ‘zine editor. Fujitake says that “I found him always kind, generous and supportive. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he had a friendly relationship with Steve Ditko. Later on I started doing a lot of editorial work with Gary Groth on his Fantastic Fanzine as well as The Comics Journal.” In fact, check out a youthful Groth below, along with a host of other convention attendees.
The group above is a composite of photos from the New York Comic Convention of 1970. The photo immediately above is from the Warren awards panel, with typed (yes, typed) notes as to who is who. Billy Graham, for those youngsters out there, assisted in creating one of the first black superhero characters, Luke Cage (from which fan and actor Nicolas Cage took his last name). The Warren awards article is written by Greim and the man who brought him to fandom, Bob Cosgrove. Cosgrove also contributes several other articles in this issue (and one illustration), one co-written by Gary Groth on the subject of “Comic Art and Education,” focusing on the Intermountain Indian Boarding School, which used comics as a teaching aid.
Another convention related article delves into a panel devoted to the topic of sword and sorcery in comics, the members of which included Berni Wrightson, Gil Kane, Jeff Jones, and writers Lin Carter and Denny O’Neil (moderated by Roy Thomas). The article was accompanied by the Fujitake illustration near the top of the column, as well as the head-splitting work of Richard Corben, seen at right.
Bob Cosgrove (whose fanzine Champion was the catalyst in Greim’s involvement in fandom) also writes a full page review of Jim Steranko’s incredible History of the Comics (from which the illustration below is taken, also reprinted in Comic Crusader). I can remember gazing in awe at the wraparound cover of volume one several times over, marveling at how Steranko was able to incorporate so many characters in such an inventive manner and in such an elegant but powerful style. I probably drew and redrew this illustration dozens of times in my youth.
In an instance of pure coincidence, the interview in this issue of Comic Crusader is with none other than Robert Kline, the main subject of the last installment’s Fantastic Fanzine 11. This interview is a little shorter and is accompanied by more superhero illustrations than normally seen by this artist (and, to be honest, I think he is slightly better at fantasy work, as evidenced by the wonderful illustration below). The interview was prompted by reader requests and comes from a conversation at one of the conventions Greim attended.
Near the top of this installment, you will see large photos of Submariner creator Bill Everett and Kubert School founder (who else?), Joe Kubert. These, along with a few spot illustrations, are part of an article on a “Convention Lunch” featuring the two creators interviewed by none other than Gil Kane and Neal Adams, respectively. Other convention subjects are covered in other articles, with but a few of the many photos that grace the pages of Comic Crusader 10 below.
Editor Greim told me via email that he published another fanzine that sounds to me like a goldmine. “The last fan thing I did was Comic Crusader Storybook...a 195 page publication that had the best of fan super heroes in all new stories by the original artists. It also had a lot of Pro art and a Mr. A story, with no dialog that was one of the best things he [Ditko] ever did. It also had the first Thunder Bunny story that eventually caused me to do it as a pro.”
Greim no longer draws and says he does not miss his days publishing, but I can only assume my readers feel the same as I do in that I am damn glad he decided to publish in the first place! Other artists in this particular issue include Mike Royer, John Buscema/Joe Sinnott, Paul Neary, Bill Black, Al Bradford, Gary Kato, John G. Fantucchio, Dan Adkins, Ronn Sutton, Jim Jones, Ron Foss and Don Newton. I believe I have one other issue of this great ‘zine, but hope to find more at some point in the near future. Please download the pdf, as I could only put a fraction of the material included. Thanks this installment go to Martin Greim and Dennis Fujitake.
Now, let me get to finding that storybook!
Ken Meyer Jr.