Face Front, kiddos! It’s a Jim Steranko special and Fantastic Fanzine 11!
Fantastic Fanzine 11, 1970
Editor and Publisher: Gary Groth
Those of you that have read this column from the start know that one of my favorite fanzines of all time is Gary Groth’s Fantastic Fanzine. From the very first issue I saw (probably issue 10, though I later got the previous double issue of 8*9) I was amazed at the amount of talent Gary was able to corral into each issue. It read like a virtual who’s who of the fanzine world, and always included many illustrations by current pros as well (with many of the fans going on to become pros later). This issue 11 is no exception. It is jam-packed with exciting artwork, so much so that I could only include a fraction here. This is definitely an issue you want to download!
How a high school kid managed to score so many amazing pieces of art points to Groth’s future success as a publisher and muckraker. Issue 11 boasts a beautiful Steranko cover of the Black Condor, several pencil drawings by the seminal artist, as well as a lengthy interview, a mainstay of most issues of Fantastic Fanzine. Now, I will issue a slight warning…I was lucky enough to have a reader send me the pdf of this issue, as I lost it long ago, so there are a few blurry spots and dark areas at the edges, but I did try to clean it up the best I could. The only spot that is sadly affected to a large degree is the gorgeous T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents centerfold by Dave Cockrum. Other than that, the whole issue came through in pretty good shape.
As I said, the Steranko interview is lengthy, and Groth covers a lot of ground. Conducted in Steranko’s home and prefaced by a charming tale of nervous anticipation by the interviewer, it is a delightfully exhausting affair. I could stand to be exhausted like this more often! One craft related tidbit I found interesting is that Steranko inks everything with a brush…everything, and that includes machinery. Groth and Steranko go on to cover topics such as the Comics Code, Steranko’s favorite artists, his interactions with Marvel, and his own barbarian creation, Talon (several pencil drawings seen below).
There are several more illustrations of this character, all the more reason to download the pdf! The interview is accompanied by illustrations by several artists in the FF stable (John Cornell, Robert Kline, and Doug Rice) of Steranko related characters.
Another illustration I just have to show is the humorous and incredibly detailed full page piece by Robert Kline. Not only does it reference Steranko’s suave demeanor and plethora of talents, but it visually makes reference to the hapless cassette recorder with which Groth used to conduct the interview. Kline never disappoints, and his work is scattered throughout the zine.
Below you see a combination of a few illustrations that accompany the interview. Jeff Rinehart at top (with an illustration closer in style to Neal Adams, mentioned in the interview as one of Steranko’s favorites, rather than Steranko himself), Dave Russell at left, Steranko himself in the center, and John Cornell at right.
Groth follows the interview with four different takes on the artist and his work by writers who contributed regularly to FF and other fanzines. Gordon Matthews, Bill Cantey, Richard Howe, and Dwight Decker all give their impressions of the artist as a man, and the artist’s work. There is also a Steranko checklist following the four articles.
Bill Cantey also contributes a bit of fiction called Running Mate, featuring a Ka-Zar like character and illustrated by several beautiful works of pen and ink, such as the Robert Kline piece above. Also seen are Dave Cockrum’s entry into the ‘good girl’ art hall of fame below, and a J. Baldwin/Kline spot illustration of Ka-Zar. I need to correct a minor error here, as the Angel piece seen above actually is seen during the Running Mate story.
Following this story is an article dealing with Captain America, and hypothesizes how the character survived (and why the shape of his shield changed) from the golden age of comics into the silver age. It features illustrations by Al Grinage and Jeff Rinehart. After that, we are treated to the fan letters page and another great (and funny) illo by future pro Dave Cockrum (seen below).
Other articles fill out the zine, including a progress report on a campaign to revise the aforementioned Comics Code, as well as another update on the effort of fans to get comics into the hands of troops stationed overseas called Project Repay.
All in all, yet another incredible issue of Fantastic Fanzine, showing Groth’s precocious skills as an editor/writer, and sheer joy as he reveled in the world of comic books and its creators. Groth and his stable of artists and writers produced the ideal representation of fandom in the 70s, which is why I have featured this fanzine several times. I hope you have enjoyed another glimpse into the world of fandom in general and Fantastic Fanzine in particular.
It is possible I may find the time to scan and upload an incredible catalog of fanzines and related materials offered by fan favorite John G. Fantucchio. If you don’t see it when this article posts, check back frequently, as I may have to get to it a bit later. But, it is worth the wait, as John has a large and well preserved collection of material from that time…I wish I could afford to buy it all! See an illustration by John from this issue of Fantastic Fanzine below.
Ken Meyer Jr.