If you like the fanzine CPL and Charlton comics, this is the installment for you: Charlton Bullseye!
Charlton Bullseye 4, 5: 1976
Editor/Publisher: Robert Layton
In the 1970s the “Big Two” saw that fanzines were garnering a lot of attention and love from comic fandom and decided to enter the fray. Marvel had FOOM (which Ink Stains will profile soon) and DC had The Amazing World of DC Comics. Charlton Comics, a small company, didn’t receive as much attention as the big boys, but still had some wonderful titles and creators (inspiring nostalgia in many a comic fan these days, including this one). Charlton was contacted by the publishers of the great fanzine CPL, and later teamed up to form the new fanzine Charlton Bullseye. The “CPL Gang,” as they called themselves, which included John Byrne, Roger Stern, and Bob Layton, would start their careers at Charlton, and of course go on to bigger things later.
The gang at CPL actually published a Charlton related fanzine before Charlton Bullseye called Charlton Portfolio (which was actually CPL 9/10), but it was the Bullseye that would become a serial fanzine, lasting 5 issues. It was primarily an outlet for some unpublished stories featuring Charlton characters such as E-Man, The Question, and John Byrne’s Doomsday Plus One.
The two issues (4 and 5) covered in this installment of Ink Stains feature stories by Joe Staton (E-Man), John Byrne (Doomsday Plus One), and the great Alex Toth (Steve Ditko’s The Question), plus illustrations by the aforementioned creators as well as Frank Thorne, Terry Austin, Al Milgrom, Mike Nasser, Carl Potts, Dave Cockrum, Walt Simonson (see below), and others. They also feature interviews with John Byrne and the late Don Newton, with illustrations by both artists accompanying the interviews.
Although I didn’t collect Charlton as maniacally as I did Marvel or DC, I have a soft spot for the company for several reasons. They were home to some great artists that were just not suited to superhero stuff, like Wally Wood acolyte Wayne Howard, Joe Staton’s lighthearted style, Tom Sutton’s slippery inks, and Pat Morisi’s somewhat staid and static style (he went by PAM, see an image below). Several artists would learn their chops at the notoriously low paying Charlton, like Jim Aparo, Mike Zeck, Steve Ditko, John Byrne, Don Newton, and writers George Wildman and Denny O’Neil.
Probably the artist that would shoot to the top most quickly was John Byrne. I loved his smooth, round edged style back then, and would follow anything he did. Below you can see a few spot illustrations and column heads from these two issues by the artist.
Rog-2000 was a funny robot character that Byrne debuted in CPL, doing strips with the character and funny gag illos. In one of these issues the interview with Byrne is conducted by the cartoon robot his bad self!
Don Newton, a huge favorite of mine, and criminally underused, is interviewed in issue 5, partially because by that time, he was doing The Phantom for Charlton. One interesting fact I found in the interview that blew me away was that the late Newton was once the middleweight weight lifting champion of his home state of Arizona! At the time of this fanzine, though, he had become a high school art teacher. Don’s work is all over the fanzine world of this era. His realistic, dramatically lit and realistically proportioned characters were just too good for the mainstream superhero world. See a few images below.
Issue 5 also boasts not only an action packed Alex Toth cover, but a Question story inside. Toth is probably in many artist’s top ten, and I am no different. His seemingly effortless command of composition, placement of blacks, and economy of line are unmatched. Below you see a few pages from his story. Just look at that amazing opening page!
God, does that cleanse the palate after some of the overly detailed work in modern comics.
Below are a few more pin ups and spot illustrations before we launch into the next full story.
Frank Thorne almost seems to add a little Joe Kubert-like scratchy realism to the usually cartoony E-Man of creator Joe Staton above. While on the subject, we can see the unpublished E-Man story below (well, some of it, you have to download the PDF to see it all!). E-Man was the fun and lighthearted antidote to the more serious fare of the day, as you will see below.
One big time pro makes an appearance on the back cover of issue 5, that being Neal Adams doing his version of John Byrne’s characters from his Doomsday Plus One strip. See it below.
And of course, you have probably guessed by now that this is the segue into the two-part story by John Byrne featuring these characters. Let’s jump into it below.
Well, there you have it. Charlton Bullseye, the last two issues, stuffed with great storytelling and some up and coming creators, a few that would make big noise later in the big two! That’s John Byrne’s spaceship to the left, by the way. The pdf of issue four can be had here, while the pdf of issue five is here.
Thanks this time out go to Jason Schacter, who gave me a bunch of great scans, including Marvel’s version of an in house fanzine, FOOM. Any votes for that for next time?
As always, I really appreciate comments from the readers, so please, don’t be shy! By the time the next Ink Stains posts, my birthday will have passed…consider that my present!
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Ken Meyer Jr.