What? Every issue of Fantastic Fanzine is special? I couldn’t agree more!
Fantastic Fanzine Special 1: 1969
Editor and Publisher: Gary Groth
Welcome back to the wonderful fragrant world of Ink Stains, true believers! Due to the busy holidays and some website problems, I missed the last two installments…I am bending over for my spanking now, so get a few licks in while you can.
This installment is devoted to Gary Groth’s enthusiastic Fantastic Fanzine Special Numero Uno, and as with all later issues of this zine, it is full of great art and fun articles. Let’s get hopping!
Above you see two graphics. The banner is a piece of interior art by Al Grinage Jr., a “staff artist” and a very busy one, judging by this issue. In addition to that double page column header, he has 18 separate illustrations! Workhorse he is for sure, but to be honest, his work is somewhat pedestrian compared with the other members of that group, like John G. Fantucchio, Dave Cockrum, and Dave Russell. But, give him credit, he could crank ’em out! And, at the time of this fanzine, he was a college student, so he made good use of his time. You can see another example of his work to the right, and there is also a short interview with the artist this issue. Various characters he illustrated this issue include Loki, Dr. Strange, Daredevil, Black Panther, Iron Man, and Silver Surfer.
The cover you see above is by another staff artist, Jay Mike (one of several with a Jim Steranko fixation). He has a portfolio in this issue that we will get to a little later. Following the Grinage interview, Tom Crawford gives us an article on revising the then somewhat restrictive Comics Code. After that, writer Bill Cantey delivers some Submariner fan fiction.
This special issue of FF features several interviews that were originally published in past issues (which I do not have access to), the first of which features John Romita (and also some typically fluid Dave Cockrum illustrations seen below). This interview was actually originally published in issue one.
Romita is followed by another Marvel giant, Gene Colan (reprinted from issue 3), then followed by an interview with Don Heck that editor Groth acquired from the defunct zine Yancy Street Gazette. On the next page, Pat Johnson takes Marvel Comics to task in “Dissecting the Heart of Marvel,” followed by Dwight Decker’s “The Fan Article Article” (and no, I didn’t repeat that word on accident). Decker talks about being a fan writer, and what one can expect if one wants to do the same. It is illustrated by several staff artists, including Grinage, Cockrum, Russell, and Jay Mike, whose Creepy-esque illustration appears below.
Grinage also illustrates the next bit of fan fiction, sort of a combination superhero and mob story including characters with names like Crimemaster, Crimesmasher, and The Mask, written by Robert Kowalski.
After that bit of fiction, we get a deeper analysis of the Christ allegories in comics (such as Him/Warlock and the Silver Surfer) by Pat Janson called “An Apparation (sic) of – – an Angel.” It does come with a nice Robert Kline illustration, seen above. This was the first issue Kline contributed to, and he would stick around for a good long while (Gary Groth was no dummy).
Following Janson’s article, Jay Mike gets the portfolio treatment. His Steranko-like style can be arresting visually, but he could have used a lot more inking practice, and he picks up on some of the surface conceits of Steranko without having the design sense or command of anatomy that the pro possessed. But again, it is a fanzine after all, and most of these artists were just learning the skills to get into the field they loved so dearly. Below you see a large illo by Mike.
Groth made the convention rounds pretty regularly back then, precocious publisher that he was, and one service that many readers appreciated greatly was the plethora of candid photos the editor and his staff brought back from their excursions. Many of us had no idea what our idols looked like (or even how to properly pronounce their names). Below you see a montage of photos from the 1969 Comic Art Convention in New York City. Those are the original captions, no doubt done on an electric typewriter and pasted into their respective slots…old school production work! There are additional photos you can see if you download the pdf.
The Fantastic Fanzine art staff was, as I have constantly harped, full of great artists, even if some were at the beginnings of their careers. One artist whose work I particularly liked in this issue is Dave Russell. I don’t know if he went on to a career in art or comics, but the illustrations below show more polish and more inventiveness than many of his peers. It’s funny, if you put Barry Smith’s fanzine work next to Dave’s, they are very similar, both being big Kirby fans (in Russell’s case, I am only assuming this from his work).
After the con article, Doug Martin examines “The Present State of Marvel’s Villains,” and then Gordon Matthews dissects several of the best artists of the pulp years, such as Virgil Finlay and Hannes Bok. Nearby are several illustrations that are worth showing, including a John G. Fantucchio pin up and a wonderfully lively Robert Kline Thark-like creature, both seen below.
Groth might have realized how much people liked seeing photos of the pros, so he decided to show photos of his staff and associates as well in this issue. We get to see Dave Cockrum, John G. Fantucchio, Mike O’Neal, Gary himself, Tom Crawford, Al Grinage, and Robert Kline. Below you can see a portion of that feature.
The fan letter column follows, along with an update to the “Project Repay,” in which various members of fandom took it upon themselves to get subscriptions to the popular comics of the day to the servicemen stuck in Vietnam. Following that noble endeavor are two wonderful offerings from Dave Cockrum (one appears to be a sort of ad for his illustration services). Check them out!
Well, did you have fun? Were you amazed? ARE YOU ENTERTAINED??? Seriously, I have very special memories of this particular fanzine from waaaaay back in high school and early college…Gary really knew how to translate his enthusiasm to print. Don’t forget, you can download a pdf of the whole zine here, where you will see a lot more illustrations, read the articles, even see a full page ad insert. We don’t scrimp here at the Ink Stains house of ideas!
Ken Meyer Jr.