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January 1, 2015
 

Ink Stains 67a: Chronicle 1

 

George S. Breo produced a real quality fanzine back in the early seventies called Chronicle. His zine featured early work by Byrne, Sakai, Chuck Dixon, and others. Let’s see issue one!

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Chronicle 1: 1972
Publisher/editor: George S. Breo

I have distinct visual memories of George S. Breo’s fanzine, Chronicle, specifically issue 3. It had a really nice John Byrne cover, with work inside by the artist as well, before he became a professional. This premiere issue features some equally enthralling early work from other artists (and one writer!) who went on to make names for themselves in comics. George told me via phone that he met many of the contributors through the local weekly Chicago comic fan meetings run by Joe Sarno. These fans included Jim Engel and Chuck Fiala, who produced a large volume of work in many fanzines at that time (and a magazine called Fandom Confidential from Kitchen Sink, as well). It was Engel and Fiala that got George “hyped up” to do his own fanzine. Below is a great picture from a basement that many of these meetings took place in. Left to right you see  Jim Engel, Gary Ricker, Gary John Reynolds, Chuck Fiala (front), George (rear), and Joe Sarno.

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Issue one begins with a typically quirky cover from John G. Fantucchio of his character Hyperman. The art was actually in color, but Breo could not afford color printing at that time, supporting a young family on a shipping department job. Unfortunately, that art, along with a lot of other treasures, were destroyed in a fire years later.

The editor thanks other fan publishers inside for helping him with this foray into fandom, such as Gary Groth (Fantastic Fanzine and The Comics Journal), Bill G. Wilson of The Collector, Bill Black of Paragon publications, and Alan Light (All Dynamic and The Buyers Guide). That was one thing I remember fondly about that time. There was a real sense of sharing, camaraderie, and fellowship.

art_faulkenbergThis issue features work by many artists I have not seen before, art_plunkettincluding Tim Draus, Gary Ricker, Adi Stanley, Stanley Chudzik, and Gary John Reynolds. At left you will see one of the better ones, Jim Faulkenberg (as well as in the banner at top). George told me he was one of several artists who had no involvement in comics or fandom, but just did art he liked. People you might remember from other fanzines covered here include Jim Garrison, Alan Hanley, Gary Kato, Dennis Fujitake, as well as early work by Stan Sakai and Chuck Dixon, some of which will be shown later in the column. At right you can see very early work by Sandy Plunkett, who would go on to do some of the most beautifully rendered stories I have ever seen in comics…but he never seemed to catch on to any specific character enough to make it “big.” You can see a great youtube video on Sandy here. Concrete creator Paul Chadwick says of Plunkett: “Everything he does is golden. Beautifully crafted, full of expression, aesthetically sophisticated. It’s too bad he hasn’t had a decently long run on a book that became his signature — that seems to be the requirement for a comics artist having a loyal following. He certainly deserves a huge one.”

Other elements in this issue include a short story by Mark Proskey (“The Stuff of Dreams”) illustrated by Draus, as well as spot illustrations by those mentioned above. But two things make this zine stand out from a historical standpoint. First is a story by Chuck Dixon (then staff artist Charles Dixon), and second is a portfolio of a wonderful trio of artists in Dennis Fujitake, Gary Kato, and Stan Sakai. Below you will see a page from Dixon’s story, “Corpses are Funny People.”

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Now, those of you that know comics know that Dixon went on to become a very popular writer. Dixon worked for almost every publisher, starting in the mid eighties, and went on to such popular characters as The Punisher, Batman, Conan, and many others. Now, if we look at the strip honestly by Chuck in this issue of Chronicle, I think we can all agree he chose the right discipline in comics! What a great piece of history! Chuck was gracious enough to answer some fandom related questions for me via email. Like many of us back then, Chuck got involved in fandom while still very young: “I met George through an ad in, I believe, the Comics Buyers Guide. I was still in high school. I was living in the Philadelphia suburbs and George and all his contributors were in the Chicago area. But he was ailing to give me room in his fanzine for my frankly wretched stuff. Through George I met guys like Chuck Fiala and Jim Engel. We were all young kids looking for a dream. Jim and I corresponded for many years. Jim would send these letters illustrated with his amazing cartoons. I met a lot of the Chicago gang at a New York con in, I think, 1972, A Phil Seuling convention.” As to the discrepancy between his visual and writing skills, he says: “No one else would draw my stuff! And I didn’t draw it that well! I had hopes of being a cartoonist. I knew I’d never draw ‘serious’ comics. Vaughn Bode and Gahan Wilson were idols of mine. But I lacked the discipline and drive. I wish now I’d gone to art school and improved my cartooning skills. But, the choices we make, right? I’m still amazed today that actual artists, talented artists, draw stories from my scripts.” Dixon helped out on Chronicle a few issues before moving on. However, he says he sees Breo every time he attends a Chicago convention, with Breo usually dressed as The Spirit! As for other fanzines of the time, Dixon cites Witzend as the toppermost of the poppermost, with others such as The Comic Reader and ERB-dom picking up the slack. As to whether his fandom experience helped him much in becoming a professional, he says: “Not even a little bit! I approached DC in the 70s and an editor (who is still with DC) liked Brother Bolt [a fandom character of Dixon’s]. But he never gave me any work! And I tried making useful contacts with no luck. I tried talking to Byrne at a con back in the day. He wouldn’t talk to me then either!” Download the pdf to see the whole strip I teased you with above!

The next big feature in the fanzine is the aforementioned “Hawaiian portfolio.” Fujitake has always been a favorite artist of mine, especially after he shed his Ditko influences and plunged more fully into a style closer to Jeff Jones. He had reached that style by the time of this fanzine, and is joined by fellow artists Gary Kato and Stan Sakai. George recalls Stan as a “skinny little kid” when he finally met him ten years after the fanzine’s publication at the Chicago Comicon. Look below at a few illustrations from each, in order, Sakai, Kato, and Fujitake.art_sakai2

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Stan left that superhero style far behind long ago. Gary continues to illustrate his and Ron Fortier’s character, Mr. Jigsaw (see their site here), and has solidified his style, staying with a Ditko type charm. Sakai is best known for his Usagi Yojimbo character, and you can find out more on his site here. Fujitake is probably best known for his lighthearted Dalgoda character done back in the mid-eighties. Back during the time of this fanzine, the three artists were slightly closer in style, especially Fujitake and Kato. More work below.

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There are several more illustrations from all three artists, as well as many other illustrations you can see in the download here.

George had several other great stories to share in our phone call. One interesting aside was his memory of Bob Layton trying to convince him to move from his native Chicago to Indiana. Bob wanted his assistance in the publication of Charlton Bullseye, which grew out of Layton’s own CPL fanzine. George and Bob also have had a long standing disagreement as to who published John Byrne first! Another funny coincidence: in a follow up call, George told me he pulled out an old box from storage relating to the fanzine with letters, submissions, and such, and guess who was in there? Yup…college aged Ken Meyer Jr., writing about issue three and sending samples in!

Chronicle lasted five issues, with about a year between each one. The last issue had limited distribution, as George was very unsatisfied with the printing. I would still like to see one! After publishing the fanzine, he owned a comic book/movie store for a spell, as well.

Big dose of thanks to the always generous Aaron Caplan. In addition to this fanzine, which I had never seen, I have several more greats coming up, including Fantastic Fanzine, All Dynamic, Comic Crusader, and Alter Ego! Thanks, bud, the new year is gonna be fun! Also, thanks very much to George Breo and Chuck Dixon!

Happy New Year! Leave comments, ya foos!

Ken Meyer Jr.
ken@comicattack.net

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