Another fan superhero spectacular by the name of Omniman from the mini mogul, Matt Bucher!
Omniman Spectacular: 1982
Editor and publisher: Matt Bucher
Before we jump into this installment of Ink Stains, I wanted to share a few bits of information. In the past, I have made the pdfs large enough to print clearly on actual paper, which made the file size pretty big. I have started to doubt that anyone actually prints the pdfs, opting to look at them online. I am making them a bit smaller in resolution, so they should load a bit faster now.
Secondly, I thought I would let you know how each installment is actually put together. Most of these fanzines I own (or owned) the actual original copies (every once in awhile, I will use a digitized version someone gives me). The first step is scanning the issue. I put a piece of black paper behind each page, so there is as little bleed through as possible. After scanning, I open all the pages in photoshop. There, I adjust the levels or contrast, so as to have as clean a copy as possible, with deep blacks and as white a white as I can get (sometimes there is only so much I can do, since printing quality varies wildly with any given publisher’s budget or experience). I also have to change it from color to greyscale most of the time. I crop them some of the time, to get rid of extra white space, and adjust the actual inch size so they are all uniform. After saving these I assemble them all into the pdf. I reopen the pages, cropping individual spot illustrations, pin ups, logos, pages, etc, to go in the actual column. Then of course, the writing starts. As early as I can, I also try to contact anyone that was connected with any given zine, since it is always more interesting to hear from someone other than just me! Of course, these things were published anywhere from 30 to 40 years ago, so people have passed on or are just impossible to track down (or are professionals with no time for such silliness). I do the best I can. It is, after all, a volunteer operation. One last note is to let you readers know of an added way to access the column. In addition to seeing them here on ComicAttack, you can also go to my website, where I have a link to every column, as well as all the pdfs.
On to Omniman!
This character had been featured in several of Matt Bucher’s other fanzines, such as Ultrazine and Starslayers (you can see the installment that covers this series here, as well as Bucher’s all star extravaganza, Fandom Spectacular 1981 here). This is the final installment of the character because, well…he dies! That doesn’t happen too often in comics, does it? Matt was great at assembling a great crew of artists, adding much more variety than a lot of other fanzines did at that time. The story this issue has one half pencilled by Rick McCollum and inked by Bill Anderson (yet another link, the McCollum special, can be seen here), with the other pencilled by Willie Peppers and inked by Mark Heike. There are a few cameos, such as McCollum’s character, Rage…and even McCollum himself (in the beret)! Below you see a few pages from early in the story.
You can see the frenetic energy contained in Rick’s work, smoothed out and made beautifully clean by inker Anderson (who went on to a professional career). McCollum was, in my opinion, the most promising of all the fan writer/artists. It is a real shame he never was featured in the professional ranks, I think he would have really shaken things up. In addition to having a very creative mind, he was a real workhorse.
Matt worked with a lot of great fan artists (many of whom went on to the ranks of the professionals), and below he talks about this particular fanzine.
This was my last fanzine. I wanted to wrap-up the Omniman character and figured it would be dramatic if he died at the end. But what I really wanted was one last chance to work with a stellar set of fan artists: Willie Peppers, Mark Heike, Rick McCollum, and Bill Anderson. I even went so far as to interview each of them in the book, that’s how much I loved these guys.
Nearly 35 years later, the story hasn’t aged well. Truthfully it was astonishing in its mediocrity from the start. But the artwork was amazing. (Though I still cringe at how poorly the art was reproduced in print.It’s nearly criminal.)
Brilliant Cincinnati artist Rick McCollum provided pencils for part of the story, and also improved the script. (Especially the four page epilogue, maybe the best part of the book). Rick was the only one among us who was not a teenager at the time. Rick’s energetic pencils were inked by Bill Anderson, his frequent collaborator, who added his customary, highly-skilled polish. Their styles meshed together so well it reminded me of Marshall Rogers working with Terry Austin on Detective Comics. Rick and Bill had a marvelous partnership that lasted many years (long after I was gone).
And what can I say about Willie Peppers? As someone once pointed out, Willie was born to draw superhero comics, with a clean, dynamic style that screamed “professionalism.” Willie was a famous name in fan circles back then, and his reputation was deserved – sort of like a fan version of John Byrne (in his glory days). Willie also influenced the story, and improved it. By this time I think he felt invested in the character of Omniman as well. Finally, Willie’s pencils were inked by Mark Heike, another fan favorite (and one of my longest friends). Mark’s moody, professional-caliber inks served the story well. He was terrific.
The second part of the story is a bit more “standard” in presentation, but no less fun and full of energy. Willie Peppers was another very prolific artist in fandom, appearing in many zines through the years. Mark Heike’s inks are a bit heavier, especially in the outlines, as you will see below in a few pages from their section.
Willie Peppers always did a bang up job, and this piece shows his enthusiasm for the super hero form. Below, he reflects on that time.
This work came at a time in my life when my desire to become a professional comic artist was at its height. Not only was I fairly regularly sending off sample pages to the “Big Two,” I was also getting as much practical experience as I could by plying my craft in the ever-growing arena of “fanzines.” I made several long-standing, good friends among my peers and found many opportunities to “do my thing.”
I was very pleased to be asked to take part in this particular project. I was already a fan of Omniman, and considered his creator, Matt Bucher, a friend. When he presented to me the chance to be a part of his Omniman Spectacular, bringing together a number of artists that were making a name for themselves in the fanzine world, I couldn’t refuse. I was honored to be counted among them.
I was pleased to be teamed with Mark Heike, who was assigned as inker. He was another whom I called friend, and with whose work I was already familiar. This project was of particular interest to me because it presented me with the chance to better hone my skills at illustrating sequences that didn’t necessarily involve “capes and tights.” I had always gotten a little nervous when it came to depicting non-action scenes, and parts of this project called for just that. I think, more than anything else, I had to prove to myself that I could do it. I knew that a true professional also had to have the ability to do calm, plain-clothes scenes along with the slam bang action. Matt didn’t know it, but he played an important part in my growth as a comic artist.
After this section, McCollum returns, which is apropos, since the epilogue (and set up for a future story) features his character, Rage. Bill Anderson is inking again, adding his smooth lines. Bill remembers working with Rick and Matt, saying,
Looking at the work now, I can see some nice things developing in the collaboration between Rick and I that weren’t there before. My linework is loosening up a bit, though I still tended to get overly fussy, where an occasional bolder or more dynamic line would have probably served the artwork better, especially in standing up to the poor quality of the reproduction. It was great to be a part of Matt’s (and Omni-Man’s) farewell to fanzines, since he was the guy who got me started in contributing to them in the first place!
One thing to note…these scans actually look a bit better than the actual fanzine. The blacks are somewhat muddled and patchy (I fixed it as well as I could), and the typewritten text was very light. The text features are varied and fitting, since there are interviews with Peppers, Heike, McCollum, and Anderson (including checklists). I believe all of them were barely in their twenties (Rick was a bit older at 27). Also included in this issue is an examination by Bucher of the Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” an editorial, a list of Bucher’s favorite renditions of his characters, and an examination of his reasoning behind killing off his main character.
Matt Bucher could always be counted on to produce the best zine he could, assemble the best cast of fan talent around, and imbue it all with a healthy dose of super hero enthusiasm! Thanks go to Matt for adding a bit of his memories to this column, and to Willie Peppers for his thoughtful memories. Get the pdf of the whole shebang, so you can read the whole story, the interviews, and even see an early spot illustration by yours truly! Again, you can see that and all previous columns here as well as on my site here!
Ken Meyer Jr.