If you like golden/silver age fantasy and horror, these names will ring a bell…Al Williamson, Reed Crandall, Stephen Bissette and Tom Yeates! All in Third Rail!
Third Rail 1: June, 1981
Editor/Publisher: Ken Feduniewicz
The cover above shows you how this fanzine sits perfectly in that group of EC loving publications such as Infinity, Squa Tront, Spa Fon and the like. Unfortunately Third Rail only lasted one issue, or it would have achieved the same level of exposure and admiration those others did. Covering many of the same stellar group of artists, this particular zine features work unseen up until this point from Al Williamson and Reed Crandall. The cover by Williamson and Wally Wood is probably Al on pencils and Wally on inks. I would ask editor Feduniewicz, but sadly, he passed away a few years ago. You can see a short online announcement here. There is also a GoFundMe campaign that can be seen here, to help his family with expenses. Ken went to the Kubert school, and in fact, was in one of the very first classes at that incredible institution. He later went on to color a slew of books, of which you can see an index of here. In his editorial, Ken mentions those zines that informed his young adulthood and fostered his love of zines and self publishing. However, life got in the way for a time, so he did not get around to his entry in the pantheon of fanzine legend until 1981. Let’s start gazing at the awesomeness that is the first and only issue of Third Rail!
The main feature of this issue is an expansive interview with legend Al Williamson, given by editor Feduniewicz and assistant editor Tom Yeates. Below you see a Williamson illo that starts the whole thing off.
Aside from the wonderfully informal interview (these guys were obviously having a blast), there are tons of Williamson sketches! He can convey so much with so little, it boggles the mind. Above you can see Mr. and Mrs. ArtGod, while below you see a selection of those sketches and some other work (and there are many more I don’t have the space to show).
As I said, that is just the tip of the Williamson iceberg, so don’t forget to download the pdf! Next up is a visceral slab of Stephen Bissette dino-goodness in Scraps. A precursor to his Tyrant work, it is a bloody wonder of prehistoric action, as seen below.
I was always fascinated by not only Bissette’s command of motion, but his love of tone. Through splatter, zip-a-tone, and duoshade, he adds such depth to an already well rendered piece of work. Stephen tells me he will be publishing a compendium of past work in the next year or so, and at that point you will be able to see the whole story.
Stephen’s buddy and fellow Swamp Thing veteran, Tom Yeates, follows the crimson stain of Scraps with a more subdued adaptation of Clark Ashton Smith’s The Ninth Skeleton. Tom does wonders with shadow patterns, as you will see below.
Following the moody atmosphere and measured pace of Yeates’ piece is a wacky bit of craziness called Head Chez, by Rick Grimes. See a slice of the nuttiness below.
The last entry in this visual extravaganza is a treasure found by assistant editor, Tom Yeates. It appears that at one point, Archie Goodwin wrote and Reed Crandall drew a proposed Jungle Jim strip, but the syndicates were insane at the time and were not interested. Below you can see the beautifully rendered work that Crandall routinely produced throughout his life.
Crandall might not have had the most adventurous layouts in the business, but, god, could he draw!
Within the pages of the pdf, you will see additional Williamson work as mentioned, as well as the full versions of all but the Bissette story, and full page pieces by Roy Krenkel, and John Totleben. Believe me, it is worth it! I wish Ken was still around so I could thank him for such an incredible collection of the beauty that comic art can be. I can, however, thank Stephen Bissette, for taking part in this column!
Oh, and I almost forgot…there is a great new fanzine column on the British fanzines of the past here, put together with more options than mine…I have a lot to learn!
Ken Meyer Jr.
(email me here, the comicattack email address is not working for me)