RBCC was one of the longest running and most consistently excellent fanzines around, come see why!
RBCC 134: March 1977
Editor and Publisher: James Van Hise
I have covered one other issue of this incredibly consistent publication before (see here, actually the very next issue after this columns subject), but I really need to do many, many more. Many, myself included, probably think of RBCC as mostly an adzine with some content. But, it is the other way around, in a big way. This issue, for example, is a total of 84 pages long, and has only 17 pages of ads, almost all of them accumulated in the back of the fanzine. The content is fairly evenly divided between text features and strips, the latter by such wonderful talents as Mike Zeck, Ken Rosa, and Ron Wilber. Editor and publisher, James Van Hise, a huge figure in the fanzine scene at that time, also published a Star Trek fanzine, Enterprise Incidents. He became a part of RBCC in 1970, and took over in 1974 from the zine’s originator, G. B. Love (another invaluable figure in fandom). Love’s commitment to quality (and a LOT of it!) is inarguable. From the Wikipedia page, here is a short history of the fanzine and how it came about.
Inspired in part by the science fiction fanzine/”adzine” The Fantasy Collector, in 1961, Jerry Bails, “the father of comics fandom” created The Comicollector as “a publication devoted primarily to the field” rather than the occasional advertisements of comics for sale that appeared in The Fantasy Collector. After publishing The Comicollector for a year, Bails passed it on to Ronn Foss.
Meanwhile, Miami-based comics and science fiction enthusiast G. B. Love had formed the Science Fiction and Comics Association (S.F.C.A.) and begun publishing his own fanzine, The Rocket’s Blast (also debuting in 1961). In 1964 The Comicollector and The Rocket’s Blast merged to form The Rocket’s Blast and the Comicollector. The first issue of the new publication was #29 (continuing the numbering of The Rocket’s Blast) and dated April 1964. (By about issue #50 , the fanzine had shortened its title to Rocket’s Blast Comicollector, and often just referred to itself as RBCC.) With Love’s departure (issue #112), long-time contributor James Van Hise took over the publishing duties of Rocket’s Blast Comicollector. Van Hise introduced new features and columns to the zine, freshening its aesthetic for new audiences.
Look at the beautiful beginning below, another stellar illustration on pebble board by SF artist Stephen Fabian.
When you think of it, it shows a fair amount of confidence by editor Van Hise in his publication, artist Fabian, and the subject of this issue, Flash Gordon, to show the hero only from the rear on the cover! By the time of this issue of RBCC, Fabian had already been working as a professional for 3 years. Fabian always had (and has) a consistently high level of quality. You can see a wide selection of his work on his website here. I would highly recommend visiting the site…in addition to seeing some gorgeous imagery, Fabian supplies lots of comments on each image. On to the zine!
As I said, the general theme of this issue is Flash Gordon. It gets covered in several ways; some new original strips and parodies, an article on artist Alex Raymond, a few serials described in detail (along with photos from those serials), and, to top it off, an interview with the Ming bashing actor himself, Buster Crabbe! More is covered, which we will get to in time. First, though, below you see a few Flash pin ups by artist Mike Zeck. I am sure all of you are familiar with Zeck, who went on to a very popular career in professional comics. I tend to like the fan work that came before, myself. It seemed to have more life, more space, more individuality. It’s funny that, only now, I notice the Zarkov figure in each is virtually identical! Turns out Zeck wasn’t quite happy enough with the first one, so he did a new one and Van Hise, being no fool, used them both.
Zeck also contributed a frontispiece/content page illustration and another full page piece you can see in the pdf. Below, however, is a Flash Gordon strip Zeck had as a portfolio piece at the time, and boy, is it beautiful!
Following the strip is an installment of R. C. Harvey’s Comicopia. In it, he compares Raymond with another well known Gordon artist, Austin Briggs, as well as going much more deeply into the history of the strip and its artists and writers. Several examples are shown from both artists. Two pages showing “The Rockets of Mongo” follow, then a pin up of Gordon by Andy Warner, and the Buster Crabbe interview by Jay Rubin (Van Hise mentions it was published elsewhere before, but not the actual source).
The serials article comes next, and then we are treated to the reason the whole zine actually started…a feature on the X rated (a very soft X) Flash Gordon parody, Flesh Gordon! Though a somewhat silly low budget film, made by a company mainly known for cheap porn films, the credits list some of the best technicians in the industry, including Dennis Muren (Star Wars, The Abyss, E.T., and many others!), Jim Danforth (One Million Years BC, Clash of the Titans, When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth), and Greg Jein (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Hunt for Red October). The production was fraught with problems, but it became a sort of midnight movie hit eventually. Bruce D. Patterson did several illustrations for this article, one of which you can see below.
After that is a double page spread by Tom Sutton seen below.
Ron Wilber contributes a fun Flash Gordon parody strip, rife with various silly pop culture references and illustrated in his usual painstakingly detailed hatched pen work. It is a fun read…below you get a tease! PDF, fool!
An artist profile of Ralph Fowler follows (he would do a couple of really nice, detailed Close Encounters of the Third Kind illustrations in issue 142), followed by a fanzine critique column, a “Comics Commentary” by editor Van Hise, and a sort of “Siskel vs. Ebert” style piece on the Dino deLaurentiis’ remake of King Kong written by Van Hise and Mike Kuntz. Between those last two articles you get to see pin ups by Marc Hempel and Ron Wilber.
The next strip featured is Don Rosa’s multi-year serialized strip, “The Pertwillaby Papers.” Rosa’s style is light, cartoony and fun. Below you see a few selected pages from this long running strip.
Remember, as I said, there are many things you can see only in the pdf! This includes several Mike Zeck pieces, the entirety of all the strips seen above, the articles of course, and more illustrations by Wilber, Patterson, Warner, Hempel, Fowler, and Al Williamson. The zine is so darn big, the pdf comes in two pieces, 1 and 2. Go here (and then go to the bottom where RBCC 134 is located) to get the pdfs!
Believe it or not, I put this column together Christmas day. We got all of our activities done the previous day, so I jumped on this. Hope you enjoy it! As always, please leave comments so I don’t feel like I am in some void on Mongo, and feel free to contact me if you have some zines you would like me to cover, or to let me borrow to cover! Have a great new year!
Ken Meyer Jr.