Tom Mason has been working as a professional writer in the entertainment field for awhile now, before that, Malibu Comics. But, before that, there was…Radion!
Radion 6: August, 1977
Editor and publisher: Tom Mason
I have focused many times on artists who cut their teeth in the fanzine world, but with this entry, we see the beginnings of a professional writer, namely Tom Mason. Tom was definitely a reader of variety even way back then. He has 3 interviews in this issue, two of which he conducted himself. The subject matter runs the gamut, from the newspaper strip Funky Winkerbean (creator Tom Batiuk is interviewed by Bob Sparks) to fantasy art (Michael Whelan interview) to science fiction novels (Ron Goulart interview). Sprinkled throughout are illustrations from some of fandom’s real workhorses. I believe Interfan (a group of fans banded together to help each other get their work in zines) was in the very early stages at this point, if actually formed at all). One of it’s members, Doug Hazlewood, sent editor Mason a group of illustrations, many of which were done by Interfan members. Doug Herring contributed several pieces, in addition to writing an article on the Marvel comic, The Eternals. You can see a variety of his work below.
As I said, Doug Hazlewood (who would go on to do a slew of inking work for Marvel, DC, Fleetway, and Eclipse) had a lot of work in this zine himself. Doug recalls the impetus for the flood of work below.
My main memory is that I was frustrated with only having an illustration or two in various fanzines per issue. That was mostly my own fault for not being the most motivated person and also because it was hard to come up with ink-worthy pencils of my own. I always wanted to get right to the inking and pencilling was a chore and I hated swiping too much.
I loved corresponding with Tom Mason (I used to write long letters to my regular correspondents) and it was his idea for meto ink some pro sketches and to do the Funky Winkerbean illustration. I loved seeing my work in print and it was inspiring. Though sometimes it could be embarrassing a few years later or bad print jobs could break your heart when you got your free copy (or copies). Radion was one of the best outlets I could find at the time.
It may have been the next issue or so where the print job was sub-par and I feel like I mentioned it too much, as Tom didn’t personally print the zine. I was taking printing classes at college at it bothered me that the printer didn’t do a better job for Tom. The previous issues looked fine and later I thought I might have made Tom feel bad about it. My wife always mentions how I tend to “go on” about things.
I valued our ‘pen pal’ friendship and his efforts and still have fond memories of my fan days. We had no internet back then and I typed many a letter. Time seemed to go much slower and it just zooms by now. It was so cool to see your work in print and to have multiple illustrations in one issue!
The illustration above (of John Byrne and Roger Stern’s funny robot character, Rog-2000) was penciled by Carl Taylor, another Interfan alumni whose work seemed to be everywhere. Carl talks (via Facebook) about the process usually used in Interfan and this illo in particular, saying “I used to communicate with Tom Mason directly back then, so I probably got Hazlewood to ink this & sent it to him…the ones I sent Sam which he forwarded generally, were inked by him. Some pencils also were sent to whomever was heading Interfan (Jim Bertges or Doc Boucher) at the time.” Inker Hazlewood also did a spot illustration of Funky Winkerbean to start off the first feature of this issue, the Tom Batiuk interview. You didn’t see much coverage of pure strip creators like Batiuk in the comic fanzines of this time, so this was a nice treat.
The Doc Strange illustration above by Ric Cruz and Sam de la Rosa is a nicely naturalistic pose professionally inked (de la Rosa was another very prolific artist at that time and went on to ink many books by Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse). You can check out de la Rosa’s website here. Sam also inked the cover you see at top, as well as inking some Bill Neville work below.
After a fanzine review feature, the second interview begins in earnest, that being Michael Whelan. Whelan is one of the acknowledged “gods” of the fantasy/sf publishing field. At the time of this fanzine, he had only been a professional a few years (in the interview, he mentions the process that got him his first book cover assignments at DAW books).
Following the Whelan interview is the Eternals article by Herring. Then we get the editorial by Mason (Blatant Self Indulgence), and that is followed by the Ron Goulart interview.
Tom was probably thrilled to see his zine hit the post each time. We all get a thrill out of getting our work published and seen by many. In my email conversations with Doug Hazlewood, he elaborates on his experience below.
I had stuff printed before and after that, but it was memorable to have that many illustrations in one issue. I think this would have been near the end of my college days. Early on it was a thing here and there or maybe two or three in one issue of something.
I had been getting stuff published in high school (and some rejected). Interfan helped put some of us artists together later on and I finally worked on a story with help from Pete Iro. I was mainly a ‘spot illustration’ guy and didn’t like doing backgrounds. My one attempt on my own at a short comic story just got shorter and shorter out of frustration. That’s when I knew for sure I’d never be a comic book penciller.It was educational to see things in print, like my tendency to make outlines too thick due to my obsessive nature. Sometimes I actually liked the effect, but you need to have more variety in line weights (unless that’s the style you are going for). Later on when finally inking comic books I’d look at my early issues of Liberty Project and see I’d need more variety on the outlines. Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees until the art is reduced and printed. Even when I inked some covers for Larry Houston’s The Enforcers, I was still outlining too thick/not enough thick-to-thin on outlines and feathering.I was self-taught, so once I really started doing samples to try and break into comics I was kind of learning as I went about backgrounds, etc. And what was a waste of time to try and be to perfect with once something was printed on newsprint.I know I saw Tom at a show or two in the 90’s when all the Superman hoopla was going strong. Can’t remember if I introduced myself. I loved corresponding with Tom and Mark Heike. I saved so many letters and things I’d get in the mail. Over the years I’d gradually weed out some things (like newsprint things). You can’t save everything!
There is much more wonderful work in this zine that you can see in the pdf, by artists such as those mentioned above, as well as Willie Blyberg of Wowiekazowie (you can see columns dedicated to this zine here), Alan Weiss, Bill Black of Paragon, and a really elegant piece by Stan Sakai, seen below.
Via facebook, Stan says at this time, “I know I was in college–University of Hawaii. I was a drawing/painting major, and I took a lot of life drawing classes. That might be where the pose came from.”
Last, and certainly far from least, is editor and publisher, Tom Mason. I have known Tom somewhat via social media for awhile now, and he graciously answered a bunch of questions for me.
As I said, download the pdf to get the whole story. Thanks this time go out to Tom Mason, Doug Hazlewood and Stan Sakai.
Tune in next month for…well, another fanzine! And please, if you read, leave a comment! I’m a needy nerd.
Ken Meyer Jr.