Matt Bucher strikes again, with Omniman in the spotlight!
Ultrazine Special 8: July/August 1981
Editor and publisher: Matt Bucher
If you have read Ink Stains since the beginning (or was heavily into comic fandom in the late 70s/early 80s), you could not miss Matt Bucher’s fanzine work. Like only a few others, he amassed a large stable of artists and writers to fill with his zines with their work. I myself played a small part in his black and white empire. Several of his compatriots went to on to fill the ranks of professional comics, including Mark Heike and Bill Anderson. Past Ink Stains columns featuring Matt’s work include installment 7 (Rick McCollum special), 12 (a Starslayers feature), 30 (Fandom Spectacular), and 75 (Omniman Spectacular…Matt liked that word spectacular).
This installment covers the eighth issue of his Ultrazine Special fanzine (I guess they all were special). Matt was pretty darn prolific (as were most of his contributors). He says “While I was in high school, I published 62 fanzines. This has always been one of my favorites.” High school is the time many fanzine creators produced the bulk of their work…enthusiasm and free time would probably never be in such great supply. Omniman is probably Matt’s flagship character, as he featured in many issues of this and other zines he published. The prose was purple and the heroics were on a massive scale! Aren’t most things epic in high school, after all?
Bucher’s most frequent partner was the incredibly prolific Willie Peppers. He seemed to thrive doing long stories, full of multiple characters and PULSE POUNDING ACTION! You could tell they both loved what they were doing, Peppers’ probably most obviously, being the visual member of the team. Peppers’ John/Sal Buscema influenced art fit Bucher’s stories perfectly, and he seemed to have no trouble depicting all the melodrama and hurtling bodies. Bucher says of Peppers:
Regarding the Omniman story, Willie Peppers was incredible. Not just his terrific pencils and inks, but everything about it, the whole damn package, starting with the nifty logo on the cover, the professional-caliber lettering, and the cool, dramatic layout of the final page. Speaking of that amazing last page, I loved it, hell, it was worthy of framing, but inexplicably I lost it, right before publication! So in a panic I contacted Willie, who redid it, seemingly overnight and without complaint — and even better than the first time, which didn’t seem at all possible.
This particular story was actually written by one Jeff Roberts, who Matt says “…did a solid job on the story. Don’t think I’ve talked with Jeff since 1981.” Below you can see a few pages from the first story, featuring Omniman.
As you can see above, Peppers’ work was pretty darn professional for a fanzine. Granted, there are visual issues here and there, the word balloon placement could have been more well placed, and the printing was a little spotty in the solid black areas, but hey, it’s a fanzine!
The second of the two stories features the gritty and just crazy ass artwork/writing of Rick McCollum. As I have stated before, Rick was a force of nature (I have not been able to find any current info on him other than what you see in the aforementioned column). This short origin story of his Rage character epitomizes the type of work Rick was great at. Bill Anderson does a really good job at smoothing out the visual edges. McCollum was not as good an inker as he was a penciller, as he tended to ink quickly with a pen, and the work sometimes looked a bit scratchy. But Bill fixes all of that, and the work becomes better for it. Please check out that McCollum installment linked above. Below is the entire story featured in this fanzine.
Of Rick, Bill, and this story, Matt says:
“Bitter and Twisted,” the odd origin of Rage, is probably the single best story I ever published. What more can be said, at this point, about the brilliance of Rick McCollum’s work? Just extraordinary. He and Bill Anderson rose to a whole new level on that story. A peak. The artwork was gorgeous. My only complaint was that when I reduced the artwork to fit my digest-sized format, the dark blacks on the inks lightened up, spoiling the dramatic mood. And just how committed was Bill Anderson? (A high school kid, remember). Bill had me send him the reduced pages so he could re-ink them! And wow, it paid off. Another final page that is worthy of framing.
While McCollum was 27 and married with two kids at this time, note that Anderson also was still just in high school. Not a glory hound by any means, Bucher mentions that “One other reason this book has always been among my favorites: check the credits. I’m not on them. For once I got out of the way and let the real talents run wild.”
I think that if there is any perfect example of what fandom meant back then…the enthusiasm, the ability to churn material out with glee, the imagination…this fanzine and this crew embodies that to a t. I was glad to play my tiny part, but more than that, I was glad to be a reader. And now you can be a reader too…by reading the whole shebang in the pdf!
Thanks to Matt Bucher for adding some flavor this time out via email. Tune in next time for more fannish…spectacular!
Ken Meyer Jr.