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May 1, 2017

Ink Stains 94: CPL 5 and 6

One of the best zines of the past returns! CPL and John Byrne rule this month!

CPL 5 and 6: 1973
Publisher: CPL/Gang Editor: Bob Layton

As I say above this column’s banner, CPL was one of the best little zines around in the mid seventies. This was due to the incredible cast of contributors that filled the zine with great illustrations and columns to boot every issue. This is the zine with the highest percentage of fan-to-pro conversions I can think of…certainly the highest profile.

I have not had these two issues for a long time, but the magnificent Herb Warren came through with this (as well as issue 8, which will be covered in a later column) and many other zines which will make the coming months a lot of fun for all of us. Take a bow, Herb! By the way, CPL (Contemporary Pictorial Literature) has been covered in this space twice so far. Issue 12 was waaaay back in installment 5 (see it here), while issue 11 was featured in installment 19 (here).

Above you see the covers for the two issues. Issue 5 sports a convention sketch by Neal Adams (provided by “Doc” Larry Brnicky), and is inked by the late Duffy Vohland, one of the “Gang” that filled CPL with great content. Duffy also wrote his column, Duffy’s Tavern, which appeared regularly both in CPL and several other zines of that time period, including Paul Kupperberg’s Etcetera. Paul wrote a great tribute to Duffy that you can read here. Vohland went on to ink several Marvel titles, and was editor of Marvel’s house zine, FOOM, for awhile. The cover for issue six is by the pro team of Dan Adkins and Joe Sinnott. How both of them found time to constantly provide art for many zines while they were both very busy comic artists is beyond me! Layton relayed to me the sly way he procured the cover, saying “at one point, the whole CPL Gang got into Roger Slifer’s car and drove from Indianapolis to Youngstown, Ohio to meet Dan Adkins.  While we were there, we conned Dan out of the piece to use as our cover.”

I should not get too deep into the column before mentioning that the main showrunner behind this zine was Bob Layton. Along with other future pros, Rogers Slifer and Stern, Bob managed to corral an amazing array of artists and writers each issue. Probably the brightest star was artist John Byrne. His sinuous and stylistic work looked good very early on, and only got better…as pretty much any comic fan will tell you. Issue five has 6 separate Byrne illustrations, 4 of those full page pieces. To the left you see two of the full page pieces featuring Blue Beetle and Swamp Thing. Much like Mike Zeck, for me, some of Byrne’s most charming work was done during his tenure in the fan world. But it could certainly not contain him for long…he was just too darn good. Duffy Vohland inks much of Byrne’s work in both issues.

The columns this issue include an editorial by Layton and Slifer (with a nice Hercules spot by Byrne), Revival Survival by Slifer (covering the pulp hero, The Avenger), Brnicky’s One Last Desperate Chance (on Doc Savage’s short run at Marvel), Roger Stern’s The Shadow’s Nose (and other Anatomical Comments).

It is interesting to me that Bob Layton only 3 pieces of art in the two issues together (the Avenger illo and
small Shadow spot in issue 5 andthe back page of issue 6), considering what a splash he made in the comics world later on with Iron Man and other titles. On his Wikipedia page, Layton talks about his opportunity to turn pro during his time apprenticing with the great Wally Wood, saying “One day, I was in the Marvel offices . . . handing in Woody’s pages to the production dept. So, I used the opportunity to show my samples around while I had ‘my foot in the door.’ When I passed the art director’s office, I heard John Romita on the phone, frantically trying to find someone to ink a desperately late issue of Iron Man [by George Tuska]. Like an idiot, I stuck my head in his doorway and said I could get the job done in the four or five days that was left on the schedule. It was an utter fabrication . . . but I really wanted to work for Marvel Comics! Johnny gave me the pages and said, ‘Show me what you can do, kiddo.’ ” What timing…and chutzpah!

As to his entry into reading comics and then later, fandom, Bob said (via email)

I learned to read from comics when I was only four years old, after my older sister became bored with reading the same comic to me about fifty times. Subsequently, I was skipped a grade when I entered the school system and wound up graduating high school at barely 17 years old.  After high school, I met Roger Stern (who worked for a local radio station in Indianapolis, Indiana) through an ad in Alan Light’s The Buyers Guide newspaper and we began publishing fanzines out of my little apartment. I was 19 years old at the time.

I was selling back issues out of my apartment in Indianapolis through the Buyers’ Guide to supplement my meager income at the time and, because of that,  I had created a puny catalog called C.P.L. that I shipped to potential customers. A local fan in Indy named Steve Mattingly was publishing a small digest ‘zine called Epoch and Sterno and I saw his ad in TBG and sought him out. As much as he desired to publish, Steve just wasn’t motivated to actually do the work past his first issue. Fortunately, he introduced Sterno and me to an obscure Canadian fan artist named John Byrne. Once we formed a relationship with Byrne, the rest, as they say, was history.

I found a local printed who charged me exorbitant amounts of money for the simplest print jobs.  Remember that in the early ‘70s, printing places like Kinkos were non-existent. Once we had the pre-production done (which included me painstakingly justifying columns on an old fashioned typewriter) and making mechanicals, we’d get it printed and have big collating parties (with a hand-saddle stitcher on the floor of my tiny apartment.

Moving on to issue 6, starting with that slick Adkins/Sinnott cover, we move inside and are immediately struck with a super high energy full pager by Byrne and Vohland…of course…it’s E-Man!

It is ironic that, at this time, Vohland was still the only pro in the ranks of CPL. Byrne’s Charlton work was still a couple years away. Byrne again has a large presence, filling the pages with 5 full page illustrations and 7 spots! Take a gander below at a few (all inked by Duffy).

Though the zine was filled with very high level fan work such as you see above, again, there were several regular columns by the “gang” and others, including the editorial, Duffy’s Tavern, Uncle Ben’s Converted Life by W. E. Barrow (positing a scandalous theory about Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben), a Bring Back Howard the Duck petition, Stern’s Sterno’s Hot Ones, Brnicky’s One Last Desperate Chance, Slifer’s Revival Survival (covering aspects of Daredevil AND a couple of paragraphs presenting a none too happy opinion of long running adzine, TBG), and the letter column to cap off the issue. Many nice illustrations fill out this issue, by Mike Royer, Paul Gulacy, Dennis Fujitake/Vohland, Byrne, and Val Mayerik. Download the pdfs of both issues to see all you are missing! You can get them and access to earlier installments of Ink Stains by going to my site here. Below is one by the late great Don Newton and Vohland.

As I have stated many times before, the fanzines of the 70s begat the pros of later years. They were a great training ground. Bob Layton agreed, saying that “I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and I saw publishing [fanzines] as a great proving ground to understand the craft I wanted to devote my life to.” 

Can there be any argument that CPL was one of the most consistently high quality fanzines around at the time? I think not. Add to that the fannish enthusiasm that made fanzines such a great experience in general, and you have a great little reading experience! Thanks again to Herb Warren for the copies and to Bob Layton for taking the time to answer my questions.

Ken Meyer Jr.




One Comment


    Another excellent in-depth presentation about a great fanzine ! Thank you very much !

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