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February 1, 2010

Ink Stains 11: Infinity 5

For the biggest names and the best artists, you could do no better than Infinity. With each issue the production got more lavish and more professional, culminating with issue 5, the final issue. Fans of Neal Adams, Richard Corben, Larry Todd and Esteban Maroto, this is for you!

Infinity 5: Summer, 1973

Gary Berman and Adam Malin, editors

Infinity, Along with the great artzines such as Heritage, Anomaly, and Squa Tront, set the bar very high when it came to the quality of the art, writing and production. Editors Gary Berman and Adam Malin put out a zine that, if you loved great art, you had to have!  As to why the two young entrepeneurs started the zine, Malin (from an interview by Richard Arndt, see link at bottom of article) said in 2007:

“[We started the fanzine out of] a genuine love of comic art and the graphic story medium.  I had begun collecting comic art (as did Gary) and we also drew art—really, they were swipes—of all our favorite comic characters.  We published a xerox fanzine called Electra Fanzine, of which the less said the better.  Suffice it to say that we used our own artwork which was silly, but it got us into the publishing business.  Once we got past the stupidity of using our own art, and we began to accumulate some great pieces by some of our favorite artists, we knew we were almost ready to start a real publishing venture.  However, we knew we had to score some interviews with our favorite artists, and Doug Murray was instrumental in assisting in that regard.”

As it was with most issues, the content featured a central interview. This issue, that interview subject is one Richard Corben. Above you see an interior logo (appearing to have been done by Kenneth Smith) surrounded by Corben sculptures. Frequent Corben collaborator and writer, Jan Strnad, conducted the dense 7 page interview with the master colorist and lover of ample bosoms. Strnad has always been an inventive writer of fiction, which aids in making the interview very deep and entertaining. A big plus is Strnad’s insider status. The only complaint I have is that the illustrations accompanying it are on the small side. For a beautiful Corben cover, get issue 4, which I deeply wish I still had. (By the way, one great place to get zines in general, including this one, is Stuart Ng Books. Artist and educator John Fantucchio also has a great collection of work for sale, contact me if you want more information) What sets the interview apart visually are the photos of Corben’s sculpture work. Though the artist does these primarily for reference, it shows that he is a fairly accomplished sculptor as well as an illustrator and comic artist of the highest caliber. These pieces are usually done to help him with his realistic and often complicated shadow patterns. If you know his work, you will recognize most of the characters in the piece at the top of the page, as well as the other sculptures shown in the interview.

The other main subject of this issue is Larry Todd, probably known primarily for his work in the underground comics of the late 60s and early 70s. Larry contributes a colorful SF themed cover (see above) which sort of looks like one of Todd’s hippie bikers if he was suddenly transported to the Edgar Rice Burroughs version of Mars, albeit with human sized Tharks with flat heads and an American Indian wardrobe.  But who’s quibbling? In addition to the cover, Todd ‘s entries include four pages of heavily annotated sketchbook pages (one figure to the right), a full page cartoon referencing the Creation Convention of 1972, another full page illustration featuring a Conan like character, a full page spaceship scene, and a very sexy and provocative “visual poem” (hearkening back to his uncensored underground work).

Other full page illustrations include Tom Yeates’ renditions of Jimi Hendrix and a clean shaven Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull (below the Maroto piece), a black and white painting by Gray Morrow, and Steve Harper’s close up of the pensive face of an American Indian. We are also treated to a black and white portfolio featuring four loose and expressive watercolor paintings by Warren stalwart, Esteban Maroto (below). I am sure we are missing much of the beauty of Maroto’s work regardless of the comparatively high quality of the printing. Neal Adams fans will want to check out the 7 page article on the ill-fated Broadway production of WARP, for which Adams designed the costumes. In addition to full page renderings by Adams of a few of the principals (several of which resemble certain comic characters), the article by Doug Murray (writer of The ‘Nam) chronicles the beginnings of the play, behind the scenes scenarios, the story contained within the play, opening night, and the not so kind reviews that came afterward.

If you have always wanted to see Tarzan take part in a student protest riot, then join Mike Olshan and Frank Brunner in sticking it to The Man in “Tarzan’s Chicago Adventure.”  There are also several pages reporting on the aforementioned Creation Convention of 1972, complete with photos of Isaac Asimov, Philip Jose Farmer, William C. Gaines and others.

Luckily, I was careful enough over the years to not lose the full color Berni Wrightson loose insert, featuring a sort of zombie Beatles tribute! Top the issue off with illustrations by Vaughn Bode, Rick Buckler, Bruce Jones, Al Williamson (see at right) and Alan Weiss, as well as an aviation themed back cover by Mike Kaluta and you can see why Infinity was one of the most beautiful zines of its time! Both Malin and Berman went on to produce conventions and events, of which you can learn more about here.

Sidebar: Michael Kaluta

I am sure most of us know Michael Kaluta’s consistently amazing work through the years, from the Shadow and Starstruck series to his plethora of covers for titles like Lucifer, Books of Magic and many others. He is also known as just being an incredibly nice guy, very approachable at conventions and much more accessible than contemporaries with less impressive portfolios. Kaluta lent his talents pro bono to the Tori Amos RAINN benefit calendar I produced for a few years and was gracious enough to answer a few questions via email for this column.

Michael Kaluta started young, as most comic artists do. Though to many of us, he seemed to burst on the scene fully formed. However, also like many of his contemporaries, he contributed heavily to the fanzines of the late 60s/early 70s. Of his first exposure to fanzines he says “I didn’t buy my first several fanzines: I was lent them by Tom Long, soon to publish his fanzine, Graphic Showcase. I was introduced to Tom by my pal Mike Cody while I was in my first year of college. Mike thought my comic strip, “Eyes of Mars” done for myself and hung on the bulletin board in our local alternative book store and music venue, the Scarlet Griffin, would be a swell addition to Tom’s proposed publication. Tom was very forthcoming with his fanzine collection… he must have given me George Schither’s AMRA, Cazz’s ERB-dom, Jerry Weist’s Squa Tront and, my favorite, Rich Hauser’s and Helmut Muller’s Spa Fon.  I wrote the Spa-Fon boys (they lived in Chicago) and offered my services as a comic book artist… Rich H recently showed me my original letter: I blushed at my temerity and downright gall set forth in same, but…I did illustrate the note!” Another favorite of Kaluta’s was Ink Stains subject, Witzend.

On how big of an effect being published for the first time had on the young artist, Kaluta said “I believe Tom Long’s Graphic Showcase came out just before the issue of Spa-Fon I had my other strip in…  they were on each others heels, that’s for sure! It was a Very Big Deal for me, and the way the ‘zine was presented: slick!!! Entirely offset litho, with full color covers… amazing!!!  I was 19.” True to his genial inclusive nature, Kaluta continued with “well, I was so happy to be in any fanzine, I didn’t have any sort of judgemental take on their various merits… that feeling of loving to be included extended to the fanzines I’d be working in during my first few years of professional work. Wherever I turned up in print, I was excited to see myself there.” Many of Kaluta’s friends also honed their chops in the ranks of the lowly fanzine, and as usual, Kaluta doesn’t play favorites, including in his admiration  “…all of them. Steve Hickman and Steve Harper were pals I’d met just before heading to college.  As soon as I could, I let Tom Long know of their art: they were included in the first and subsequent issues. Mike Cody, Bob Juanillo, George Metzger… damn, I’m blanking on so many… Bob Kline, Kenneth Smith, Tim Kirk, Alicia Austin, George Barr, Larry Ivey…”

When I asked if his experience in the world of fanzines helped him prepare for his career in comics, he answered “Definitely: it was Al Williamson seeing my work in Graphic Showcase and Spa-Fon that got him interested enough to have Phil Seuling ask me if I’d do some breakdowns on a DC story for him… That is definitely what I’d term help!” Did the relationships forged back in the stone age of fanzines flower into long lasting friendships? Kaluta affirms with big  “Naturally!  I left Bernie Wrightson out of the list above because I dragged him into Graphic Showcase after Hickman, Harper and I met him at the SCARP Con in NYC, 1967. Bernie and I are still friends, Mike Cody and I are still friends, Steve Hickman and Steve Harper are still on the speed dial! I’m still in touch with Rich Hauser of Spa-Fon fame, and get a hello via mail and email from Bob Barrett and Jerry Weist.”

Lastly, Kaluta’s involvement with Infinity is explained with “The youngsters [editors Malin and Berman] called Jeff Jones, Berni and me after having met us at the various local NYC cons… they came over to the apartment building and did interviews, etc. This was in their early days, before they took over the convention world. The earlier issues were li’l things that were all heart.. the later mags were more on the scale of Graphic Showcase and certainly had a mob of terrific artists!”  The lovingly detailed work of this artist as seen in the fanzines and later professional comics is just one reason I am sure I speak for many when I say I am glad Michael Kaluta was one of this “mob of terrific artists!”

Please download the pdf here so you can see the gorgeous work inside it’s pages. Also, and this applies to every Ink Stains column, please honor the publishers and contributors by only downloading a copy for yourself to view.

For a great group of interviews (as well as an annotated list many great fanzines, including Witzend), go to Richard J. Arndt’s bibliography page here! Subjects include Adam Malin, Doug Murray and more!

Ken Meyer Jr.
ken@comicattack.net

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7 Comments



  1. “Jan Strnad, conducted the dense 7 page interview with the master colorist and lover of ample bosoms.”

    lol

    Being in the acting biz, I’m curious to know more about WARP… Google here I come!


  2. Ken Meyer Jr.

    Glad you like my purple prose!



  3. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by ComicAttack: Ink Stains 11: Infinity 5 http://comicattack.net/2010/02/ink-stains-11-infinity-5/ #comics #comicbooks…


  4. billy

    Neal Adams +1. Good stuff K.



  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by John Mulder, John Mulder, John Mulder, ComicAttack.net, ComicAttack.net and others. ComicAttack.net said: Fanzine fans of the 60s, 70s + 80s be sure to check out this week's INK STAINS column! http://tinyurl.com/y9o3t96 #comics #comicbooks […]



  6. […] sculpting versions of his characters beforehand to see how those figures would react to light (see Ink Stains 11). I can remember being almost as enthralled with those sculptures as with the finished art! Those […]



  7. […] Adam Malin and Gary BermanAs regular readers know from reading my profile on Infinity 5, editors Adam Malin and Gary Berman did not scrimp on the art or content of this, one of the best […]



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