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March 29, 2010

Ink Stains 15: Fantastic Fanzine 12

Gary Groth is known as a lightning rod in the comics community, and was the editor and guiding light of The Comics Journal for many years…but he had to start somewhere, and Fantastic Fanzine is that somewhere!

Fantastic Fanzine 12, 1970

Editor and Publisher: Gary Groth

Our childhoods are filled with items and events that hold personal importance to us…sometimes an importance deserved, sometimes not so much. Fanzines fall into the former category as far as I am concerned. I think the reasons are several and interconnected. There is a fondness and a nostalgia from a time that seems in retrospect to be more alive, more full, more adventurous perhaps. That is definitely a part of it, but it’s not the only reason. When I discovered fandom, I found a community of people with similar interests, many of them able to illustrate those interests with incredible verve, skill, and imagination. All of these elements come together when I look at a fanzine like Fantastic Fanzine 12. I hope you will be interested in all the elements that make this fanzine such a great representative of the enthusiasm, the imagination, the skills, and the fun that fueled fandom at this time.

If you read the installment of Ink Stains that focused on Fantastic Fanzine 10, you know Gary Groth was the editor and started his fanzine at the amazingly tender age of 13. By the time of issue 12, I assume Groth was in his early years of college. Issue 12 has a host of great artists and writers, but the focus is on frequent contributor and this issue’s cover artist Robert Kline, including a lengthy interview conducted by Groth. Kline has long been a favorite of mine and someone who I feel would have contributed greatly to professional comics if he had elected to work there instead of the animation industry, where I believe he still makes his living. When Kline burst on the scene, he seemed already at a skill level beyond most of his contemporaries. Amazingly enough, in 1970, when this interview was conducted, Kline was still only 23 years old. You don’t see many artists of this age with this level of skill. By this time, Kline had already contributed to many of the better zines of the time, including Comicology, I’ll Be Damned, The Collector, RBCC, and others.  Also at this time, Kline was in the Air Force (in an effort to escape the draft, he said) and married. I’ve tried to track Kline down for this installment, but have had no luck so far. It’s really too bad, I know I am very curious as to the type of work he is doing  nowadays. Since Kline is the focus of this issue, he contributes several gorgeous black and white illustrations, as well as the color cover. There are several drawings of dinosaurs (as well as several imaginary big lizards), one of his favorite subjects. We are also treated to images of knights, gnomes, barbarians, and magicians. Kline has a great command of the brush, pen, and even unconventional tools such as Q-tips and toothpicks! His placement of blacks is intelligent, as well as is his command of negative space. Suffice to say, Robert Kline is an artist’s artist.

Of course, Groth populated his books with many other wonderful artists as usual. In addition to his stable of artists such as Doug Rice, Carter Scholz, Doug Hazlewood, Dave Russell, Jay Mike, John Cornell, Dennis Fujitake, and others, there are many images by what I consider the ‘super artists’ of the fanzine scene at this time. This includes artists like Dave Cockrum, Don Newton, and John G. Fantucchio.

While on the subject of Fantucchio, I was lucky enough to get more information about the monochromatic but still flashy centerfold from the man himself, via email. In addition to reveling in the technique inherent in any piece by this artist, I was sure the photographic profile was Batman actor Adam West. John states that “…it originally was painted in black and white tempera.  The spacey background is from a clipping from either a newspaper or an old magazine.  The young man’s profile on the left is also a photograph from a newspaper or a magazine – I don’t remember which – no idea who he was, but it was supposed to represent Adam West (not the Batman one). [I think this has to be THE Adam West myself. – Ken] It was cut out with my stainless steel scissors and pasted onto the background.  The bracelets that are sitting on the space pedestal are painted – again in black and white tempera.  The word KATANG was originally drawn on white two-ply drawing paper and cut out with an X-acto knife and pasted over the young man’s forehead.  This was all executed back in 1969 or 70, long before computer graphics and electronic airbrushing.  We’ve come a long way – but it’s really more fun getting your fingers dirty!” Fantucchio was probably the most supreme stylist in fandom at that time. His characters’ pointy feet, curled limbs, even his own detailed scratchy signature, were a big part of the community at that time. He continues to produce art and teach, and actually sells his work and vintage zines as well. If you are interested in contacting John, email me and I will pass along his information. You can see a great big image of his cover for the following issue of this fanzine here.

An additional interview subject is uberfan and writer Dwight Decker, whose work populated many fanzines in the 70s. Decker actually contributes an article on Captain America immediately following his interview, as well as a review of Steranko’s huge The History of Comics. Other articles include Tony Isabella’s column, “The Windmills of My Mind,” as well as subjects such as “The Second Golden Age” (Dave Transue), and two satirical fiction pieces revolving around artist Robert Kline (one by Jim Wilson, the other by a “Ladislov Prosnalkl,” surely a pseudonym). Also included is a short story by David Anthony Kraft called “The Sword of Eternal Strength,” Bernie Bubnis’s “Fanzine Fandom Revisited,” (an article “about fandom by a pro”), a letter column, and a few other articles.

Other content includes a one-page strip by Alan Hanley that references the Steranko interview in issue 11 (I am trying to track these other issues down as my budget permits). Funnily enough, Hanley’s work in this particular strip sort of looks like a combination of Archie and Robert Crumb (who would have still been very fresh and new in 1970)…the last pose of the main character is even amazingly similar to an iconic Mr. Natural pose. Ah well, maybe it’s just me. Jim Pinkoski contributes a two-page strip that ruminates on the theory of aliens populating earth in his idiosyncratic style. There is also the first part of “A Brief Interview with…Syd Shores,” which includes a finished drawing of a wild west character.

Please avail yourself of the pdf of the whole zine, so you can get the full effect and see all of the material. You can see sites devoted to late great artists Dave Cockrum here and Don Newton here.

I would like to thank those that helped out, including John G. Fantucchio and Gary Groth. Again I say if anyone has any requests, please pass them along, and even more important, if anyone has any fanzines in their collection they would not mind loaning to me (or scanning for me), remember that as well. I have a good sized collection, but there are so many other great zines I do not have.

In two weeks, I may be profiling another issue of one of the other tent posts of the zine world, The Collector.

TWO LATE ENTRIES FROM GARY GROTH AND JOHN G. FANTUCCHIO (which are too cool for me to edit)

From Gary:

“At the time of FF 12 I was 15 —my son’s current age— which surprised me.  As for other random comments…well, this certainly is an embarrassment. My interview with poor Bob Kline is obviously a raw transcript. You can tell because my questions were so terrible. Poor Bob. At 23 he’s knowledgeable and smart. I was clueless. It’s a miracle that he put up with me. What a nice guy. (And he put up with me a lot. I’d go over to his apartment whenever I could and just ‘hang out.’) Tony Isabella was certainly full of spunk back then, wasn’t he? I wonder what happened. [see his facebook posts, Gary. -Ken] The drawings on pages 34 and 35 (Magneto) were by Carter Scholz, who is now a brilliant novelist. Project repay was some good-hearted by wrong-headed scheme to “pay back” the soldiers fighting in Vietnam with subscriptions to Marvel Comics. The letter from Don Luskin on page 50 is dead-on. It was probably over my head; notice I didn’t even bother to answer it. If he was 15, he was a hell of a lot smarter than me.”

…and from John:

“I would like to clarify a few statements that I made in my previous email to you.  The photograph of the youth on the left hand side is absolutely not Adam West, the actor who portrayed Batman on TV in the 60’s. [I still don’t believe him – Ken] I got into my time machine, which is my 1970 Volvo that can be seen on page 25 of Fantastic Fanzine #13 next to my wife Mary.  This car still exists, so what I did was press a button on the dashboard – and out came the original artwork for the collage.  I consider this a center spread, not a center fold; then I pressed another button – and out came the comic Captain Marvel #17, which at that time was only 15 cents.  This issue was the inspiration for the artwork. There’s a profile on page 7 of the comic of a youth named Rick Jones, who will become Captain Marvel.   Now notice on page 14 of the same comic – this is where we see Rick Jones become Captain Marvel and the word ‘KTANG.’  All this was beautifully drawn by Gil Kane. I purposely left off the exclamation point.  I gave this my interpretation – pointy boots and all.  It’s really not much bigger than the reproduction, and the painted portion was done in black and white tempera.  This artwork has been stored away in the caverns of time for 40 years.  KATANG, Baby!  I hope you have this 15 cent conic – it’s beautifully drawn by Kane and Adkins.”
Ken Meyer Jr.