November 1, 2017

Ink Stains 100: SpaFon 5

The hundredth column! Befitting that milestone, feast your eyes on…Spa Fon 5, featuring Frazetta, Steranko, Kaluta, Wrightson, Frank Brunner, and many more!

Spa Fon 5: September 1969
Publisher and primary editor: Rich Hauser

Widely acknowledged as one of the best art zines of its time, Spa Fon 5 contains a who’s who of great visual talent, and is a very appropriate fanzine to be featured in the one hundredth installment of Ink Stains. The title comes from a phrase aliens would utter in the classic EC comics, sort of their version of “oh my god!” The zine was published by Chicago fan Richard Hauser. Above you see the gorgeous, concise, and, uh, revealing cover by the king of fantasy art, Frank Frazetta. I have often wondered if the printing overly accentuated the difference between the tanned and white skin. But, enough of that, onward to the interior!

Spa Fon boasted one of the most incredible rosters of artists of any fanzine of that time, several in the very beginnings of their careers. Above you see a very early illustration by Berni Wrightson. I would estimate it was done around 1968 or so, since I believe he started adding dates to his signature around 1970. It is just one of several pieces by the late king of horror art in this issue. But, before we fall into the black inky fingers of Mr. W, let’s get back to reviewing the issue sequentially.

The first feature is an interview with Jim Steranko, and includes several stylish illustrations. This was done about the time of Steranko’s introduction of his own barbarian hero, Talon. At left you see themoodily lit young maestro and magician. Fitting, since editor Hauser was lucky enough to see the original pages to the incredible Tower of Shadows story, At the Stroke of Midnight, a recognized classic piece of intelligent storytelling. The artist’s cinematic techniques are discussed, along with numerous other topics. The interview is a good length, over 7 full pages, with illustrations sprinkled throughout. Steranko’s good humor shines through, and it shows he has always been a real tale teller. He could also tackle any visual subject with style, as the western character to the right shows.

A Frank Frazetta checklist by Hauser and additional editor Alan Wong follows, with added photos and reproductions of some of Frank’s comic work and of Frank himself. Of personal note to me is a cover of the old west version of Ghost Rider (in an issue of Tim Holt). I used that character as a reference for an illustration done while I had a government contract job working on the still classified Stealth Fighter. I did an illustration for the tail insignia of the squadron that flew out of the remote Nevada site I worked at. See above left. It has nothing to do with the fanzine of course, but what the heck. To make up for that, below is a collection of Frazetta funny animals. That is something you don’t see every day!


Following the Frazetta checklist is a faux Famous Funnies cover by a young Michael Kaluta. After that Steve Hickman’s 6 page sf strip, Demon Star, follows. You can see one page below, see the pdf for the whole thing! Hickman contributes several other illustrations to this issue, a few of which you will see later.

Several full page illustrations by Hickman and Kaluta follow the story, and then the reader is treated to some fan fiction from John Guzlowski, illustrated by co-editor Randy Broecker and entitled A Perhaps Fairy Tale. The Wrightson illustration near the top is next.

More fiction comes on the heels of Broecker’s story with Hauser’s Chuck Clarkson, Ace of Space (continued from an earlier issue). I don’t know if the illustration below by Hickman actually illustrates the story, but it sure seems in the same ballpark.

So much astounding early work is featured in this issue, I could have a very long installment of just visuals. In fact, there is so much, that the pdf comes in two parts! Get a taste below. The first two are entries in a gallery featuring beautiful females (Kaluta and Hickman shown), also featuring work by Wrightson and Kenneth Smith.

Editor Hauser has a Bill Gaines interview next. This and all the other work in this zine shows how accessible everyone was back then. How lucky Hauser and his crew were! It is quite a long interview, which goes to show that Hauser and Spa Fon did not only feature big time artwork, but did not skimp on the important text entries. A perfect Wrightson piece follows the EC impresario, seen below.

A gathering of short poems, ditties, and stories by various Spa Fon members are collected next, with the great Reed Crandall providing visual stimulation, seen below.

But wait, there’s more! A handful of illustrations comes on the six heeled Mars steed of Mr. Crandall, including work by Wrightson, Fantucchio, and Hickman. To the left you can see Wrightson’s humor and, my god, that brush work!

I cannot tell you how much work you will miss by not loading the pdfs. Check that, I can tell you…illustrations not seen here by Wrightson, Kaluta, Hickman, Smith, Brunner, Steranko, Broecker, Krenkel, and more, as well as the Gaines and Steranko interviews. It is one incredible fanzine full of a wealth of valuable material. Go feast your eyes by going to my site and downloading them ( Thanks again go out to Mr. Cool, Herb Warren, for loaning me this gem!

I hope you enjoyed the 100th installment of Ink Stains. Remember, you can access all the previous installments from my website. And please, leave those comments, people!

For a look at more fanzine greatness click on here!

Ken Meyer Jr.



  1. It was fun working on Spa Fon. Rich Hauser was a great editor.

    • ken meyer jr

      well, darn, John…wish I would have known you to ask before I posted it…always great to get quotes and anecdotes from the ones actually involved! Thanks for the comment!

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