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April 26, 2010

Ink Stains 17: Graphic Illusions

Sometimes the best art comes in small – or in this case, thin – publications. Graphic Illusions boasted some pretty big name artists in its only issue.

Graphic Illusions, Summer 1971

Editor and Publisher: Rob Gustaveson, Jeffrey and Robert Gluckson

Graphic Illusions was a one-shot, the combination of the sixth issue of Guts (the magazine with intestinal fortitude!) by Rob and Jeff Gluckson and the fourth issue of Robert Gustaveson’s Eon. This combination was done to fulfill subscription holders, but the contents hold together well enough that you would never know.

Though primarily a showcase for the art of George Barr (working over several artists’ unfinished pieces), a Steve Ditko Mr. A story, and an EC article, there was still room for a few other illustrations within the fanzine. The only article was actually reprinted from another fanzine, Johnny Chambers’s Ymir. Titled “Inside EC by Jerry Kolden,” it was written with information provided by EC insider Kolden, and actually has a few small revelations (to me, at least). The major theme of the article is that it was not William C. Gaines that should have received the lion’s share of the credit for EC’s success (or more correctly, the high level of the content of the legendary if short-lived comic line), but the artists and writers themselves. A small group of creators, including Wally Wood, Ross Andru, Roy Krenkel, and Dick Ayers, offered to help a struggling Gaines and his slowly deteriorating line of kiddie comics and biblical adaptations for a less than standard fee, but with one caveat…they would have complete and utter control of the content. That is why EC was so ground-breaking and so good, in Kolden’s opinion. From that small start (and many title changes, as you will see from the article), great titles like Weird Fantasy and Tales from the Crypt emerged. There are several EC related illustrations gracing the article, including ones by artists such as Krenkel, Williamson, Wood, and as seen below, incredible draftsman George Evans.

As for the hows and whys of Editor Robert Gustaveson’s place in fandom, he stated via email that “… it was the sunday funnies that drew me into reading comics. One of the first comics I bought was an Action comic with Brainiac on the cover. Then I acquired all of them: DC at first, including Superman, Detective, Batman, Lois Lane (Superman’s Girl Friend), Jimmy Olsen (Superman’s Pal), Showcase, Brave and Bold and literally every title during the 1960’s. They never did put out a Perry White Comic.

“Soon I was collecting every single Marvel, including Spider-man, Fantastic Four, Journey Into Mystery (Thor), Dr. Strange/Shield (Strange Tales), X-men, Hulk, Ant-Man (Tales to Astonish), Iron Man, etc.  This lead me to Pre-Marvel Atlas comics with fantasy stories by Williamson, Ditko, Kirby and many others.  And then into Charlton and finally into EC comics and I owned 80 % of those.

“Then the quest for certain artists began and that lead me to paperback book illustrators and even Everett Raymond Kinster, Hal Foster, Hogarth, Alex Raymond, and many others, including James Bama.

“It was however Wally Wood’s Witzend #1 that got me into comic book fanzines. It had Frazetta, Wally Wood, Ditko and the EC crowd. And so in approximately 1965, I put out Beyond Infinty #1.

“I attended the San Diego Comic Book Convention (I think the 2nd one ever), then started attending World Science Fiction Conventions, and later started going to LASFS at Palms Recreation Playground with a lot of people including SF/Fantasy Authors and awesome artists like George Barr, Tim Kirk, Alicia Austin and Wendi Fletcher Pini. Bruce Pelz befriended me after the breakup of my first girlfriend. I met Phil Castora, Jack Harness, Ed Buchman, several sexy ladies. I used to take my girlfriends there as it was my social hour.

“I think Cherokee Bookstore in Hollywood was the instrumental and pivotal place where I met Robert Gluckson. This opened many doorways. His father was a psychologist who had Robert Crumb art framed on his wall. I am friends with him and his Mom and brother to this day.”

Tim Kirk, one of the artists the editor mentioned, is a well known fantasy artist today. At the time of this fanzine’s publication in 1971, Kirk was on the cusp of his professional career, as he told me via email. “My first professionally published piece was the cover art for a DAW book: Under the Green Star by Lin Carter, in 1972.” Kirk had been involved in fandom for a few years. “I can’t recall exactly which fanzine published my first drawings, but a likely candidate would be the Tolkien Journal, volume 3, #1 in 1967 – my entry into fan art was through Tolkien fandom. I was in junior college at the time.” Kirk goes on to detail more of his fan favorites with, “there were several fanzines that I felt a particular bond with, either because of subject matter or personality, and that I tended to submit to on a regular basis; Amra, Mythlore and Mythprint, Dick Geis’ Science Fiction Review/The Alien Critic, Charlie Brown’s Locus, Mike and Susan Glicksohn’s Energumen…there were many more, of course. It was the golden age of print fanzines, if there ever was one, and I shared the spotlight with several wonderful artists – Alicia Austin, George Barr, Mike Gilbert, Bill Rotsler, Steve Fabian…quite an impressive pantheon. Being a fan artist brought me into contact with a lot of truly amazing talents: L. Sprague de Camp, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Robert Bloch…I’ve been on convention panels with Vaughn Bode’ and Alan Lee, and a costume ball judge at Comic-Con. I’ve been very, very fortunate.”

Since those self publishing days long ago, Kirk has gone on to do a host of high profile works. He states that, “after I graduated from college in 1973 with a master’s degree in illustration, I entered corporate America (Hallmark Cards, Current, Inc. and, for 22 years, Walt Disney Imagineering); as a result (mainly from sheer lack of time) my fan art activity dwindled to a trickle. Since 2002 I (with my brother and sister-in-law, who also worked at Disney) have been partners in Kirk Design Inc. (kirkdesigninc.com), doing basically the same sort of work we did at Imagineering: conceptual theme park and museum design. We’ve had several interesting projects, including the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle, the Mini-Time Machine (a museum of miniatures) in Tucson, and the Flying Heritage Collection in Everett, Washington. I still do some book and magazine illustration and private commissions…last year I produced a couple of new paintings for a museum dedicated to J.R.R. Tolkien scheduled to open soon in Europe.” As for his collaboration with Barr on the piece above, he succinctly states that, “All I can say is that George went FAR beyond the sketch I did!”

In the several pages of explanations that Barr himself offers on the portfolio that is the meat of the fanzine (prompted by editor Gustaveson and springing from an evening of sketching with Wendy Fletcher, later Wendy Pini), he talks about the Kirk piece. “He merely outlined the character but indicated nothing at all of tone or shadow. The combination of Tim’s grotesque little cartoon character and my almost sculptural rendering of it made it look like nothing quite so much as an imitation Hannes Bok.” Barr himself has gone on to do many works of comic art though the years, but this folio shows a wide variety of subject matter and tone. It appears that pencil was used to finish the various pieces, several of which you see below. You will see Barr again later when I cover another issue of The Collector.

Robert Gustaveson also wrote a few words (actually, more than a few, as you will see…the man has enthusiasm!) on the subject of George Barr and this wonderful set of images. The largely unaltered text runs below.

a diary 1965–1971

(Early fannish experiences)

I always felt the George Barr Folio Collaboration was, somehow, incomplete. I wanted there to be an introduction page and also for there to be fancy type font sharing George’s magnanimous words.

Subconsciously I probably blamed my co-conspirators – I mean co-publishers Rob and Jeff Gluckson for not laying out the folio as I wanted or for just typing Barr’s wonderful description on two pieces of typewriter paper. I always felt I was destined to do graphic design for a living (so you see why I like computers and the internet). People confuse me with Rob a lot. He was always known to me as Pagan Rob or Mythra. But now I see him as a conservative school teacher & “distance learning” innovator. Jeff is an actor and pianist. I am somewhere between artist and writer and comic book salesman and philosopher and web page designer.

Rob Gluckson once lived in a tree house in a forest for a few years – I always admired that. To say nothing of him hitchhiking around the country. Rob and Jeff are my closest friends to this day. Though we do not see each other often.

Together we published Graphic Illusions in 1971. None of us made a dime on the project (that I know of – I know I did not). If we had we would have shared it with the contributors (as far as I am concerned). I asked them recently what the print run was and got different answers.  We all agree that the two print runs were under 2400 copies! I say the overrun folio was 200 copies! I wonder to this day why we were all inspired to publish our zines and connect with others who also did. We connected back then with a lot of other comic and fanzine editors.

I published the George Barr Folio in 1971 as the central eight pages in my fanzine Graphic illusions. Indeed, all I had to do was ask George Barr or Tim Kirk for a sketch back then and they’d comply. Free.

I went to the 1968 (or was it 1969, I’ve never been good with time) World SF Con in Saint Louis. I had a really great time at the masquerade (really creative costumes) and formal banquet (with white table cloths), photographing pros and meeting people. But when I walked into the art show and I was literally floored. I was shocked by the quality of art and I have still not recovered . I spent innumerable hours gawking at works by people I had never heard of until then and many who I had heard of as well.  I witnessed originals by Richard Corben (who I met) and if I recall correctly (its been 30 some years) also Kenneth Smith and (I think) Frazetta.

Later I wandered into a near empty room and ran across Vaughn Bode’ and Jeff Jones. And soon I helped them set up the art show room.  For my reward Bode’ gave me a free sketch for the help or just ’cause I asked and he was pretty nice (which later one of my friends swiped – I know who you are – give it back) and Jeff Jones did a sketch for me for $20.00! Which I cherished. Later Barr inked it and it joined the other 7 plates in this Barr Folio Collaboration. Giving it to George Barr as a thank you for rendering the folio was both a joy and a sadness.

All this seems like only yesterday and I think I was molded & enormously influenced by early SF and comic cons. Times back then were traumatic on the world stage. Today they are potentially so again. But I think the future is still bright. That before us lay another Golden Age for inhabitants in the USA and  Earth if we all use our creative intelligence rightly…in service to God and humanity (and all of nature). Selfishness could still destroy the world (as Bob Dylan sings) in the next 50 years. Or if we work together, fearlessly, united in commonality and brotherhood we can be the forerunners of a new race. All are brothers as Ghandi and the Saints of all religions pointed out –  and lived. Where no one is left out. Where giving is natural. Did you know where more people meditate crime actually falls?

We of the fannish circle have probably all come full circle in our lives.

I hope you enjoy this incredible folio. I believe it inspired the Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck and other collaborations too that came after.

George Barr struck me as kind and gentle. I used to drive him and sometimes David Gerold to LASFS or LASFS sponsored poker parties when I was young. I drove people at high speeds in my 1956 midnight blue Cadillac (with power windows). Several times my girlfriend Sharon was with me. I’m sure Cerebus was based on the wit of Bruce Pelz.

George was enormously generous with his art. And I never guessed how he really made a living. I hope you can all check out his book Upon The Winds Of Yesterday. His full color ball point pen work (which looks like painting) is a marvel to this very day.

Rob Gluckson can attest I had a lot of friends since I was the first one with wheels. Jim Shull may or may not have been impressed with my driving. But the person with the wheel and the brakes thinks he’s got everything under control. The others in the car don’t usually feel that way (everyone is really a control freak). We used to drive pretty fast near Olympic Park and up in the hills of Monte Mar Drive in L.A.

Actor/muscian Bill Mumy lived a few doors down from Robert Gluckson.

Gluckson was the inspiration for me to go to Saint Louis Comic Con (first time on a plane). Once there he did his own thing – and rarely did I see him ’til it was time to return. I and Keith Tucker and Mike Bennett (they also became animator’s) lived in the San Fernando Valley.  We’d have car chases for fun – luckily no one was every hurt. We all belonged to SMASH – a comic book club.

We were artists, publishers and writers. My life consisted of that plus going to Cherokee, Argosy, Bond St. Bookstore and Collector’s bookstore (and a few others) weekly to acquire comics or books with great art. I guess I was always into art. Joe Pearson later entered the fray and became a damn good artist too. He witnessed some interesting experiences at a couple of SF cons (friends of mine having too much fun). Articles unto themselves.

Gluckson opened the doorway for me to meet Ken Rudolph – filmmaker, Mike Royer – comic artist, Jim Warren from Warren Publications. At this amazing World SF con I met and photographed Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, Norman Spinrad, Robert Block, Harry Harrison, George Clayton Johnson (I think), and others.

Wendi Fletcher is Wendy Pini who created Elfquest. I use to look though her drawings in the good old days.

Tim Kirk became  a member of the staff of Imagineering at Disney. Published a books called Kirk Works (smart dude got all us fanzine editors to print his work for free).

My comic collecting friend (from my youth) Jim Shull also became an animator. I enjoyed the layout of his early fanzines (they were very cleanly designed).

I do not recall meeting Jim Nielson but it is possible I did so at LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society) where later, next door, from 1986 – 1996 I owned a small but mighty comic book store (parking issues they could never get over…ug).

I have always marveled at Alicia Austin’s early work.  Her line drawings were so sensuous and alive. They were crafted with detail unsurpassed.

Yesterday’s Lily is my favorite art book by the great Jeff Jones. Only The Studio comes close to satisfying my fantasy art addiction.

Cathy Hill was always a joy to run into at LASFS or a SF con – she’d offer her musical art at these SF cons. Some of her work will strike a chord of beauty few can sound.  I love her smile and kind nature.

I’m trying to give you the flavor of those early conventions and experiences. This is a first draft history I can build upon it in the future.

We live in a dynamically changing Universe. So inspired by these people was I that I enrolled in Burne Hogarth’s art classes at Otis Parsons.

I threw hundreds of autograph parties for comic and SF artists and authors from Jack Kirby to Stan Lee and Dave Stevens to Doug Wildey. Harlan Ellison took me to dinner once and I think he gave me tickets to the Director’s Guild to see Bladerunner there – nice place! In fact he was in the 13th row from the front to the right of me.

But to return to the George Barr Folio Collaboration.

Bjo Trimble used to let a bunch of us come over to her house to do creative stuff or costume events. She helped keep Star Trek on the air – that is, her letter writing campaign helped keep Star Trek around.

Let us not forget that Steve Ditko contributed (in the literal sense) a Mr. A story for this fanzine. See the back cover below.

There is so much more from the prolific Gustaveson. You can see much of it on his website here. He says nowadays he is “just enjoying life and seeing my kids and grandkids.  Making webpages and videos is my new hobby.  I hope to get a real job someday.”

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Robert Gustaveson for his help with this installment…heck, probably half the word count is his! Also, thanks to Tim Kirk and Alicia Austin for saying yes to my requests for personal involvement. I was asked to not have the whole fanzine downloadable, unfortunately. But if I mentioned something you want to see, let me know and I am sure I can get it for you. For now,  you can see some George Barr art here (but nowhere near as much as you should see!). You can check out Wendy Pini’s official Elfquest site as well. Alicia Austin’s enchanting work can be seen here. Jeffrey Jones is on facebook and posts new art very frequently. Stephen Fabian has a brand new site here, with tons of old stuff, as well as incredibly beautiful color paintings! Also, see Tim Kirk’s journey at his company site.

Please, leave comments and pass this along to any friends you think might be interested! Who knows what the next installment of Ink Stains will bring!

Ken Meyer Jr.




  1. Oh, oh, you said the magic word. What is this Tolkien Journal? That sounds like something I would have eaten up if I was alive in the 60s. He got to be on a panel with Alan Lee? THE Alan Lee? And he’s met Ray Bradbury? I’m so jealous. 🙁

    Yeah…that’s all I picked up out of all that. My Tolkien radar went off.

  2. Ken Meyer Jr.

    hahah, hey, I understand! Alan Lee is pretty darn phenomenal, huh? I actually did some work for the card game (Middle Earth, I think it was called), but that is my only brush with Tolkien fame.

  3. Kristin

    Haha, yeah, I’m sorry. That was a good article Ken, but that’s all I took away from it. 🙂 I’m kind of Tolkien obsessed.
    But I am actually rather fascinated by how all these fanzines came about, and what the led to.

  4. Billy

    Once again an education Ken! Thank You!

  5. welcome, Billy!

  6. I’ve heard a few of these names tossed around at various con panels and just from talking to different people in the industry. Thanks for the knowledge Ken!

  7. Ken Meyer Jr.

    Glad you like it…I just want to be able to share all of these with everyone interested…history is seldom this enjoyable!

  8. […] Ken Meyer, Jr., has another lengthy and fascinating post about an obscure fanzine up at Comic Attack; this time he […]

  9. Ken Meyer Jr.

    kristen, if rick left an email address can you please pass that along to me?

  10. Kristin


  11. Please let me know if you want to expand the article even more or do part two. See fanzines at http://graphic-illusion.com to see the front cover by George Barr and back cover of Eon #3 by Steve Ditko and the wrap around cover of Eon #2 by Tim Kirk. Appreciate the kind words. The 30th Anniversary Cover can be seen also at the fanzine page at my site. A lot of people do not know that without permission a rock group stole the cover of the Alicia Austin George Barr art breaking copyright.(If someone has a copy of it I’d like to see it or buy it). In addition the very very 1st printing was printed on pebble stock coverstock. (A short time later a bigger print run occured but not with the pebble stock cover) p.s. I think life is in shades of grey and full color! Not black and white. Keith Tucker and Ditko created the acetate for the red for the back cover. (In case another blogger genuinely wants clarification).

  12. Ken Meyer Jr.

    Rob, thanks for looking and leaving the comment. I would love to do a part two someday, focusing on maybe an issue of Guts and Eon together, or a few issue of Guts…though I have none, so would have to borrow them to scan!

  13. Sounds Good Ken. I am sure Robert Gluckson would love to discuss Guts which was very popular for the cerebral crowd. How do you get such good copies of your scans?

  14. Keep at it, this is great.

  15. Actually I think of Graphic Illusions as Eon #4 and from Gluckson’s perspective it was Guts #6 but he use to say GutsEon. Some guy named Snider took some of the Mr. A material and printed it in some Ditko reprint book (maybe he got some permission from Ditko). People want me to remember over 30 years ago what went down. No one ever tried to contact me. I have never authorized anyone to print any of Graphic Illusions in any form. Recently I referred people to just contact the actual artists for permission to print any page from the issue. I do recall sort of getting the Ditko Comic Strip from Ditko or maybe it was the cover. I asked Ditko for either the strip or the cover and he came through. I feel bad that two of my alleged friends came over and stole the Ditko story from me saying they were returning it to Ditko. My Mom was in the other room. Later I discovered someone allegedly had sold it to Terry Stroud. But this is all water on the bridge. Deepest apologies to Ditko if the art didn’t get back to him. Since Ditko is one of my favorite fantasy comic artist I do feel really bad about this. I think Keith Tucker had provided the Cover but I just cannot recall all the details exactly and I want to. If Steve Ditko will teleconference with me via skype I would love to apologise via video camera or in person. I am not guilty and I was responsible. I never published Graphic Illusions #2 for lack of funds. George Barr had provide a lizard ornate cover for that. I am sure he would tell you I did return the cover for that to him. If it were available I would buy it from him now and print it. In 2001 I published Graphic Illusion #1 (no “s” in the title) with my article on comics and my art and a new drawing by Thomas Yeates which I purchased from him. I have been harrassed since 2005 by competitors in the realm of comic book art (who don’t want competition). I sold the Original art for the flyer (only printed ever as a flyer until Graphic Illusion # 1 2001) a Steve Fabian illustration that I bought from Fabian directly when I had a New Age Comic Book store in 1978. (I purchased at least 3 illustrations from him in the past). I would buy more from him or Tim Kirk if they’d contact me. I hope publishers know I am no competition. My print run for Graphic Illusion #1 (2001) was just 10 special copies). I also printed exactly 10 copies of Graphic Illusions (1971) for Blake Bell for which he never paid me. I was living in my Van at the time quite destitute. I think Dave Smith of Jet City Comics of Washington would attest to that. I retain the copyright for Graphic Illusions #1 and if I wanted to print it I feel I have the absolute right to. I just don’t plan on it at the moment or anytime soon. Though I may put out a Graphic Illusion #2 someday. There are people who are printing fanzines and folios illegally I feel that are not in the public domain. And I have lead the charge to stop that. Mostly I believe they are certain people on Ebay (since I received one myself around 2005). And also it is happening online digitally I feel, think, know. Hey I spend all my time trying to save the world who has time for this nonsense. Then again copyright is a sacred thing.

  16. Letter from Gluckson:

    >How did Ditko seem to you when you corresponded to him?

    Yes. Kind of like a fan.

    > Why do you think he stopped working for Stan Lee?

    Wanted a piece of the action. Wanted creative control.

    > ***
    > How about Wertham did he seem sane …did you speak to these people on the

    Wertham was really cool. Really nice guy. Interested. Respectful. Smart.
    He was overzealously attacked. I think by the 70s he had calmed down and he
    is right about media violence in general — it’s bad. He didn’t advocate
    censorship, that was other people’s ideas. Read the Guts articles in #4 and
    I think five

    > Or Ray Bradbury..I think you said you visited him in person.

    Again like an excited fan who couldn’t believe his luck to become Ray

    > Or Forry Ackerman? (Did you visit his house?)

    Again like a (very) excited fan. Yes went to his house, once to meet Ray
    Harryhausen, Me (Gluckson, Robert), Jeff, and I think Craig, Robert Block, Van Vogt,
    Bill Warren, and Forry. Just us. Forry invited us. Can you
    believe it.
    All those guys treated us kids as grownups. They never grew up either.

    Gluckson then tells me he sold the Ditko back cover to Terry Stroud.

    Arriving at truth or facts over 30 years later seems hard.

  17. Keith joins in:
    Keith Tucker here, Steve Ditko had contacted me and offered it for my fanzine Galactic Illustrations third issue that never happened. I was a teenager at the time, and was chased out of my home with a gun by my step grandfather. I proceeded to hitch-hike to San Francisco to live on the streets for a while. Prior to my leaving I offered the story to Rob for his EON mag via Rob Gluckson because I couldn’t get to Rob’s house at the time. I also gave Steve Ditko’s address so the original art could be returned to him after publishing it, and a list of subscribers who were to get his book as a replacement for my now unable to finish fanzine. Rob printed a beautiful book, better than I would have been able to do. The red color was from a rubylith overlay by Steve.
    I hope this sets some records straight about the Mr. A. tale. I appreciate Steve mentioning me in his books where this work appeared, I feel bad that I was not able to print it myself, but being forced out on the street with a gun made that a difficult proposition.

  18. In case it means anything Gluckson just gave me a never before printed (or seen by me) letter from Ditko. The bs in Blake Bell’s/Gary Groth’s book was pure bs and inaccuracy. Confused Gluckson with Gustaveson. Ditko art was taken by Joe and Jim from me without my permission. And who sent them there I suspect. I did try to sell the story half heartedly when I moved from my home in the Valley to an apartment. But before I could consumate a deal they just took it. That one incident pretty much ruined my life for years. I forgot about it all until the bs book by Bell/Groth came out. Communcated to Groth that I Gustaveson did not publish Guts. Awaiting an apology. Remember this Stroud is connected to Shaw. Stroud is connected to Joe P. Stroud is connected to Gluckson. I was never interviewed. Nor was Itold anything would be published. I did share in a few emails the facts. And I have tried to bring more facts out. I paid to have Graphic Illusions printed. I own all rights to print it again if I ever choose.

    • Rob Gustaveson

      ” I also gave Steve Ditko’s address so the original art could be returned to him after publishing it, and a list of subscribers who were to get his book as a replacement for my now unable to finish fanzine.” No one gave that to me. Just found out Blake Bell is a woman. Heard the backcover (Ditko) sold for big big money recently. Find out who they got it from. p.s. beware of people playing games in fandom. Don’t believe everything you read. Talk to the person face to face. Skype is a great tool. One guy pretended he was me on a radio show (never been on one). Stan Lee and others have been victims too and on facebook calls himself the real Stan Lee. Others pretend they are working with Shatner and are not. (Just saw on Facebook). Your competitor and other Brainiac’s seem to have nothing better to do than mess with you. There are things you can do and a lawyer is one of them. A person I was never close to but thought was a friend — an artist who I published — is connected to animators in Burbank who sent out a lot of horrible emails to me and others pretending they were me. Why? Had not even talked to them in 20 or more years. So the answer personally is turn the other cheek, forgive and forget. And that is what I try to do when I write. I let it go.

  19. Steven Kolden


    I enjoyed your article. My father is Jerry Kolden. I don’t know a whole lot about my father in those days. I’ve got a sketch book from 1948 with original art from Roy Krenkel, Harry Harrison and Wally Wood. I think it’s Wally Wood. It’s signed “Woody”. If you or anyone you know that might have insights into my father around that time, I would love to communicate with them.

    • Rob

      Are you going to print that sketchbook? Wood love to see it.

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