One of the best adult story zines of the 70s, Hot Stuf’ had a plethora of big names having a blast writing and drawing non-superhero hijinks!
Hot Stuf’ 1: Summer 1974
Editor and Publisher: Sal Quartuccio
Way back in the 1970s, there sometimes was a fine line between what was a fanzine and what was a magazine or “prozine.” Hot Stuf’ probably fell more into the latter category. However, many artists and writers in the early part of their careers had work in the eight issues of this high quality publication, so I think it fits in Ink Stains just fine. You can find later issues on eBay, but this first issue is a little harder to come by. It was one of the first publications launched by entrepreneur and publishing hurricane Sal Quartuccio. He would go on to do many other magazines, books, and collections in his still thriving career.
As you can see above, the issue starts off with a huge beautiful bang in the person of illustrator Ken Barr. You will see his work in The Collector 28 (on the cover as well as interiors, if I remember correctly) when I get around to profiling it. He was always an incredible draftsman, as far back as I can remember. He will be featured soon, when I profile another Quartuccio edited zine, Phase One. This cover is a great example of how accomplished an artist Barr was and still is. He covers virtually all genres and always does it with style. Too bad it’s his only contribution for this issue!
Another artist who is not shown quite as much as he is in later issues of this magazine is Bil Maher. No, not the comedian and political firebrand, but the artist. Note it’s only one ‘l’ in his first name. I always found Maher to possess a very individual visual style (though this illustration to the right is more realistic), and also to be a very inventive and creative writer. His story this issue, “Mice in Veloe,” frankly, takes a bit of work to get through! I could have done with a bit more art to accompany the dense text, to be honest. What you will find is a science fiction story very ahead of its time, with themes you might find in films coming decades later. It tells us of a man with a mental affliction that is turned in his favor, placing him in a position of power and in an almost messianic light. If you are a devoted music aficionado, you might recognize Brian Eno in the left of the two panels to the right. Indeed, Maher thanks the godfather of ambient at the end of the story.
I am getting a bit ahead of myself, since the always satisfying Richard Corben actually starts out the book with his “Bug.” A classic example of Corben’s expert handling of so many facets of sequential art, from cinematic storytelling, fully realized forms, a command of placing blacks, and his use of the now defunct shading tool, Zip-a-tone. And of course, it’s also a chance for him to render one of his characteristically well endowed females! This story was done in 1973, when Corben was still doing work for fanzines such as Infinity while already working for Warren magazines such as Creepy and Eerie. I am a huge fan of Corben, always have been. But, if you need to have some very well respected professionals endorse the man, Will Eisner said “Corben’s work is singular in its humanity. He works with towering technical skill…the wondrous thing of it all is that underneath all that technical tour-de-force is the sound of a beating heart.” Frank Miller said that “I feel like I was particularly impressed by Richard Corben’s work. His science-fiction stories, those almost primitive black and white comics he did back then. I was very struck by the visceral punch they had, by the unusual artistic point of view. And also by the unabashed exaggeration. It’s as if you wanted a woman to have big breasts, you drew it. There was something just so joyously excessive and erotic about his stuff, that I just ate it up.” To sum it all up, the man can draw! He also has a wacky sense of humor, not above a visual pun, as seen in the last panel of this story. Take a gander at the masterful pages below.
Following Corben’s somewhat silly (if incredibly well rendered) tale is a more serious bit of fantasy/sword and sorcery called “Shadow of the Sword” by the then well established pro, Rich Buckler. I remember really loving Buckler’s combination of Neal Adams and John Buscema on characters such as Deathlok. At the end of the story, it is said to be a “prelude to a strip adaptation from the unfinished poem by Samuel Coleridge.” It does indeed read like a set up for something to follow. Whether it materialized or whether Buckler was too busy illustrating comics like The Fantastic Four or characters such as Deathlok and The Black Panther, we don’t know. Buckler was a workhorse, though, that is for sure. In fact, one of the few artists more prolific is George Perez (Perez worked as an intern of sorts alongside Buckler early on in his career), who appears later in this very same magazine! See a few pages from Buckler’s story below.
Buckler’s very “comic book style” work is followed by a few one pagers of a more experimental or indie nature, one called “The Proposition” by Dan Recchia and the second called “The Apple” by Mike Snyder. After these two one-page stories we are launched again into a longer (and definitely goofier) story called “Uncle Sal and Cousin John Go Planet-Tripping!” For those fans of George Perez’s professional comic work on titles such as The New Teen Titans, The Avengers, or any other of the 512 titles he has worked on so far (OK, I made that number up, but it does seem like he has done that many), this will be a bit of a surprise. A pleasant surprise, I am pretty sure. Think Kevin Smith meets Harry Potter, if you will. It certainly gave Perez a chance to have a blast drawing busty medieval babes, barbarians, sword fights and…well…more busty medieval babes! Check out a few pages here.
You think we’re done? No way! Still two more stories to go! If you loved the second Atlas launch in the 70s, you are familiar with the work of Ernie Colon. Though he started out at Harvey comics as a letterer, the Puerto Rican artist really made his mark at Atlas Comics on titles such as Grim Ghost and Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld. This story by Doug Moench, “A Thought in the Egg,” allows Colon to have some visual fun and punnery, as well as giving him a chance to draw a cool dragon, damsel in distress, and a paunchy knight. It’s a light and fun little story, as you will see below.
Well, the last story is done by the artist who started the book out, Richard Corben. Again allowing us to view his very individual way of rendering the female figure, his twisted take on sex, and the humor that results from the combination of the two (and some male leads unable to keep it in their pants). “Flys” also shows us what a commander of light and shade that Corben was (and still is). I especially love the shadows falling on the various strange Roger Dean-like forms the main characters are striding through. A weird landscape rendered three dimensional and realistic because of Corben’s command of form, volume, and light patterns. Take a look see below.
You know, maybe it’s just me, but the fellow without the huge mustache looks a little like Corben’s signature Den character. One more taste of Corben below with the always beautifully hand colored work on the back cover.
This piece looks like it was probably colored by markers on a photostat, which is a practice I believe Corben used now and then. However he did it, it’s vibrant and alive, like all of his work.
So, there you have it, Hot Stuf’ issue numero uno. Be sure to hunt down the following issues on Ebay, as they are easily worth what I see people are asking for them. Inside and on the covers you will see work by people like Neal Adams, Michael Kaluta, Fastner/Larson, Ken Barr, more Corben…and much more!
Thanks once again to Richard Arndt for sending me scans of this great collection of stories. Please download the pdf so you can read the complete stories and tune in again next time when we will drift more towards the fannish size of fanzines and the month after that you will get to see an even bigger fanzine/magazine, Phase One!
See Ken Barr’s work here and see/order his book of collected work here.
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Ken Meyer Jr.