Take yourself back to the 1960s, what we now refer to as the Silver Age of comic books. The era that defined comics as we know them today thanks largely to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Sure there are others, but for my purposes and the purposes of my retro reviews, those two dudes are the center of the universe. Also, next week we’ll return to our regularly scheduled Fantastic Four reviews. Mostly alone, we as geeks drifted through time and space. Seeking each other out, we mailed crudely made fanzines.
*Note. There was a large gap in writing this as I googled Comic-Con Exclusives, panels, and so on. Such as these backpacks, which would be great to store said exclusives.
Fanzines, Fanzines, back to the Fanzines. Comic-Con fever is causing me to lose my focus. I just finished up my Top 10 Exclusives video, so watch that, then we’ll talk more Fanzines.
Fanzines. In the 60s, fans came together in printed paper. Today Comic-Con is the center of the pop culture universe, not just geek culture, but all of pop culture. Movies live or die (kind of) by the hype and reception at Comic-Con. We now have a place to physically gather and say to the world, our weirdo stuff is now popular? How did that happen anyway? That would be a much longer article, so I’ll return to the point.
In 1970 San Diego residents, Shel Dorf, Ken Krueger, and Richard Alf held a one-day convention in March. It went well. Well enough that in August they held a 3-day event. The bigger event included guests Ray Bradbury (who called me a genius, yes, he really did) and Jack Kirby (he I’m sure would have said the same, given the opportunity). A whooping 300 people attended. Today, I think it is 75 billion.
While I haven’t found a direct line, a logical conclusion would be to say thanks to the Fanzines. It showed, first us, that there were others out there that like the comics we liked. Such as Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
A few years ago, I found myself at a panel for Fanzines, it was called, “The Golden Age of Fanzines.” Also, the golden age of Fanzines occurred during the Silver Age of comics, just to make things slightly more confusing. The panel was held at Comic-Con in San Diego. Many cons call themselves “Comic Con” but San Diego IS Comic-Con. There have even been lawsuits, and I’m sure there will be more, but this article is about the good stuff, not that bad.
Among the panelist, Roy Thomas, who famously went from Fanzine circulator to all-time great comic book writer. You could argue he wrote Spider-Man stories more famous than those written by Stan Lee (at least one for sure). The panel was moderated by Mark Evanier. A former teacher of mine at USC.
I’ve run into Mark several times since I had him as an instructor in a Comedy Writing Class, mostly at conventions. He’d often seem to forget who I was. I’d remind him that I was one of the 5 students in class, followed by awkward silence. He’d then break the silence by introducing me to the person with him. Mark’s career in comics began in 1967, working as an assistant for Jack Kirby. Mark was one of those Fanzine circulating fans himself. He was at that first Comic-Con in 1970, and I believe at every one since.
I see myself as Mark’s unwanted Geek Son. In class, I’d constantly ask him about writing comics, about Jack Kirby and so on. I’m still not a very good comedy writer, but he did give me an A. I think he saw me as a suck up, but I truly cared about that stuff (still do). It was the first generation of Geeks passing on his knowledge to the next, now I pass it on to my daughter… she’ll probably hate it.
Josiah Golojuh is a writer, (find his Ray Bradbury endorsed collection of short stories here), he’s also a YouTube commentator (where, among other things, he does things similar to these Retro Reviews).