Friday, March 12, 2010

Top Ten Issues of The Comics Journal: 59 Part One

THE COMICS JOURNAL 59 (October 1980) buy here
Fantagraphics, Inc., 196 West Haviland Lane, Stamford CT 06903
GARY G. GROTH: Executive Editor, Art Director
KIM THOMPSON: Editor, Circulation Director
GARY KWAPISZ: Assistant Art Director
JOHN DAKIN: Correspondent
BRUCE SWEENEY: Correspondent ("Undergrounds")
KAREN C. HUNTER: Live-in Mascot
VIVIA McKENZIE: Live-in Mascot

Ken Macklin was a fantasy artist probably best known for his "Dr. Watchstop" and "Weasel Patrol" series in the comics world. Neither of those had started yet when he did this cover for the JOURNAL, but he was active in other other areas. Two of his contemporary paintings are posted here, a role-playing game cover here, his Schanes and Schanes published "Smug the Dragon" print [advertised in this issue of the JOURNAL], and work in RIGEL SCIENCE FICTION 1 (Summer 1981, Aesir Press) [latter via]. He was married to fantasy artist Lela Dowling. Later he had a career in game animation and creation for LucasFilm (and others) [source:,1373].
(c)1980 Ken Macklin

"The Obscure Eisner" (page 4) by Jim Korkis [THE SPIRIT reprints and offbeat Eisner appearances in ARMY MOTORS, P.S. MAGAZINE, STAR JAWS, 101 OUTER SPACE JOKES, African-American textbooks, interviews and research (like Catherine Yronwode was conducting and writing in THE SPIRIT MAGAZINE and other publications).]

[Individual articles are not credited. The contents page says, "researched, compiled, and edited by Kim Thompson." The majority of the news articles are probably written by Mr. Thompson, assisted by John Dakin, with Bruce Sweeney reporting on his specialty "Undergrounds."]

[With the recent retirement of President & Publisher (or whatever he was, the last time I bought a DC comic Jenette Kahn was still in charge) Paul Levitz from DC Comics the below quoted news article is particularly relevant, it details Levitz's early promotion to Manager of Business Affairs.]
"Changes at DC Comics: Giordano Named Editor, Levitz and Orlando Promoted" pages 8-9 J. Michael Catron: photos [quoted from beginning of article: "DC Comics' Managing Editor Joe Orlando has been promoted to Editorial Director, while Paul Levitz, formerly the Editorial Coordinator, has been promoted to Manager of Business Affairs. In addition, Dick Giordano has been hired to take over the editing chores on the titles vacated by Levitz.
"Orlando and Levitz: Special Projects
"Both Orlando and Levitz will, according to a DC press release, be more active in the areas of DC's merchandising properties that range beyond the regular comics publishing business.
"DC Publisher Jenette Kahn commented on Orlando's promotion: 'Joe's unique ability to rise to meet the creative challenges of mastering new fields has been an important asset to DC's growth as a multi-faceted publishing company.' she added that despite his promotion, Orlando's management of the DC editorial team would 'remain an important part of his contribution.'
"Similarly, Levitz will continue working in an administrative capacity at DC Comics, while gaining an increased responsibility with regard to special projects. In order to make time for his new functions, he will relinquish the three comics titles he is currently editing, BATMAN, DETECTIVE, and BRAVE AND THE BOLD." (c)1980 Kim Thompson/The Comics Journal
*"Roy Thomas at DC" page 9 [Mr. Thomas' first work at DC was to include: BATMAN [somewhere in 331-342 which were published in 1981] , ALL-STAR SQUADRON (not titled yet), ARAK (not titled yet), DC COMICS PRESENTS [33 34 37], GREEN LANTERN [1981 issues were 136-147], and a "Supergirl" story [in SUPERMAN FAMILY 205-213 1981 issues]. issue #'s taken from STANDARD CATALOG OF COMIC BOOKS 4th edition (KP Books, 2005)]
*"Marvel Focuses on Direct Sales" pages 11-12 ["Dazzler #1 Exclusive" "The Cooperative Advertising Program" "Albums in Preparations" [several future Marvel graphic novels are mentioned in this section, one as yet unpublished (outside of excerpts in THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR, anyway) is THE PRISONER, to be written by Steve Englehart and drawn by Gil Kane/Joe Rubinstein and Jack Kirby/Walt Simonson, respectively] "The General Market Not Forgotten" [MARVEL UNIVERSE (which sounds an awful lot like BIZARRE ADVENTURES, down to the Christmas issue), Simon and Shuster books, and children's books)]
*"Briefly Noted at Marvel Comics" page 12 [Daredevil drug story, Death of Phoenix ending changed, Hulk color magazine goes b/w, DC/Marvel team-ups announced (Spiderman/Superman, Batman/Hulk, X-Men/Legion of Superheroes, and JLA/Avengers), CAPTAIN AMERICA 255 printed from John Byrne pencil art, Jim Shooter/Alan Weiss SUB-MARINER comic, JAMES BOND comic (FOR YOUR EYES ONLY 1, 2), DENNIS THE MENACE comic]
*"Charlton to Publish Aspiring Pros' Work for Free" page 14 [good history of this effort which published Mark Heike, Arn Saba, and other future pros in CHARLTON BULLSEYE, notable for a short interview with Bill Pearson when he was an editor at Charlton.]
*"Marvel Merry-G0-Round" page 14 [John Garcia was to have drawn THOR 304, and many other comings and goings of Marvel artists and writers]
*"DC Merry-Go-Round" page 15
*"DC Heroes & Villains" page 15
*"Adventure Comics Skips Two Months" page 15
*obituary: Douglas Kenney (December 10, 1947-August 27, 1980) [source] page 15
*"Len Mogel Takes Over Heavy Metal From Ted White" page 17 photo: Len Mogel
*"Comic Strips: 'Lookin' Fine' Begins" page 17 photo: Ray Billingsley [short bio of Ray Billingsley, Mort Gerberg's "Hang In There!," "Lone Ranger" comic strip by Cary Bates/Russ Heath, "Barbara Cartland Romances" begins November 1980, 30th anniversary of "Peanuts," 25th anniversary of Irwin Hasen's "Dondi," and Lou Little named Head of Comics Development at Field News Syndicate.]
*"Alternative Press" page 19 [GANG BANG (Wallace Wood's infamous tijuana bible-type effort); VISIONS 2; QUESTAR; Fantaco: BAH HEMBECK, SMILIN' ED 2, MUGSHOTS, ALIEN ENCOUNTERS; Eclipse: ECLIPSE MAGAZINE 1 (contents for first issue were to include Jim Starlin, Don McGregor's "Ragamuffins" and a Steve Englehart/Marshall Rogers "serial"); CKR Productions/Comely Comics news.]
*"Undergrounds" page 19 [Rip Off Press: RIP OFF 7 and CARTOON HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE 5; Last Gasp: SAN FRANCISCO 6, YOUNG LUST 6, HAROLD HEDD 1(reprint); Kitchen Sink: SPIRIT MAGAZINE 25, GAY COMICS, NARD N PAT 2, SNARF 9.]

[The below sidebar appeared at the end of the "Newswatch" section and was the first salvo in a long, bitter legal battle fought through most of the 80s.]
"NOTICE FROM THE EDITORS: On May 1st, 1980 we received a letter from Michael Fleisher threatening legal action against The Comics Journal if we did not print an 'apology and retraction' that Fleisher had written and signed our names to. Fleisher's claim was that Harlan Ellison made 'defamatory and untrue statements' about him and his work in 'The Harlan Ellison Interview' (Journal #53).
"We had researched the four points of contention that Fleisher outlined and prepared a statement covering each of them, which we would have published in this issue, in addition to a reply to Fleisher's letter from Ellison.
"However, in mid-August, Fleisher told Gary Groth that he had filed suit against The Comics Journal. Our attorneys have advised us not to print our statement until we receive legal notification of Fleisher's suit.
"We will keep our readers informed of things as they develop. -THE EDITORS"
(c)1980 THE COMICS JOURNAL, Fantagraphics, Inc.

[The links do not necessarily correspond with the names below, although I did try and track down what these folks were doing currently. Richard Gagnon was a particularly tough one as there is a Canadian cartoonist and musician both with the same name, unfortunately the cartoonist would have only been 15-years old when this issue came out and he had no ties to New Jersey at all. Likewise, facebook had almost every name below multiple times, so that was certainly not helpful if there were no clues to where they lived in their intro page.]

#Peter Iro/Willie Blyberg: illustration page 21
#unknown: illustration page 23
#Bruce Zick: illustration page 25 [films]
#Stu Potts: editorial cartoon page 27
#Willie Blyberg/Mutschler: illustration page 30 [ and ]
#Bob Staszak: illustration page 31 [Mr. Staszak was a prolific cover artist for THE COMCS READER ca. 1975-80. source]
#Alan Hanley: illustration page 34
#Scott McCloud (credited as "McLeod"): illustration page 37
#JAMES KEEPNEWS page 20 [On the JOURNAL'S unbiased news coverage, Gene Colan, and Neal Adams]
#BILL HENLEY JR. pages 20-21 [This arrogant and condescending (and well-written) piece may encapsulate the perfect "B&T" letter! Wish I could print the whole thing, but you'll just have to find your own copy.]
#MIKE VALERIO page 21 [On the other hand Mr. Valerio may very well have been the perfect JOURNAL reader as evidenced by this short quote, "Essentially, comics are like any other business, whether it's producing Harlequin Romance novels or bottles of beer. We're talking about mass production for a mass audience. We're talking about the junk food of literature. That's all comics are." I really wonder how many other readers got this point in the entire history of the magazine? Mainstream comics were a product, while the actual FORM of comics storytelling could (and should) be used to create a unique hybrid of art/literature. (Okay, I added the latter point on myself, but it's a logical conclusion leading from Mr. Valerio's well-stated point.)] [wrote articles in the JOURNAL 65 and 67. source]
#RICH MORRISSEY pages 21-22 [on the JOURNAL'S biased news coverage] [obituary 1 2]
#THE EDITORS REPLY to Mr. Morrissey page 22 [history of JOURNAL coverage of various creator departures and a nice look at how Mr. Thompson approached news gathering back then.]
#KENT C. ORLANDO pages 22-23 [on editors Jack C. Harris and Dick Giordano] [author of "Cheeks, the Toy Wonder" MySpace page, now defunct. source]
#JOHN PIERCE page 23 [on Jack C. Harris]
#DENNIS SUMMERS pages 23-24 [reply to letter from James Lentini (#55) on Howard Chaykin Interview (#51)] ["Texturing: Concepts and Techniques" by Dennis Summers (Charles River Media, 2004), also a possible match.]
#ROBIN SNYDER page 24 [quoted in full: "Despite your 'elitist' attitudes and your habit of ignoring the bulk of the comics industry's output (war, mystery, and humor) I still find much of worth in your publication.
"Case in point: the light, up-beat Jack Harris interview [#55] makes up for the depressing, negative features of the past.
"I do agree with the points Kim Thompson raised in the editorial, however I think the solution lies in presenting the problem in a positive manner." (c)1980 Robin Snyder ]
(Mr. Snyder ten years later founded THE HISTORY OF COMICS (now just THE COMICS) newsletter which did exactly what he proposed in this short letter, a perfect counterpoint to the JOURNAL in my humble opinion.]
#MARIO NAVES page 24 [on the Marshall Rogers interview (#54)]
#LARRY BAFUS page 24 [on Marshall Rogers cover to DETECTIVE COMICS 476]
#FRANK BRUNNER page 24 [reply to R. Fiore's review "The Rocky Road to Tanelorn" (#55) of his "Elric of Melnibone" story in STAR*REACH GREATEST HITS.]
#R. FIORE REPLIES to Mr. Brunner pages 24-25 [this was R. Fiore's third review for the JOURNAL, preceded by reviews of "Night Music" (#54) and "Weirdworld" (#52) (source). He does a great job standing his ground, definitely an important part of the JOURNAL'S long tradition of excellence in criticism.]
#BILL MANTLO page 25 [replying to Brian Snell's letter, asks Are Critics Frustrated Writers?, and on the "fan elite."] [books-in-print and bio: ]
#THE EDITORS REPLY to Mr. Mantlo pages 25-26 [on positive reviews in the JOURNAL, on Burne Hogarth's analysis of mainstream comics, on commerce vs. content, and on reviewers as writers.]
#DAVE SIM page 26 [replying to Jim McPherson letter (#56)] [link via]
#MIKE W. BARR page 26-27 [replying to Jim McPherson letter (#56), on work being ignored by an independent publisher.]
#MIKE GOLD page 28 [replies to Stephen McGonagle (#56) letter, on Len Wein's comics writing]
#WALLY STOELTING page 29 [on Jack C. Harris interview (#55)]
#MIKE SOPP page 29 [on woes of Marvel fans] [twitter?]
#RICHARD GAGNON pages 29-30 [on Michael Fleisher interview (#56), reply to David Seidman on comics reviews.] [Google Phonebook lists three possible matches for "Richard Gagnon New Jersey"]
#DAVID S. MARSHALL page 30 [on Neal Adams back cover (#56)]
#CHRIS ASH page 30 [on Gene Phillips essay ""(#55)]
#GENE PHILLIPS REPLIES to Mr. Ash pages 31 33 [on comics creator's ancestral, racial, and religious tradition and influences, I think]
#RICH MORRISSEY (ROUND 2) pages 33-34 [on Michael Fleisher interview (#56), on Fleisher's writing on "The Spectre" "Jonah Hex," and Fleisher's swipes of old "Batman" plots (they call this "updating" nowadays, don't they?)
#JACK C. HARRIS page 34 [on SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE MAGAZINE written by Michael Fleisher.]
#JOHN BENSON page 37 [on Richard Howell's review of HEARTTHROBS (#55), the DC Comics trade paperback collection of Romance comics.] [Mr. Benson edited ROMANCE WITHOUT TEARS and CONFESSIONS, ROMANCES, SECRETS, AND TEMPTATIONS about Romance comics from]
#TODD GOLDBERG pages 37 100 [on the JOURNAL 55, in general] [book]
#RUSS MAHERAS page 100 [on David Stallman's review of EPIC ILLUSTRATED 1 (#54).]

The Comics Journal (c)2010 Fantagraphics Books Inc.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I completely forgot about writing an LOC to TCJ back in the day! I was such an expert about so many things at 14... :}

    Actually, I do remember giving voice in that letter to my wholesale Gene Colan worship, an idolatry that has only deepened with time, and with the greater capacity to reproduce his exquisite pencil work.

    Peace, James Keepnews