[This material originally appeared in Comics Buyer’s Guide #1682.]
“It’s a proud and lonely thing to be a fan.”
- Robert Bloch, “A Way of Life,” Fantastic Universe [October 1956].
I’m celebrating the golden anniversary of modern comics fandom this
time around. I stress “modern” because there were clearly comics
fans and even comics fanzines before 1961. But there’s no denying
the impact made by and my own debt to pioneers like Jerry Bails,
Roy Thomas, and Don and Maggie Thompson. I doubt I’d be here - and
by “here,” I mean both still working in the comics industry and
still enjoying the fun of comics - if I hadn’t the good fortune to
have connected with them at various times in my life.
Comics fandom is generally considered to have taken its cues from
the older science fiction fandom. In some ways, comics fandom has
surpassed its mentor; in other ways, not so much. The above quote
comes from science fiction fandom.
While “pride” in one’s fandom is a thing of individual inclination,
I’m not sure “lonely” is nearly as applicable as it once was. We
have dozens of fairly major comics conventions every year and nigh-
weekly smaller ones across the land. We have friendly neighborhood
comic-book shops where we can meet and socialize with our fellow
comics afficionados. And we have the Internet.
While I may consider myself a proud fan, I rarely feel lonely these
days. I can go to comics conventions, comics shops, and meetings of
comics fans. At any time, day or night, I can communicate with my
fellow comics fans online. Some I know well, some I am “meeting”
for the first time.
When I first began corresponding with fans whose names I found in
the comic-book letters pages of the 1960s, when I began writing for
every comics fanzine that would have me, I felt an actual sense of
community. Outside of my own family, I’d never felt that before.
Not in school, not in my neighborhood, not in the various scouting
and other organizations I joined. I was part of all those, but I
always felt like an outsider.
The families we build for ourselves can be as loving and supportive
as those we are born into. That’s been my experience with comics.
Oh, sure, I’ve run into plenty of bad sorts along the way. Crooks
and liars, insufferable egotists and weaselly back stabbers, self-
loathing snarks and delusional leeches. But their numbers remain
insignificant when compared to the thousands of great comics fans
and creators I’ve met over the years. Some I’ve known for decades
and some I’ve just recently met. Though we might argue unto the
death if Marvel is better than DC or Superman is stronger than Thor
- the correct answers are Marvel is better and Superman is stronger
- we’re usually there for one another. Recommending our favorite
comics, sharing information, and even helping a guy with somewhat
limited computer skills - like, for example, me - with some timely
research when he’s on a deadline. Comics fans are a decent bunch
and I’m proud to be one of them.
It’s also been said (morphing D.B. Thompson’s 1943 article title
“Fandom as a Way of Life”) that “fandom is a way of life.” You’ll
get no argument from me on that score. It’s not the way of life,
but it’s got a lot going for it. We’re a community that expects the
best of one another and is uncommonly forgiving when we fall short
of our loftiest ideals. If you approach comics fandom with
bitterness or as some sort of opportunity to scam others, you’ll be
If you approach it with clean hands and good intent, you’ll have a
Here’s to comics fandom, my brothers and sisters. Here’s to decades
of great comic books and to many more decades, nay, centuries, of
great comic books to come. Can I get an “Amen!”?
MAD #510 [E.C. Publications; $5.99] had me from Mark Frederickson’s
cover. Not only was the image of Alfred E. Neuman as Green Lantern
hilarious, but the cover copy was just perfect:
In dumbest day
In dimmest night
We’re looking for readers
Who ain’t too bright!
Inside, besides an entertaining spoof of the Green Lantern movie by
writer Desmond Delvin and artist Tom Richmond, there are many funny
features by a corps of rib-tickling talents like Jeff Kruse, Sergio
Aragones, Nick Meglin, Sam Vivano, Al Jaffee, and more. A series of
“Terminator” posters had me chuckling, as did “The Fundalini Pages”
and “The Strip Club.” Those last two showcase multiple creators and
add to the refreshing variety found in today’s MAD. This isn’t your
father’s MAD or even your grandfather’s MAD, but it’s a creditable
humor magazine that has earned my subscription money.
Cracked was MAD’s most successful imitator back in its heyday, but,
these days, it’s enjoying an online rebirth as “Cracked.com.” The
website offers a cornucopia of articles, videos, and photo features
created by a small army of wacky writers. Over three dozen of the
site’s funniest pieces have been collected in You Might Be a Zombie
and Other Bad News [Plume; $14].
Lovers of lists will get a chilling kick out of articles like “The
Five Most Horrifying Bugs in the World,” “The Six Most Depressing
Happy Endings in Movie History,” “Four Things Your Mom Said Were
Healthy That Can Kill You,” and “The Five Creepiest Urban Legends
That Happen to be True.” One of my personal favorites in the book
is Michael Swaim’s “Five Classic Cartoon Characters with Traumatic
Childhoods.” None of the pieces is more than a few pages in length,
making for quick laughs whenever you have a few minutes to spare in
your busy day. With 35 writers and 14 illustrators, You Might Be
a Zombie adds up to one very funny book.
The Best of Battle [Titan Books; $19.95] reprints nearly 300 pages
of densely-plotted episodes from one of the great British weeklies.
There are 17 different series represented in this book from well-
known classics like “Charley’s War” to more obscure (on this side
of the pond, at least) strips like “D-Day Dawson,” “Hold Hill 109,”
and “Panzer G-Man.” Each series is introduced with commentary from
one of its creators or editors.
The episodes run 3-5 pages in length and I continually marveled at
how much story Battle’s writers and artists managed to squeeze into
that length. Characterization was often one-note, but that single
note would be loud and proud. There are even a handful of strips
with German soldiers who, to a man, hate the Nazis more than their
American and British foes.
If I were a British lad of the 1970s, I would irresistibly drawn to
the tough writing and gritty art found in these tales. As an aging
Yank pushing 60s, I’m drawn to them as well. I wish someone would
publish weekly comics like Battle in this country. Failing that,
I hope there are more Best of Battle volumes coming.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2011 Tony Isabella