Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Etcetera, Etcetera

When Publisher Mark Hanerfeld found work at DC, The Comic Reader vanished for 22 months. Taking up the slack was another fanzine.



Etcetera was published by Paul Levitz and Paul Kupperberg, and later solely by Levitz. Kupperberg would go on to write and edit for DC. You can read some great stories at his blog, including a few about his time working on Etc and meeting Carmine Infantino: http://kupps.malibulist.com/page/7/

Paul Levitz became a writer, editor and publisher at DC. Etcetera followed TCR by concentrating on news about DC and Marvel, listing coming comics and featuring reviews and columns. Etcetera # 3, May 1971


Along with Marvel and DC news, there was info on Skywald. Sol Brodsky (who left Marvel for a while to attempt this venture) and Israel Waldman teamed to produce horror mags such as Nightmare and Psycho, a few 25 cent color comics and Hell-Rider, which did not turn out to "shake up the industry as we know it" (it lasted two issues). Skywald employed many talented creators, including Gary Friedrich, Ross Andru, Syd Shores, Dick Ayers and superlative work by Bill Everett. The announced Science Fiction Odyssey never appeared. 

The Fan column mentioned that Hanerfeld was planning to put out 2 more issues of The Comic Reader and then turn it over to Dave Kaler, but that was not to be. From Etcetera # 3.


      
Etcetera # 4, June 1971, announces Marvel's line becoming 48 page-25 cent titles, which only lasted a few months before reverting to standard size (at 20 cents). The Fan column explains Dave Kaler's plans to turn the Comic Reader into an in-depth article zine, with no news. That didn't happen either.



..however, just four issues later, in Etcetera # 8, Oct 1971, there was no further talk of either Hannerfeld or Kaler returning. Instead Levitz announced a merging of Etcetera with the Comic Reader which occured two months later, after one more issue of solo Etcetera. 



December 1971 marked the return of The Comic Reader, as ETC/TCR, with combined numbering - although there was an error - this issue was supposed to be #78, not #77 (the last published Hanerfeld issue), so, the next issue becomes #79 (figured all that out? They'll be a quiz at the end of the blog!)



Like its predecessor, ETC/TCR included plenty of DC related news. Issue 11/79 (Dec 1971) noted the company moving into the Kinney Building at 75 Rockefeller Plaza, which would later become the Warner Communications building. There was also talk of Steve Ditko possibly working on a strip for DC's Adventure Comics. I wonder if the script was published with another artist? Adventure 422 included a Vigilante back-up; 423 a fantasy filler. Later issues featured Captain Fear and Adventurers Club. Could one of those scripts been offered to Ditko?

Along with news, Levitz included convention info, fanzine reviews and columns, including one by Tony Isabella, who, besides having had many letters of comment printed in comics such as Rawhide Kid, wrote a slew of articles for fanzines before he became a professional comic book writer. 

In this column Tony asks "Where Have All The Heroes Gone?" The Wandering Fan was originally published in ETC/TCR 11/79 and is © 2014 Tony Isabella




Tony was kind enough to share some of his thoughts on his fanzine work, and this particular column: 


I never kept records of my fanzine writing, but I sure did a lot of it.  
I remember that I wrote these articles and reviews quickly...and that I 
am sometimes appalled by them when I reread them decades later.  What 
strikes me when I reread this piece is how incensed I got over comics 
that are mild by the standards of today's super-hero comics.  Batman's 
corpse hanging outside his murderer's window is positively benign when 
compared to the torture porn sensibilities of most DC and too many 
Marvel titles.

Thank Godzilla that today's comics readers - count me in that number - 
have so many choices for entertainment.  In any given week, I'm reading 
a handful of new comics of all kinds, collections of classic and 
not-so-classic comics from the 1940s to present, great newspaper strip 
collections, graphic albums/novels from all over the world, a number of 
manga series and books and magazines of comics history.  I keep telling 
people we're living in the true Golden Age of Comics because I've never 
lived in a time when so many great comics are available to me.  Heck, I 
can even borrow many of them through my library system.


 Issue # 80 Dec 1971 (yes, I said 80! The double numbering was eradicated, thank goodness! And don't ask me why #'s 79 & 80 are both dated December!) Covers featuring artwork began to appear on a regular basis. Rich Buckler provides his interpretation of Conan. Buckler was a relative newcomer to professional comics and some of his earliest work for Marvel showed up in this period.



ETC/TCR 80 included news of Green Lantern/Green Arrow's cancellation. The Denny O'Neil/Neal Adams revamp received critical attention but suffered from poor sales. The Green Lantern title would be revived a few years later with more traditional super-heroics. The announcement of Bat Lash's revival was premature, although apparently very much considered, as noted in the following issue. 


        
The inside back cover of ETC/TCR 80 presented an in house strip from Kinney National, owners of DC, promoting their products and featuring a Superman lookalike, with a final panel guest appearance by Sinatra! Art by Al Plastino. 


ETC/TCR # 81 (Jan 1972) explained that Ditko would NOT be doing any work for DC (it would be three years before Ditko again freelanced for DC, coincidentally around the time that Kirby left). While El Diablo did have the lead spot in a few issues of Weird Western Tales (title changed from All Star Western) Bat Lash never appeared, and Jonah Hex soon became the main feature, taking over the entire book.





Among the Marvel news in ETC/TCR 81 is the announcement of Roy Thomas becoming Editor of the line. Roy and assistant editor Steve Englehart cooperated with Levitz by supplying news items. Marvel's policy in providing info to fanzines was erratic, unlike DC, who always welcomed the fan press.    


   
ETC/TCR # 82 (Feb 1972) reports the news of DC reverting back to a standard 32 page size at 20 cents from its 25 cents/48 page size.



ETC/TCR 82 featured news on Gold Key. Earlier issues of TCR included greater emphasis on companies such as Charlton and Gold Key, but editorial changes at those companies lessened their input. ET AL was an ongoing column that featured a potpourri of items; comic related appearances on TV and radio; Ross Andru and Mike Esposito's short-lived venture and the Monster Times, a bi-weekly newspaper that featured articles and artwork on comics along with horror and sci-fi fare.


      

Rich Buckler was a prolific cover artist for ETC/TCR, here is a Thor/Beast illo from # 83, March 1972



There were always interesting items mixed in with the "hard news", such as E. Nelson Bridwell's system of picking letters for DC's columns.



Even the Ads were exciting! The EC Fan-Addict Convention took place over the Memorial day weekend in New York City. You could attend the four day event and pay in advance for $7.50! And $14.00 a day for a hotel room! As Phil Rizzutto used to say: Holy Cow! 


 

By the time this cover appeared Rich Buckler was drawing the Avengers with writer Roy Thomas. Buckler continued to work for Marvel for many years, drawing strips such as Black Panther, Ka-Zar, Fantastic Four and Deathlok, which he created with Doug Moench. ETC/TCR # 84, April 1972

   
DC news includes Bill Gaines joining DC as a consultant and Kirby's New Gods and Forever People being cancelled. The explanation that the books were "excellent sellers" and "Kirby's time is to be spent on whatever is the most valuable." makes absolutely no sense. No publisher cancels a book that is making money, certainly not to take a chance on an unknown quantity. My guess is that whoever provided this explanation wanted to underplay the lack of sales and not undermine Kirby. The unnamed science-fiction idea turned out to be Kamandi, which became Kirby's longest running DC series.



The acquisition of the rights to the Shadow by Marvel, as reported in ETC/TCR 84 was actually a mix-up, although Gerry Conway and Mike Ploog were apparently set as the creative team. More on the Shadow coming up. Neither Jekyll and Hyde nor Ringo Kid appeared. The former showed up as a one-shot story in Supernatural Thrillers # 4, June 1973, and the Ringo Kid comics was supposed to go from reprint to new material, scripted by none other than Steve Englehart and drawn by Dick Ayers. Unfortunately the powers that be decided to concentrate on other types of comics, so Ayers penciled an issue based on Englehart's plot, but the story was never completed. You can see the splash on Englehart's website:

http://www.steveenglehart.com/Comics/Ringo%20Kid%201.html



  Another double page ad for the 1972 New York Comic Art Convention. Five days for $7.00! Who wouldn't want to go back in time and attend this con!



Fan News appeared in ETC/TCR # 85, May 1972, including items about movies, books and conventions. Some of the movie/TV news didn't occur, such as a Tim Tyler show and a Phantom movie. King Features did produce a cartoon that featured many of their characters. It appeared on the Saturday Superstar Movie, an ABC Saturday morning anthology series following the format of Movie of the Week.


Issue # 85 initiated a column on Underground comics by Bud Plant. 



ETC/TCR # 87, July 1972 had the exciting news of DC publishing Captain Marvel and other Fawcett characters. The new comic was titled Shazam, since Marvel was using the name Captain Marvel. While there was a buzz over the return of the Big Red Cheese, the revival never caught on. C.C. Beck grew frustrated with the scripts he received and sales were not what was expected. Midday was a talk show appearing on WNEW-Channel 5, a local NY station (now Fox-5). The host, if I recall correctly, was Bill Boggs.   




Et Al featured news on paperback books, conventions, Wally Wood's work on Overseas Weekly, Steranko's History of the Comics Volume 2 and Archie's venture in the mystery field.





ETC/TCR # 88, August 1972 showcased a striking Bernie Wrightson image of The Shadow, which was actually a DC house ad, as explained by Levitz in his Etc. editorial. Wrightson was scheduled to draw The Shadow, but realized he couldn't draw both the Shadow and Swamp Thing. When he declined Jim Steranko was the next choice. Steranko was a huge Shadow fan and had painted many exceptional paperback covers featuring the character. His sense of mood and drama was perfect for the Shadow, however he was not enthused with Len Wein's script. Steranko offered to write and drawn the Shadow, but was turned down by Editor Denny O'Neil. The script was then given to Alex Toth; he rewrote the script and O'Neil rejected his changes. O'Neil then decided to write the story himself, with Mike Kaluta drawing. Kaluta did a wonderful job, but I would have loved to see all three interpretations of the Shadow. Imagine what Toth or Steranko would have done with the character. In a recent Alter Ego interview O'Neil said he regretted that he didn't give Steranko a chance to write and draw the Shadow.         



 Marvel news includes the announcement of new staffer Steve Gerber, who would become one of Marvel's quirkier writers of the period on titles such as Man-Thing and Howard the Duck. X-Men returning to new material was premature by a few years, but its an indication on how high fan interest was.


       
The news item on the cover of ETC/TCR # 89, Sept 1972 concerned the rumors of Jack Kirby returning to Marvel. Kirby was reportedly upset over the cancellation of New Gods and Forever People, but his contract with DC was for five years. AS soon as it ended however, he made a deal with Marvel in 1975. What would Kirby have produced for Marvel in 1972? 



So What Else is News? was another interesting column that focused on various facets of popular culture, including books,sci-fi,radio,movies and TV. 


      
Along with monthly news on DC and Marvel, Levitz was attempting to resume ties with Gold Key and Charlton. Eventually more news would find its way into The Comic Reader.

Yes, I said The Comic Reader. With the 11th Anniversary issue Levitz dropped the double name. The Comic Reader would remain a steady title, with only one major change in publisher. Next time out I'll recount the first issue (and fanzine) I ever purchased, way back in December of 1972!  
       

5 comments:

Kid said...

Fascinating to look back on these fanzines and that particular time in history, Nick. Reading your post, these long-ago events seemed surprisingly less distant to me than they actually are. I know it's a cliche, but 'it only seems like yesterday' is all too true in this instance. Ah, if only I had a Tardis.

Nick Caputo said...

It was a magical time, Kid, when so many of the most talented and diverse creators were working in comics. I'd certainly like to go back and ask questions to folks like Toth, Kirby, C.C. Beck and others who are no longer with us.

Jonathan Ragus said...

Nicky, this is Jonathan Ragus, Joe's son. My father found your blog and would like to get in touch with you. Can you send me an e-mail at jonathanragus@gmail.com? Thanks Nicky!

Nick Caputo said...

Hi Jonathan! Good to hear from you. I hope Joe has been enjoying my blog. I'll get in touch with you soon.

Jonathan Ragus said...

We are both enjoying your blog Nick. I look forward to hearing from you and my father is looking forward to it as well. Talk soon.