Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Early Days of Fandom:Jeddak

Jeddak was a fanzine produced in the early 1960's, a response to the renewed popularity of costumed heroes in comic books. Inspired by G. B. Love's fanzine Rockets Blast, Paul Moslander decided to put together a fanzine of his own. Like many of his brethren, Moslander was captivated by the recent Marvel line of heroes with their fresh outlook and dynamic energy. Marvel, however, was not their sole concern; Jeddak's diverse content included articles and news on the comic's industry, original prose stories and in particular, fantasy and science fiction, as per its title (Jeddak originated from a word invented by Edgar Rice Burrough's in his John Carter of Mars books, meaning "Emperor" in Martian language). 


                                           
       Jeddak II, September 1963 spotlights Timely's top heroes. Dan Crowe cover art.

From info derived in this issues editorial Jeddak premiered in July 1963 (I don't have the first issue) with Paul Moslander and Michael Friedrich collaborating on the first two issues. In those pre-internet days Friedrich was unable to work closely with Moslander due to their distance from each other, so from the third issue onward Moslander became the sole editor/publisher, writing numerous articles and editorials, with assistance from his father, Ralph Moslander, who produced much of the artwork. Friedrich would go on to write for Marvel and DC, publish Star*Reach and become an agent for comic artists. 

Moslander had letters published in early Marvel Comics, including Amazing Spider-Man # 4, September 1963, complete with an "Editor of Jeddak" title:


   

The Marvel heroes of the 1940's Timely era were the cover feature in Jeddak II. While many fans were interested in the new or revised Marvel and DC characters, a great many were equally intrigued by the original heroes of over two decades past. The inside front cover explained that the issue was a tribute to the Timely/Atlas/Marvel heroes and includes a capsule history of the period from the late 1930's to its revival in the 1950's and into its present 1960's incarnation. To many fans this was unexplored territory and provided a larger history of the Marvel line.


  In the "news and notices" section two new titles were celebrated, the Avengers and X-Men. The first FF Annual was a big hit with fans (discussed recently on this very blog), while Dr. Strange, the "Tales of Asgard" back-up feature in Journey into Mystery and Steve Ditko's work on Iron-Man (in Tales of Suspense) is praised. Below are a few Marvel Comics that were on newsstands when Jeddak II was published:


    
Amazing Spider-Man # 7, Dec 1963, Steve Ditko cover art. Spider-Man was already a favorite with fans.


                          
                    Avengers # 2; November 1963, Jack Kirby pencils; Sol Brodsky inks




 X-Men # 2: November 1963; Jack Kirby pencils; Paul Reinman inks. Don't let the dates fool you - both Avengers # 2 and X-Men # 2 appeared on stands in September. Moslander would have only seen their first issues when Jeddak II was published.


  
 Fantastic Four # 21, December 1963. Jack Kirby pencils; Paul Reinman inks. Don't forget this issue; it'll come up again soon....

There is also talk of DC and Gold Key output. Although Marvel was getting the lion's share of attention, many fans were interested in what the other comic book lines were putting out, particularly in the adventure/heroic genres.



Another topic that stirred up fans was the Comics Code Authority, and both the pros and cons of it's worth were debated. On this page administrator John Goldwater is quoted as being upset over companies such as Gold Key that did not carry the code seal. 


The letters section was the main source of interaction between Moslander and fans, many of whom produced their own fanzines, offering a lively mixture of intelligent discussions and youthful enthusiasm. Fanzine pioneer Jerry Bails, originator of Alter Ego, sends his compliments to the editor and John McGeehan is represented (John and brother Tom, were active members of fandom, buying multiple copies of every fanzine, collecting data and rating each one). McGeehan also contributed to Jeddak, writing articles on authors such as Maurice B. Gardner and The Comics Code.     


Margaret Gemignani was a prolific fanzine writer and publisher (Mask and Cape). In this issue she presents a listing of Timely's 1940's heroes and writes a five page history of the Sub-Mariner in the "Comic Mirror" section of the fanzine.


In those long ago days when access to a Xerox machine was limited, artwork and covers were often "recreated" by fan artists. Here Paul's dad, Ralph Moslander, does a fine job channeling Syd Shores for his version of All Winners # 21. These images and characters were used with the permission and approval of Marvel, and Moslander personally thanks Stan Lee, who was very friendly with fandom. 

Along with articles on Marvel, Jeddak included an essay on Science Fiction author A. E. Van Vogt and two fan fiction pieces. Moslander produced an imaginative fanzine together with a small group of talented and energetic young people.      


The FF and Spider-Man take center stage on the cover to Jeddak III (November 1963), with images (by Ralph Moslander?) derived from Kirby and Ditko figures.



Early on Marvel was recognized by fans as something special, and Moslander points out what made them stand out from the crowd. While many have echoed his thoughts over the decades in essays, articles and interviews, there is a certain freshness in seeing this expressed while Marvel was in its infancy.  


The "Notes and Notices" section heralds the upcoming return of Captain America after a decade absence; Hawkman's new feature in Mystery in Space and changes in the Justice League of America. Moslander predicts the Angel will break out and become a solo star, extols the "brilliance" of Giant-Man (who am I to criticize? I love Ant-Man!), and praises Gold Key's Doctor Solar, although noting its sales are lacking with cancellation imminent. Interestingly, the publication schedule between issues 6 and 7 went from every three months to every four months, and then reverted back to a quarterly schedule with its 8th issue. Doctor Solar's sales apparently picked up and the title continued uninterrupted until 1969.    


Doctor Solar # 6 (November 1963) would have been out when Jeddak III was published. Cover painting by the great George Wilson. Image from the Grand Comic Book Database.

   
Moslander's second editorial in this issue praises Lee, Kirby and Marvel for the recently published Fantastic Four # 21. Moslander explains how, unlike most comic companies, Marvel uses Communists as villains, and in this story they deal with mindless, fanatical hatred. In four months Lee and Kirby would go further and tackle racism (Sgt. Fury # 6, March 1964). Lee and company were clearly sending a message about equality, one they would follow up on in the years ahead. Moslander's editorial points to an intelligent teenager who was not just immersed in the world of fantasy; he was concerned about the problems and issues surrounding him in a turbulent decade. While many producers of fanzines were teenagers (Moslander was around 14 when he started Jeddak), they often showed a level of depth and insight beyond their years.

 
               
Marvel's own Corresponding Secretary, Flo Steinberg, sends a letter in. Flo often replied directly to fanzines sent to Stan Lee, although Lee also read fanzines and was genuinely interested in what they had to say.



Moslander's four page article "The Marvel Comics Groups" concentrates on the team books (FF, Avengers, X-Men and Sgt. Fury) three of which were relatively new. While all the strips were by Lee and Kirby,  Moslander expressly points out their distinctions instead of their similarities.

Other highlights in issue III include articles on the Comics Code by Rick Weingroff and Bill Gregory and a history of the original Human Torch by Margaret Gemignani.

  
The next issue in my collection is Jeddak V (May 1964), with cover art by John Chambers, featuring a mix of Marvel and DC heroes. 


On his opening page Moslander asks the question "Can comic book heroes remain original?"  Moslander doesn't follow contemporary comics, but feels most of the new ideas in mainstream comics dissipated after Watchman.  



"Notes and Notices" mentions Jeddak's expansion in page count and nickel raise to 40 cents (a lot of money for fans in those days: 40 cents paid for 3 comics and 3 Bazooka Joe bubble gums! At the time they cost a penny each!) plus news on science fiction writer Robert Heinlein; The Return of the Shadow book by Walter Gibson and discussion on DC, Gold Key and Radio Comics, including the "new look" Batman, returning to crime oriented fare under editor Julie Schwartz after years of alien menaces and giant gorillas.  



It would be a few months before the announced changes occurred in Batman and Detective Comics, but many fans looked forward to a new look after years of science fiction, monsters, time travel and giant apes (which have a goofy charm of their own, if I may be so bold). Batman # 163, December 1963, Cover art by Sheldon Moldoff. Image from the Grand Comic Book Database (hey, I don't own EVERY comic!) 


Letters discuss the merits of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko's art; the idea of teaming Sgt. Fury with Captain America (fans had to wait five months for that to occur, in the pages of Sgt. Fury # 13, but Stan Lee was probably listening to this and similar requests), hopes of  Cap getting his own comic and the recent Shadow paperback, and that's only one page of a five page LP!


Fans got their wish ("in answer to the greatest reader demand in Marvel's history!" blared Stan Lee's cover copy, and probably not without a grain of truth) as Lee and Kirby teamed Captain America and Bucky with Sgt. Fury and the Howlers. This was Kirby's last interior story (although his presence dominated the majority of covers up to issue #25) and he went out with a blast! Dick Ayers inks; Sgt. Fury # 13, December 1964.   

    
    


The articles on the Fly and Spider-Man are interesting in light of later revelations about Kirby's unpublished Spider-Man being similar to his and Simon's Fly.* Moslander points out the differences between the Simon-Kirby and Lee-Ditko heroes, but astute fans would almost certainly have noticed similarities if Lee-Kirby's original Spider-Man was produced. How long would it have been before the litigious publishers of Archie also took notice? It's possible that a Lee-Kirby Spider-Man would have survived as long as Fox's Wonder Man. Instead, we got the Lee-Ditko Spider-Man. In my estimation that worked out OK.

Other features in Jeddak V include an article on Fu Manchu author Sax Rohmer by Richard Best, prose stories and the inevitable article on the notorious Comics Code!


And finally we come to the last issue of Jeddak, # VII, July 1965 with Cap, Subby and Daredevil featured. Cover art by John Chambers. 

     

"Notes and Notices" mentions a six month gap between issues, not a good sign in terms of publication, and the price is again raised another nickel to 45 cents. Topics include Charlton's employment of fan writers and Roy Thomas' first assignment for that company (more of upcoming); praise for DC's "Enemy Ace"; ACG and Archie's heroes, and a lukewarm review of SHIELD.


Created by Robert Kanigher and visualized by Joe Kubert, Enemy Ace was an offbeat series and a fan favorite. Showcase # 57, August 1965.  Image from the Grand Comic Book Database (and if I mention them one more time I'm gonna charge them!)


While this letter was printed in an earlier blog post on the Comic Reader, I thought it rated a second look for those who missed it. Pat Masulli was the first comics editor to directly go to fanzines and procure talent. Soon many fanzine writers and artists would find work in the comics industry, changing the tone and tenure of comics. 

         

And we close out with an article by editor Moslander on the 1964 World Science Fiction Convention and author Harlan Ellison's horror stories about writing or adapting stories for Television. Moslander does not quote Ellison verbatim, but apparently took notes during his talk and adds his own asides. It remains a fascinating examination of the story development process from treatment to finished product.  

Jeddak continued to explore a variety of material; Ian Fleming's OO7; spoofs of golden age comics; prose stories and a printing the Comics Code Authority's rules and standards, (something not often seen in that era). Expanding the page count may have been a disadvantage, giving Jeddak an unfocused feeling, but after the seventh issue Moslander became busy with school and discontinued Jeddak, although he still followed comics for many years. While his involvement with comic fandom waned, his passion for science fiction fandom - which comic fandom was a offshoot of - remains strong to this day. Speaking to him in the present one gets a clear sense of the teenager whose enthusiasm and insight brought a small press publication to life (the print run was in the low 100's). Moslander's fanzine showcases a group of young, passionate fans writing, drawing and putting thought into a product. It's a testament to his talent that Jeddak is worth looking back on a half-century later.        

Special thanks to Paul Moslander for taking the time to talk to me about his work all those years ago. I'm impressed by his keen insight and thoughtful manner. Thanks also to Aaron Caplan for helping me get in contact with Paul.


* "Amazing Adult Fantasy was born and reached #14 when Stan said a new Marvel hero would be introduced in #15. He would be called Spider-Man. Jack would do the penciling and I was to ink the character...Stan said Spider-Man would be teenager with a magic ring which could transform him into an adult hero - Spider-Man. I said it sounded like the Fly..later, at some point I was given the job of drawing Spider-Man." Steve Ditko, An Insider's Part of Comics History Jack Kirby's Spider-Man, Robin Snyder's History of Comics, Vol 1, number 5, May 1990.   

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

50 Summers Ago: Amazing Spider-Man Annual 1

In June of 1964 the first Amazing Spider-Man Annual arrived on newsstands. For fans of the character it was a real treat, featuring an extra-long 41 page story by Lee and Ditko, followed by 31 pages of special features.


    
       The Circus comes to town!  Amazing Spider-Man Annual # 1, June, 1964. Steve Ditko cover art, Artie Simek letters, Stan Goldberg colors. The same team is featured inside, with Stan Lee as co-plotter and Sam Rosen lettering.

With it's multi-colored logo and simple but effective design the first Spider-Man Annual offered a world of excitement. At 25 cents the comic was a real bargain, featuring a total of 72 pages of interior story/art and only three pages of advertising (inside front cover, inside back cover and back cover). I noticed this while checking info for the upcoming Taschen book (check out the link below. The Yancy Street Gang: "Meticulous" Michael J. Vassallo, "Bashful" Barry Pearl and yours truly, have been involved in fact-checking, consulting, researching and writing captions for the Timely/Atlas/Marvel Age, up to the 1970's. End of promotion!)   

http://www.taschen.com/pages/en/catalogue/popculture/all/01133/facts.75_years_of_marvel_from_the_golden_age_to_the_silver_screen.htm

The ad pages grew in the following year, but it's nice to read a story with no interruptions!  

Steve Ditko did not like the idea of using guest-stars in Spider-Man or Dr. Strange - or any other hero books - feeling that they undercut the story world and the individuality of the main hero, who should be able to deal with problems on his own. Stan Lee thought otherwise, and used his titles to promote the entire superhero line. Guest-stars and villains from other strips appeared during the time that Lee and Ditko were plotting Spider-Man together, but once Ditko began plotting on his own (circa Amazing Spider-Man # 25) no other super-heroes or "borrowed" villains appeared. Ditko explained in his essay "A Mini-History 1: The Green Goblin"* "Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2 (1965) featuring Dr. Strange, was,  as an Annual should be, a special event. It does not necessarily have to connect to the monthly adventures."  

While Ditko's discussion was about Spidey's second Annual, it's likely that he was more agreeable to add guest-stars to a special event, and went along with Stan Lee's idea to promote the line by including Marvel's line of heroes throughout the book. What's interesting is how he accomplished it.


           
The first guest-star Spidey "meets" is Thor in a humorous two-panel sequence as he zooms past Spidey. Lee provides the humorous dialogue "He's either on his way to a meeting with the Avengers..or he's late for his BARBER!" In every guest appearance Lee adds a caption to promote the characters own comic. 


 

Ditko's other signature character, Dr. Strange, has a cameo, strolling nonchalantly through the streets of Forest Hills while Peter is tussling with Flash Thompson! Dr. Strange is depicted in his "spirit form" (differentiated by a lack of color) but if so he likely wouldn't be seen by the teenagers; besides, they make no reference to his ghostly appearance. It's possible Ditko's thinking was at odds with Stan Lee's, who may have altered Ditko's intent when writing the dialogue. Perhaps Ditko had Dr. Strange casting a spell to protect himself from the teenagers hooliganism (see his gesture in the first panel) which allowed the boys to harmlessly pass through him. If you look at the scene and picture Doc colored normally it would make a little more sense. 


            

    As the FF fly around in their Fantasti-Car they think Spidey is goofing around. Instead, traumatized over seeing Aunt May crying over a picture of her deceased husband, his Uncle Ben, Peter's feelings of guilt well-up and he  suffers what appears to be the loss of his powers.




Lost in thought and worried about how his life will change as a normal teenager, Peter is oblivious to Giant-Man and the Wasp stopping a crime.




The Vulture delivers a message to Jameson that Betty Brant (and Aunt May, who was with her) are hostages of "The Sinister Six", a group of Spider-Man's old foes seeking revenge. The Vulture wants Jameson to contact Spider-Man, setting him up in a trap. Jameson, of course, has no clue how to contact Spider-Man and calls the Fantastic Four, who in turn contact the Avengers. Captain America, who answers the call, tells Reed Richards, "I never even MET Spider-Man!". Those were the days!   



The Human Torch sends out a flaming message in the skies to no avail. Professor X has no time to worry about Spider-Man, telling his students to ignore it and get back to work! If only more superheroes minded their own business today instead of getting involved in every story-line! 

Although Peter believes he has lost his powers he desperately attempts to save his loved ones. Arriving at the assigned destination as Spider-Man he encounters Electro and his extraordinary reflexes save his life. Spider-Man then realizes that his loss of powers was only psychosomatic, surely the first time a superhero had suffered such an illness! 




             
Spidey finally meets another hero in one panel. Since he was fighting Electro in Stark's power plant Iron-Man, shows up, but only AFTER Spidey's confrontation!  Since Lee was promoting the characters perhaps he deliberately left off the official titles in his captions; by this point Journey into Mystery and Tales of Suspense's cover logos were negligible. The superheroes were clearly the main selling point and "The Power of Iron-Man" and "The Mighty Thor" were emphasized. Soon Tales to Astonish would follow suit, although Strange Tales logo remained intact for some time. 



               JJJ contacts the FF again, worried about his own neck, of course!  






The Human Torch appeared in a number of Spider-Man's monthly adventures,but the two teenagers were often antagonistic towards each other. Spider-Man declines Johnny's offer of assistance, clearly Ditko's idea that a hero had to fight his own battles and doesn't need outside help. Ditko explained in "A Mini-History 12: Guest Stars: Heroes and Villains"**  "I also deliberately made S-M and the HT ineffective as a "team" in capturing the B (Beetle)...In yet another S-M/HT team up (#19) I had two policeman capture the Sandman." Ditko cleverly accepted Lee's guest-stars on occasion, but had them get in each others way instead of helping each other. Kind of like two many cooks in the kitchen.  



And here Spidey battles the X-Men. Or does he? They turn out to be robots created by Mysterio. Lee gets to promote the new team (whose seventh issue was on the stands when the Annual appeared) and Ditko avoids a meeting with the real heroes.


  
In one of the most amusing panels Jameson desperately tries to contact Spider-Man, by conversing with a spider outside his window. I bet he was a fan of Mr. Ed!  



And the final cameo goes to the Human Torch, who checks in with a aggravated JJJ. All told Ditko included 27 panels of guest stars in a 41 page story, and most characters were "walk on" appearances, so Ditko followed Lee's directive while limiting their usage. 






"The Secrets of Spider-Man" feature included cameos of Thor, the Hulk, the Thing and the FF, explaining how strong Spider-Man was in proportion to other heroes, as well as discussing the strength of Spidey's webbing.



A "Guest-Star Page" includes Ditko's versions of the Hulk and the FF, drawn in "the somewhat different Ditko style". While Ditko never quite got the hang of drawing the Thing, he did a fine job on the other members of the FF, particularly the Torch. The following month he would go on to revive the Hulk, plotting and drawing the new co-feature in Tales to Astonish for eight issues.



Finally, we close with this delightful image of Stan Lee being assaulted by Marvel's heroes, including Daredevil and Sgt. Fury, the only characters who didn't make it into the main story. Fury, of course, was set in World War II, and DD may have been omitted because Lee and Ditko worked on the opening story before DD was created (the special features section may have been produced after the lead story), although as Joseph William Marek pointed out, it may simply be that DD was guest-starring in that months Amazing Spider-Man #16.     

While I don't totally agree with Ditko's theory that guest-stars diminish a heroes importance, his point that using them interfered with developing the leading hero and his supporting characters is valid. There was a distinct thrill when heroes met each other, especially for kids, and it was especially entertaining in the early 1960's when it was a novelty and used sparingly. As the years went on an "anything goes" mentality produced many poorly plotted story-lines, lacking in characterization or new ideas. Guest-stars are all too often used as an excuse to mix a sea of characters together until they become indistinguishable. Where is the originality in that? 

*(The Comics, Vol 12, No. 7, July 2001)    

**(The Comics, Vol 14, No. 7, July 2003)