Comic Fandom: Early Beginnings

So, at this point I've met professional artist Mike Zeck, fan publisher, Tim Corrigan and fellow fan artist, Jerry Ordway.

From there, somehow that I do not recall, I got plugged into a group of fans that were organized called “Inter-Fan.”

“Inter-Fan” connected like minded fans with others to create artwork and stories that could be published in fanzines by those who were willing to print it. The reward, or pay, was getting your work printed. Much like today where many people do comics on the web, or for print, perhaps both. Some get no money, but they do get published.

In my day, without the internet, we only had “print” so there were no other avenues of getting your work seen by a lot of people besides a few fanzines, published by individuals who might have the money to pay for printing and a small ad in the “CBG” to sell it. I don't know that anyone back then ever turned a profit, or broke even.

There are still many today who as small, indie press people just want an outlet for their work and keep this type of book alive by footing the bill for printing their own work, without any pay per page. With web sites and self publishing today, there is a better chance to make money on your work, or at least break even on the deal and, but case, have a hit on your hands and be able to turn your passion into your job. [ A job you love doing, that you would do even if you didn't get any money. ]

So during my “Inter-Fan” days, I think they just connected people. Sometimes there was a specific assignment, other times it was just getting some letters written to others and creating. It was during this time, I became acquainted with Mitch O'Connell, Karl Kesel, Sam DeLa Rosa, and some others I'm sure that I'm forgetting others, so please, if you're reading this, let me know. I'm hoping some others will be able to fill in the gaps for me, as I've become cloudy in this era of time, being so long ago, but I'm trying my best.

I also remember getting to know Doug Hazelwood. The piece of art that I remember he did that really got my attention was a drawing of the “Werewolf.” It was very well drawn and inking darkly, in almost a wood cut type of look. Doug and I had mail exchanges, but I don't remember ever working on anything he did.

Sometime during this whole “fan” connecting period I also met Willie Blyberg and Steve Lightle.

Willie was another talent, who when I first saw his “fan” work, I didn't understand why he wasn't working for Marvel or DC Comics. His work had a Gil Kane / Wally Wood feel to it. They way he lighted his characters and inked, showed this clearly.

I remember his fanzine “Wowee Kazowie!” This seemed to be a fanzine to showcase Willies work. Something he could use to get noticed by Marvel or DC Comics. It was really kool and I wish I still had my copies to look thru.

Willie and I would exchange many letters over a few years. He always wrote back twice what you would write him. I remember him giving me in-depth critiques of my work. Again the details have become foggy and I've forgotten a lot more than I remember. I know that Willie did become a professional inker for DC Comics.

Upon first seeing the work of Steve Lightle, I was as impressed with his drawing as I was with Jerry Ordway. I can't remember the name of his publication, however I think the name of his character was “Silver Shark.”

Thru letters we got to know each other and I eventually inked a story for Steve. Odd thing was, his pages were drawn small...maybe 8.5” x 11” rather than the 11” x 17” stuff I had been inking.

I remember not being pleased with the work I did. I don't think I did his pencils any favors at that time.

I could probably run on and on with many more stories of the beginnings of my fan days, but since I lack a lot of details, they would be vague recalls at best. So I'm trying to keep thing short and concise so that you won't get bored, or I won't write “embellished” memories.

I never thot this story would become a blog, perhaps later an eBook, and I realize that by purging all my older stuff when I moved to Orlando in late 1989, I just didn't take a lot of stuff with me, as I wanted to get rid of a lot of old stuff that was taking up space.

Now it would have been nice to have had the letter and 'zines to refer to.

I've googled a lot of the topics above and found little about most of it. Maybe someone, or a lot of someone's can help fill in some holes?

My story gets clearer soon..as I find work to pay for that light table I had been wanting to practice inking the copies Mike Zeck had been sending me.

By the way a lot of the above happened when I was 14-15, just before I got to speak with Mike Zeck.

These posts' are somewhat of a roller coaster ride with their ups and downs, but it was important to get down as much early history as I could. It's the way the story starts.

I have some clearer memories upcoming...so keep tuned in.


There's Your Way and The Ord-Way!

Issue #94, and I don't know why that I can still remember, of “The Comics Buyer's Guide” or the “CBG” as it was referred to became a weekly appearance in my mail box. I'm sure this is where I heard about the “RBCC” 'zine tho and sent off to get some back issues, and discovered the work of Mike Zeck.

The “CBG” was a tabloid sized newspaper, had a cover by usually a fan artist, or other artist who might just be about ready to break into the biz, and covered comic news and had ads for everything else dealing with comic books. I really enjoyed the day it appeared each week, as I could go thru it and read what was happening in the industry, see art, read ads for old comics, and stuff for sale. The classifieds were always filled with things of interest. Here is where I found the first 'small' publisher I picked up a book from. His name was Tim Corrigan.

“Tim Corrigans' Superhero Comics”

I can't remember which issue I picked up first, but Tim had a very Kirbyesque style, and some interesting characters he had created. One of them being “Elastic Worm!”

There was one issue of Tim's homemade comics that I had, which ran a story called “The Messenger.” This was not a story written or drawn by Tim, but by another guy, Jerry Ordway.

Some of you may have heard of him? [ if not, he's writing a blog ]

[ During this time, I did get a short, I think 5-6 page story published by Tim Corrigan titled; “Spy Smasher” and it's best we just let that one sit and move on... ]

Jerry's art seemed so mature and well crafted to my eyes. I couldn't believe this guy was working in a fanzine and not at Marvel or DC.

There was an ad for his own comic he published under the name of “Okay Comix!”

Jerry's work impressed me so much, I had to order his comics. I wrote a letter to him and put it in an envelope and gave it to my mother to send. My mother worked in a contract post office in a pharmacy, she would mail things for me during this time. It was fast and convenient.

I waited for about a month to get my copy of Jerry's “Okay Comix” and it never showed up in the mail.

After the wait, I decided I needed to write Jerry and ask him where my book was. I believe I asked him why he would 'steal' a kids money, not knowing that Jerry himself was only 3 years older than me. He wrote back with the book and a letter that today is quite funny, but at the time wasn't.

Being the kind person he is, Jerry sent the book with a letter stating that my mother had included a note of her own, stating that she had either forgot to put the money in the letter for the book, or I hadn't given her enough to cover all the postage and the money for the book.

Now, I don't believe if I was a few cents short my mother wouldn't cover it for me, and I don't believe [ at least now! ] Jerry would have stiffed me for less than a dollar.

I contacted Jerry before finishing this post to see if his memory could recall, asked my mother if she remembered anything else about the incident, but we all came up blank.

Anyway, point it, for some reason, the money didn't get to Jerry and I wrote a nasty letter to him, and got my books!

Thankfully, Jerry and I are still friends to this day, and have be acquainted with one another since the seventies, perhaps around 1974? A long time, a lot of fun and friendship.

I think Jerry was my first regular contact with another 'fan artist'. We exchanged many letters over the following years. Sadly, all of my correspondence from those early years, I threw out when I moved to Orlando in 1990. I had a drawer full of letters and old 'zines, that looking back would have been nice to have for this blog.

I was lucky enough to ink Jerry on 8 or 9 issues of “Adventures of Superman” sometime in the 80's. I'll get into those, and the hi-jinx behind some of the other stuff Jerry and I did, such as a phone “radio” show, left on the answering machine, to our beloved editor Mike Carlin, during that time!

I'm going to try for a Wednesday weekly post. Topics might run into each other, or I might choose to jump around. I could continue with Jerry for months, but want to cover some other territory to give you readers, an overall view of the early years of “my” fan life and professional work.

I think next week I'll get into some of the other fan artists' at the time, many became working professionals.

See you again on next Wednesday!


Fan Boy of Mike Zeck

When I was 16, I wrote a fan letter to Mike Zeck.
I first saw Zeck's work in “RBCC”
[ Rocket's Blast Comic Collector ], and mailed it to the editor James Van Hise.

I didn't know he had forwarded the letter to Mike.

Not thinking about a reply, one day the mail arrived and a package came from Mike. Inside was a thank you note, and I think a few photocopies of pencils he was doing for a fill-in issue of “Master of Kung-Fu” [ MOKF ], for Marvel Comics. Wow...it was fan boy heaven! I can't tell you how many times I must have read the letter and stared at the pencil copies.

I finalIy looked at the return address. It was from “Hollywood!”


Hollywood, Florida. A place I had never heard of before but soon found out it was in the Ft. Lauderdale/Miami, Florida area. I knew that the fanzine, “RBCC” was being published in that area, but never thot Mike would be a fellow “Floridian!”

I sent a letter back to Mike directly and included a few sketches, thinking I could impress him with my scarey drawing ability. In about a week, perhaps two, I received another package from my new friend “Mike” and he had drawn over my work with a red marker showing me some of the drawing mistakes I had made on my masterpieces. Also, if memory serves me correctly, privy to a full set of 11 x 17” photocopies of pencils Mike had finished for his fill-in issue of 'MOKF' in this package!

Being one to take another step, I called 411 to find if “Mike Zeck's” phone number was listed in the Hollywood, Florida area. Comes to find out he was. I got the number and asked my parents would it be okay with them to call him. I let them know I would keep the call short and pay the long distance bill when it arrived. For those of you who don't know, long distance calls used to be charged by the minute, and in-state calls were always more than out of state.

My parents agreed and I nervously sat down to call “Mike Zeck!”

After a few rings, a lady answered the phone and I asked her, “Is Mike there?”
She replied, “Yes, let me get him for you.”

It seemed like a long time while I awaited to hear Mike say “hello” to me, but finally I heard the phone being picked up, I began to get a bit nervous and heard someone say, “Hello? This is Mike.”

I answered, “Hi Mike, this is John Beatty...your fan in Daytona Beach.”
Who?” the other voice replied.

John Beatty,” I said again. “You are Mike Zeck the comic book artist, aren't you?”
Oh, no, that's my son. Let me get him for you.”

Another voice picked up and said, “Hello?”

Mike,” I repeated, “this is John Beatty...your fan in Daytona Beach.”
Oh, hi John.” the voice answered.
I hope it's okay that I called? I only have a few minutes to talk.” said in my best, trying to not sound nervous voice. 

I thanked him for the copies and the corrections to my art, and probably told him more than once what a big fan of his work I was.

I don't remember much more of the conversation, but it must have went okay, because I think Mike and I talked for around 15 to 20 minutes, before I told him I had to go and hoped it would be okay if I called again, when I could afford to.

We kept in touch thru the mail mostly. He was always gracious to reply to my mail with notes and copies of his work.

I also found thru talking with him that he had done work for Charlton Comics, and I found some of those books at a used book store that was in town.

At some time, I didn't hear back from him. Thinking perhaps he had grown tired of my letters, I was afraid to call his house.

One nite, must have been around 9:30 at nite, the phone rang at my house. My mother called to me and said I had a call.

I picked up the phone and said, “Hello?”
Hey, it's Mike Zeck.” the voice on the phone said.
No, it's not...” I replied.
Yeah, I've moved to Connecticut to be closer to New York and do comics.” he replied.
Sorry I've been out of touch, but I've been very busy with getting things set up here.”

By that time I did know it was Mike Zeck. I was thrilled he called and we talked for around 30 minutes, maybe more. He gave me his new number, and said for me to feel free to call.

He also said he was going to be sending me copies of his pencils, once the printed book was on the stands. I believe at this time he had just started doing 'MOKF' as his monthly gig, which he got because of the earlier issue “fill-in” he had done in a week. It had impressed Marvel enough that they wanted him to take over the book, and he was ready to be a “monthly” artist with a book.

Along with the photocopies he sent, usually he included the script to the work so I could read Doug Moench's story and see how Mike broke it down. Doug's stories were typed out, usually around 25 plus pages, which Mike fit into 17 pages of art.

It was very informative to see Mike's notes and sometimes ideas on the scripts, maybe a small thumbnail of the pages layout, or something underlined that Mike felt would be an important part of the story.

These package's began to arrive each month, and I got to see Mike's pencils progress and change as he worked issue to issue.

I wanted to practice inking the pages but had no way to do it. I decided that I needed to have a light table so I could put bristol board over the copies and ink them.

I had to find a way to get the money and where to purchase one...


A New Beginning. Another Blog.

I must admit, I've been a bit influenced by reading Jim Shooter's blog.

He's been doing a lot of reminiscing over at his site for awhile now, and it got me thinking about the early days when I was just breaking in, to the days, and years, that followed.

I've got a lot of stories about working in comic books also.

Some of you know that I get up early, 4am, lately tho, it's been around 5am.
Still, early.
In those early hours before anyone else is up, I check email from over nite and read some news, and perhaps get in a card game of hearts or spades on yahoo, to help wake me up.

I've also been inspired to do more writing lately, I'm not sure why?
Perhaps turning 50 this past May, I'm facing "true" middle age and mortality. 

At least on this earth.

So I stumbled upon a post by Jim one day and subscribed to his blog. I began to enjoy reading about Marvel before he was "editor in chief" and upon his taking the reigns and all sorts of other 'inside' stories to boot.

I decided it might be fun for me to use some of my mornings to write about my years in comics. I'm not sure if I will follow a time-line or just go where the stories want to take me. But I figure I'll write when the inspiration and the story comes to me.

Are you ready?

I am.