Comics : The Forbush Gazette #1 (December 1966-January 1967)

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: From The Beginning

This review was first published on: 9 Jan 2017.

Background...

Fanzines such as the previously reviewed Hero #2 (Spring 1963) and Jeddak #3 inspired other teenage comic fans to join in. In 1966, Bill Schelly was fourteen years old and cranking out a zine called “Incognito.” When he advertised issue #4 in the Rocket’s Blast-Comicollector, Marshall Lanz, also fourteen, was one of the few people who responded. Both boys lived in the Pittsburgh area. They arranged to get together and became friends. Bill couldn’t get fandom’s better writers (like our old friend Rick Weingroff) to write for him. After getting a critical beatdown from Don Thompson for one of his fanzine efforts, Schelly hunkered down to create a zine of original comics called “Sense of Wonder.” Marshall was uninterested in fanzine publishing until pulled in by David Esser, an older boy (already a High School graduate!) who had a brand-new ditto machine. Marshall talked David into lending him the machine and he began publishing the DCTC [DC Trade Center] Bulletin.

All of this information comes from Bill Schelly’s fun and informative A Sense of Wonder: A Life in Comic Fandom: A Personal Memoir of Fandom’s Golden Age. In it, Bill writes, “The Irving Forbush Gazette…was about half done when I invited Lanz to be co-editor. I had already pulled most of the contents together – including a superb cover of the Fantastic Four and their villains by workhorse Alan Hutchinson, and artwork by Jeff Gelb – and was soliciting fans’ opinions of the art change on Spider-Man from Steve Ditko to John Romita. Once we set about finishing the first issue, I quickly realized that we couldn’t co-edit the fanzine. My efforts to raise my standards were being frustrated by what I thought was a less exacting approach on Marshall’s part. Now that he had an issue or two of the [DCTC] Bulletin under his belt, I was able to convince him that he could handle Forbush on his own, while I concentrated my efforts on Sense of Wonder.”

Bill goes on to describe how Marshall would type editorials right on the ditto machine without notes and without writing them out first. He churned out one zine after another in what Bill calls “the Marshall Lanz E-Z Method.” He lays it out in Sense of Wonder: “First: obtain a front cover drawn by someone impressive, like Dave Herring or Doug Potter. Then send it off to be printed photo-offset. All Lanz zines had, at least, offset covers. Nothing cheap about them. Second: beg, borrow or steal an article from Raymond Miller or Larry Herndon or someone with marquee value in fandom, and make it the cornerstone of your zine. Of course, you might want to cut it in half and print it in two successive issues, thus getting twice the advertising mileage out of it. Or just print part of it, then drop it because your interest moves on to something else. Third, fill up the rest of the issue with a rambling, nonsensical editorial, a few pointless letters, and several pages of ads for other Lanz zines, Schelly zines, or anything else you care to plug. Throw in a pin-up or two, and presto! Instant fanzine! Marshall’s record-keeping methods were, shall we say, a bit haphazard…Woe be to those who sent in money for multiple-issue subscriptions. Lanz was constantly shifting his plans about what he was going to publish next, so unwary fans who had ordered Forbush #2 would receive The DCTC Bulletin #4 or the Flash Comics Special.”

We, however, have Forbush #2 which we will review after Forbush #1. And now that we have the background of how these zines were conceived, let’s take a look at them.

In Detail...

"The Loss of Ditko: For Better or Worse?"
The Forbush Gazette #1 (December 1966-January 1967)
Dec 1966 : SM Article
Summary: Spider-Man Article
Editor In Chief:  Dave Esser, Marshall Lanz
Editor:  Alan Hutchinson (Art), Jeff Gelb (Layouts)
Cover Art:  Alan Hutchison
Article Writer:  Bill Schelly
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Review

Time is not kind to dittos. Many of the pages in my copy are so faded as to essentially be unreadable. On the other hand, it could be that, as Marshall writes in his Editorial, “If you page through this issue, you will probably find a number of light copies. Of this, all I can say is that I didn’t know how to operate a ditto machine when I first got it and put the fluid up too high sometimes. This made a few few good copies in the beginning, but by the time I got up to the 200th copy they started to become light. So, if there are any light copies in your issue, please excuse them.” One thing I like about this editorial is that we can place it precisely in time because Marshall tells us what day he is writing it: December 1, 1966, finishing on December 2. There is a lot of refreshing honesty in this editorial but it is also, as Bill Schelly in part three of his “Marshall Lanz E-Z Method” mentions, rambling and full of plugs for other zines.

Speaking of Bill, the article he put together “soliciting fans’ opinions of the art change on Spider-Man from Steve Ditko to John Romita” begins the issue. The Loss of Ditko: For Better or Worse? prints the opinions of eight fans along with Bill and Marshall as to how Spider-Man is faring under John Romita and Dr. Strange is faring under Bill Everett. (Everett only lasts 6 issues from Strange Tales #147, August 1966 to Strange Tales #152, January 1967. At the time of this article, it is already obsolete.) Our old friend Buddy Saunders (who drew the cover to Hero #2) thinks both series are surviving just fine without Ditko. “At one time I felt that only Ditko could draw Spidey. I still feel that he is the best artist for the job but Romita has shown me that Ditko is not an absolute must as artist.” Steve Johnson, editor of Sanctum finds “that John Romita does at least adequate work on Spider-Man…although the change in artists has hurt the Doc Strange strip very much. Rick Jones (not the Hulk sidekick) believes just the opposite. He feels that Ditko on Spidey “will never be topped. And this includes Romita, Kirby, or anyone else who may take over the new art chores on my favorite Web-Spinner.” But with Dr. Strange, “there is something about Bill Everett’s rendition of the Master of Magic that fascinates me. In fact, I might even go as far as to say that ol’ Doc has never looked better.” Chuck Rogers thinks both titles are diminished without Ditko although he thinks Spidey will survive. But Doc? “With the loss of Ditko on this strip, only one thing could happen…Death!” Gary Brown, editor of Comic Comments, says, “Everett has done an admirable job on Dr. Strange…Big Johnny Romita proved he is the man for Spider-Man in the last issue.” Warren Wade feels that “other artists…such as Romita and Everett can never hope to match [Ditko’s] stylistic masterpieces.” Jeff Gelb, who also contributed the art for this article in which he duplicated the Ditko, Romita, and Everett styles, is the first casualty of my faded ditto pages. But I can read enough to know that he is not a Ditko fan. “Steve has been replaced by two artists who have, in the past six months, proven themselves to be every bit as good as Mr. D and in many places far his superior.” Babe Gebsenstien is succinct. Speaking of Romita and Everett, he says “I think both artists are pure crud.” Marshall chimes in with his opinion that “Mr. R. is so bland and so ordinary that he can’t hope to successfully fill Steve’s shoes.” He thinks Everett will fare better on Doc. Bill wraps it up, saying, “I really can’t agree with Marshall at all. I really think John Romita is a terrific artist…I think his Spider-Man will attain greater heights of glory than Steve did or could have done. Doc Strange is almost the same story. Bill Everett has such a unique style that it can’t help but be superior to anything Ditko has ever produced.”

Pan, Master of Sound in The Threat of Lawman X is a fan strip created and drawn by Bill Schelly and written by Rick Jones. Bill’s style is crude and simplistic, as is the story. Essentially, Pan, “an alien from the planet Ranos” (that’s “sonar” backwards) has hidden out on Earth in a circus; “a place where everyone’s a freak.” He is here “to capture the desperate criminal, Dnuos, (that’s “sound” backwards) who escaped to this world.” The Acrobat, who has a grudge against Pan for some unknown reason, steals the circus payroll and pins it on Pan. This gets police lieutenant Ken Kirk involved. Determined to capture Pan, he dons a costume and dubs himself Lawman X. But then it’s “Con’t Next Issue.” Only it wasn’t.

In Super Heroes on TV: A Disaster?, Dennis Palumbo admits that he enjoyed the opening episodes of the new Batman TV show but laments that DC has decided to follow the feel of the show and go “camp” with its Batman comics. Dennis worries about other superhero shows coming to TV but admits that he likes the new Green Hornet show “despite being a little cut-and-dry.” The article concludes on page 21, way at the bottom where it was a little hard to find. There, Dennis describes three other upcoming shows. “Walter of the Jungle” which, I presume, became “George of the Jungle,” “Mr. Terrific,” which lasted half a season (from January 9 to May 8, 1967) on CBS, and “Mr. Zero,” which I don’t think ever came about. (No mention of Captain Nice.) What is Dennis’ answer to his question? Are TV Super Heroes a disaster? He doesn’t say. Instead, he finishes with a wishy-washy, “Oh well, we shall see what we shall see.”

Collector’s Notebook by Ray Bartel follows Marshall’s full-page plug for the DC Trade Center. Ray begins, “My thought in writing this column is to present useful and interesting facts about comic books for collector’s thereof. It is to help the true fan learn more about the old time comics than what the stories were about.” Again, the fanzines were one of the few places to get these facts except Ray’s column is mostly opinion, such as “Timely had it’s [sic] best art before 1947 and I might add, it’s [sic] best sales. 1947 was a year of hack artists and writers,” “Simon and Kirby were not the great artists in the 40’s that they were in the 50’s. Infact [sic], most of their strips were poorly drawn and written when the [sic] started,” “It should be obvious from the reprints of Captain America stories in Fantasy Masterpieces that the Simon & Kirby issues of Captain America Comics aren’t worth anywhere near ten or fifteen dollars that dealers want for them,” “Kubert’s Hawkman in Flash and All Star Comics was a superb strip and is worth the cost of obtaining them,” “Batman Comics before issue #100, for my money, is DC’s best and most consistent, quality, wise title,” and so on. “More next ish!” is promised but fails to materialize.

In The Fantastic Four, Bill Schelly asks if the FF now (circa 1966-67) is better than the early stories. “If you prefer continued stories up to ten issues in length, then obviously, yes. But if you’re a member of the old cult, you want something to happen…If a continued story will make you want to buy the next issue, then you will vouch for Stan and his yarns, but, on the other hand, if you get bored when you must wait a month to see what happens (which generally isn’t too much), then you’ll ask Mr. Lee to revert back to his former form. You’ll want a feeling of completeness – fullfillness, after finishing an issue, not one of boredom…I’m eager to hear what you readers think. Can you guess my opinion?” Er…yeah, Bill, I think we can. “Next issue I’ll discuss these things in much more depth,” he says, but he doesn’t.

Next, Dave Esser and Marshall try to get you to join the DCTC. It is more than a fanzine. It is a club in which fans can trade or sell comics. Did this happen? To judge by Sense of Wonder, I’m guessing it did not. But does anyone have any further information on this?

Gain 150 lbs of Muscle Per Day!! is a spoof of the Charles Atlas ads. “I can make you stronger than garlic!” says Chuck Atlas. The coupon to clip and send says, “In case I die, I will all of my earthly goods to Chuck Atlas” and asks for Name, Zip Code, Mother’s Maiden Name, Hair Color, and No. of Toes on Left Foot. It’s all mildly amusing.

Batman Ratings on Skids!! by Rick Du Brow is supposedly “reprinted from and copyrighted by the Pittsburgh Press” but it’s hard to imagine lines like this appearing in the local newspaper: “Another recent ABC-TV series, ‘Shindig,’ one of those retarded dance shows, likewise, had quick, hot success followed by quick, cold failure followed by cancellation.” At the bottom of the page, Marshall adds, “Batman had it’s [sic] funny spots and it’s [sic] stupid parts and I hated it,” but worries what a cancellation will do to comic sales. Batman runs another year of two after the time of this zine.

Interview with a Marvel! features Bill and Marshall talking to Stan Lee. They don’t get too much information out of him, unfortunately, but they do get Stan to tell them that Bill Everett is working on some Sub-Mariner strips for Tales to Astonish. (Bill’s work runs from Tales to Astonish #87, January 1967 to Tales to Astonish #91, May 1967 and from #94, August 1967 to #96, October 1967.) Concerning Tales of Asgard, Stan says, “Jack and I both love doing it! We feel we ought to do at least one strip that we want to do!”

Wah-Hooo! is Marshall’s critique of Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos which, he feels, “started big and worked itself up to something small.” Marshall’s main criticism is the art that originally was Kirby and then became Dick Ayers. “His past works have looked neat, clean, and well-done. Now the ink lines are thin, scraggly, and sloppy. Indicating a rush job.” Marshall recommends that Dick stop inking the X-Men so that he can put more time into Fury. “Overwork is not a cure, as far as I know for ailing art,” he says. In the end, he promises “Next Issue I will discuss the X-Men and their numerous faults and steady disintegration to the point of almost no return from the position of one of the bast [sic[ of Marvel.” He won’t.

In Information Corner #1, Raymond Miller draws Captain America and lists all of his Golden Age appearances. This is precious information for any 1967 fan trying to buy Cap’s 40s and 50s stories.

Bill’s Special Editorial criticizes Marvel’s 25 cent reprint mags. “Stan has a lot of mags that are going to run out of reprint material consisting of recent Marvel Age material soon on his hands,” he writes, neglecting the point that all new stories become old stories that can be reprinted. “Non-super-hero tales of 1959-60 just won’t sell annuals as well as the more popular hero mags. And neither will crud Captain America or Marvel Mystery stories.” Bill is right. The 25 versions of these comics (Marvel Collector’s Item Classics, Marvel Tales, Marvel Super-Heroes, a one shot, and Fantasy Masterpieces, which becomes the new Marvel Super-Heroes) soon cease to be. MCIC becomes Marvel’s Greatest Comics and reprints the FF, Marvel Tales confines itself to Spidey, and MSH reprints Tales to Astonish…all in 1972 20 cent editions.

The bottom half of the page is labeled “Editorial continued from last page…” but I couldn’t tell you where that last page is. It is more hype for the DCTC.

Lookee Here plugs various upcoming zines. “We have many more plans for the future, including a fanzine designed for new fans only, a fandom calendar for 1967, and more.” Most of these things, I suspect, never saw the light of day.

Gabe Eisenstien’s Comic Club #8 gets a two page plug. (Is Gabe Eisenstien the same as Babe Giesenstien?)

Raymond Miller returns with Information Corner #2, this time dealing with the original Human Torch and this time with art by Marshall. The Torch sometimes appeared in unlikely places (such as “Mystic Comics #1, 2”) so this list is especially helpful.

Crap’s Hobby Hints is Marshall’s send-up of “Cap’s Hobby Hints,” a ½ page feature that used to appear in DC comics. There’s not much humor in Marshall’s spoof, unfortunately.

An Interview with Nostalgia is Bill’s interview with Dick Trageser, “a golden age fan” who was an “old man of 36” in 1966. Dick tells Bill that he “started about 1938-39; stopped around 1943” and that he spends “more time now with other fantasies, such as the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek magazine, and the daily papers, all of which strain ones credibility far more than our old comic-books did” so I suspect that Dick was someone in the neighborhood rather than anyone involved in fandom.

…Eeyahhhhh… is Steve Johnson’s venue for his opinions. Steve is the editor of Sanctum and that zine gets a half-page ad at the end. In my copy, the dittos are very faint so I can’t give you many details but I can tell you that Steve explains the Marvel Method of comic creating, criticizes Gene Colan’s move over to Daredevil (“Gene is simply not suited for a strip like Daredevil. This character needs fast action and plotted development to survive”), explores the AIM/Them/Hydra vs. SHIELD storyline running through Strange Tales, Tales to Astonish and Tales of Suspense, discusses the use of Communists as villains in Marvel Comics, and joins the criticism of Sgt. Fury. In the last section, he asks, “Who should the editors try to please; fandom or the unorganized buying public? It is fairly obvious that they have to obey the economic trends and it would seem that this is what Stan and Roy are doing. And I have nothing against them for it.” When Steve wonders is Stan and Roy are reading this, Marshall interjects, “They probably are, Steve, since I sent free copies to them.” And Marvel was still small enough back then, even in 1966-67, that I’ll bet that both Stan and Roy did.

Metropolis Mail Bog riffs on the Superman letter column for three long pages. The drawing by Bill and Marshall shows Superman using his heat vision to burn up his letters and the text consists of phony letters that mock Superman’s silly plots, the longtime romance of Lois and Supes, and the condescending attitude of editor Mort Weisinger. None of it works for me, except for a few of the “suggestions for applicants in the Legion of Souper Heroes” such as “TNT Man – has the power of exploding himself into nothing (he can only do it once)” and “Take it Apart and Put it Back Together Man – has the power of taking things apart. Unfortunately, he usually forget [sic] how to put them back together.” Perhaps this would all be funnier if we all went back and re-read some 1960s Superman issues to remind us all of how kitschy and awful they were.

The final line, “That’s all, gang. Till next ish,” could be “Uncle Mortie” signing off in the “Mail Bog” or Marshall signing off for the Forbush Gazette. We will be here for the “next ish” but it will be a very different experience indeed.

In General...

At 46 pages, the Forbush Gazette #1 is one of the weightier fanzines I have seen. But, as Bill warns in Sense of Wonder, it is filled with rambling, nonsensical editorials, a pin-up or two, and several pages of ads for other Lanz zines, Schelly zines, or anything else you care to plug. But even these items, possibly annoying at the time, take on a new historical shine when viewed from our perch in 2017. As Bill also points out in Sense of Wonder, the cover is bright and printed photo-offset and Bill is right that he put together the best contents of the issue. It’s fun to see a discussion of the transition from Ditko to Romita at the time of the transition. The Stan Lee interview, though thin, shows Stan willing to talk to fans and impart a little information. The Sgt. Fury discussion, the FF discussion, the Gene Colan on Daredevil discussion all reveal points of view of the time that may not be considered now.

On the other hand, the anti-Batman ’66 articles and the humor pieces mostly fall flat and I can’t get behind Bill’s Pan strip. (Sorry, Bill!) There are also too many times in the articles when strong opinions are pulled back in some wishy-washy manner. No one wants to read a column of opinion and have it end with “Let’s wait and see.”

Overall Rating...

Three webs. It’s not the best fanzine out there but it has its moments and it is worth a look. Not up to Hero or Jeddak standards but it’s a masterpiece compared to issue #2.

Footnote...

Next: Issue #2!