Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Here are my opinions regarding a coupla books I've glommed in between last week's post and the here/now. Well, it was either that or review my latest rectal disaster (as you can tell, I do have a rather "biological turn of mind"!).

I've admitted many-a-time that for years I've found that the comic book variation of ARCHIE paled mightily next to Bob Montana's newspaper strip, the version of this long-running comic star which I and presumably you were familiar with long before we discovered the existence of the comic book variation. Whereas the ARCHIE strip was sarcastic, snide, witty and best of all drawn with exacting detail and overall care the comic book take seemed slapdash, juvenile and worst of all overly mawkish and sentimental. There was a time when, under the workmanship of eventual ARCHIE standard-bearer Dan DeCarlo, that the comic book almost reached the heights of Montana's strip but that was "perhaps" between the late-sixties and early-to-mid-seventies at the latest. But the difference between the comic strip and comic book ARCHIE were noticeable enough as if they were each taking place in that TWILIGHT ZONE dimension where things were basically the same, but the minute details were enough to drive clean cut astronauts batty. It's no wonder even a non-comic book-oriented person such as my cousin could see a marked difference between the ARCHIEs of these two distinctly different worlds.

At least the "Best of the Sixties" collection of Archie comic book fodder presents a few of the better moments of sixties brilliance. Not much mind you, but at least some of DeCarlo's more inspired sagas (including a funny one about a "camp" dance contest which stuck in my mind for years if only for a guffaw-inducing comment Reggie smirked to Big Ethel) do transcend the expected ruts and made for waxy nostalgic weekend reading. As for the rest well, you can only go so far with gags regarding flash-in-the-pan trends as well as recycling old beatnik riffs with hippies put in their stead. Funtime enough for all of you Vietnam-era suburban brats, but frankly I found a vastly better selection of stories in those early-seventies paperback collections not to mention the various digests that can still be found in thrift shops nationwide.

You might remember Fredric Wertham's THE WORLD OF FANZINES getting a huge writeup in the last but most certainly least issue of BLACK TO COMM. However, since that one was created so loooooong ago and you readers are OBVIOUSLY not smart enough to pick up a copy for yourselves I figure why not write it up again if only to present my opinions regarding this book for the computer age and to help pad out yet another typically anemic mid-week post with even more inanity!
And what do I think about the legendary anti-comic book psychiatrist's attempt at disseminating the whys and wherefores of not only fanzines but the sci fi/comic/fantasy fandoms they represent? Well to put it in one!

But all funnin' aside, THE WORLD OF FANZINES is at least informative enough to make you wanna wade through the gosh-it-all well-meaning to get to some hard meat and potatoes facts. In this Tome For Our Times Dr. Wertham tells us in his own Freudian words what it is about fanzines and fandom in general that excites him the same way that discovering old applications of Velvet-rock excited me in the very-late seventies. (Only the Doc does it in a way stodgier and clinical fashion as if you would expect anything else from such a stick-inna-mud trying to prove he's in-tune with the youth of the Now Generation!) His opines are all laid down in this rather short read, complete with reproduced fanzine covers and a whole load of discussion (some of it even understandable!) as to what these self-produced reads are and why teenagers want to put 'em out in the first place. And even if the Doc had a reputation somewhere up there with Joe McCarthy for being one of the bogeymen of fifties gulcher well, like he mentions about crudzines even I can find a few undigested oats to pluck from the heaping pile of manure the guy leaves more than once and I guess that's better than nothing!

In some ways it's strange (especially considering his reputation as a Cold Turd Par Excellence) reading Wertham prattle on about the nature of fanzines and how important they are to popular culture. It's even stranger seeing him refer to various comic book heroes (though he seems to go out of his way not to refer to comic books directly, preferring to mention a superhero as being of the comic strip idiom whenever he can) in a positive light, especially since he dismissed 'em as a buncha nazis 'n homos in that infamous comic book expose SEDUCITON OF THE INNOCENT way back when. But even with the bizarroid not-quite change of face at least there's at least the redeeming social value here to keep your interest up, mainly in the form of tons of information on the major fanzine movements of the early-seventies that should interest the average reader of this blog even if the only rock fanzine that's brought up's Alan Betrock's seminal JAMZ.

In many ways THE WORLD OF FANZINES comes off like Wertham's apology to the pacifist hippie types of the early-seventies who loathed him, as if to say "hey, I'm a peace-loving antiwar freak too even though I still think those comic books are gonna make your free will capsize and turn you all into machete-wielding maniacs!" This attitude is evident especially when Wertham gets on his high horse about the peace movement, race relations, war and that ol' bugaboo of his violent entertainment which all reads like the cross between a stale School Marmish-type giving a temperance lecture and a peace rally being addressed to the demographics that used to buy Melanie albums. That would figure since once we all got down to it Wertham really was just as pinko as the late-sixties activists and assorted other troublemaker types who sworn vendettas against the man only a good fifteen years earlier!

And hey, knowing that Wertham held the same antiwar sentiments as the average New Left college kid of the early-seventies is enough to make me wanna go out and bomb orphanages, but I do get kinda reactionary like that sometimes.

I guess if the market was swarming with fanzine histories I would find this book much easier to toss out, but it ain't and I gotta do with this even though it was written by one of the worst do-gooder types to hit our shores at least until Christopher Hitchens set up shop here. Well, the book does make for a nice sidebar, but for a more copasetic fanzine rundown you might want to try a variety of Sam Moskowitz books dealing with the birth and growth of Sci-Fi fandom, or Bill Schelly's various comic book fanzine reminiscences and collections which should be available somewhere out there in webland. And hey, I'll take Miriam Linna's excell-o rock & roll fanzine history that popped up in a '79 NEW YORK ROCKER any day, that being a concept certainly worthy of a book-length effort in its own right even though I doubt there would be anybody out there in rockdom who would have the stamina or even courage to tackle a subject matter such as this (and don't look at me...I'm awlready having enough trouble coming up with dope to stuff into these posts to stress myself out any further with an actual book project!).

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I read the comic books first , I think , but in the 70s , Montana's strip rann in our daily newspaper while I got the comics too .
I could see their different styles .
I used to get Black To Comm , glad to see this :-) !!
Walter L.