Bill Schelly Talks with the Founders of Comic Fandom Foreword
© copyright 2018 by Bill Schelly
When it comes to documenting the history of comic fandom, oral history is vital. Only those “who were there” know the behind-the-scenes stories, the trials and tribulations, the humorous anecdotes, and the arcane information that may not appear in any fanzine published back in the day.
In 1991, I began making contacts with the individuals who were prominent in what I came to call fandom’s Golden Age: the indexers, the dealers, the fanzine publishers, the convention organizers, the writers and artists, and many of the most active fans and collectors of that era. I’m talking about 1953, with the publication of The EC Fan Bulletin #1, to 1972, the year the last issue of Star-Studded Comics was published. By the end of that twenty-year span, fandom as we know it was pretty well established.
As I began searching for contact information for these movers and shakers, I began to discover that some of them had already passed away. I would never have the opportunity to interview such prominent fans as Edwin Aprill, Jr., Rick Durrell, Alan J. Hanley, Larry Herndon, John McGeehan, Don Newton, John T. Ryan, or Phil Seuling. Others remained stubbornly in hiding, it seemed, in those days before the Internet gained widespread acceptance. Now, as I write this, it’s the twenty-fifth anniversary of the start of my fandom research, and many more of fandom’s founders are gone.
Case in point: three of the six founders of comic fandom interviewed in this book are no longer with us: Ronn Foss, artist par excellence of the comics fanzines of the early 1960s and editor emeritus of Alter Ego; Grass Green, the most prominent African American of early fandom who was one of its most talented writers and artists; and, last but certainly not least, one Jerry Bails, who launched Alter Ego on March 28, 1961, followed in quick succession by such fandom institutions as The Comicollector, The Comic Reader and CAPA-alpha. Among his many other endeavors, he held a party for the first sizable gathering of comics fans in March 1961, the legendary Alley Tally Party.
Fortunately, I was able to talk with all three of them. Mine was one of the few Jerry ever gave. Ronn and Grass had (as far as I know) never been interviewed before, and would never be again. Hence, in these pages, you have the only time when they unbent and talked about their fannish adventures and achievements, and their family backgrounds, and so much more that helps complete the picture of that halcyon era. I’m especially proud to be publishing, in these pages, the interview with Grass Green for the first time ever.
Of course, I couldn’t be happier that Dick and Pat Lupoff, and John Benson, are still with us, to read their words in this book, along with you lucky readers. “Lucky,” because we truly will never see the like of these knowledgeable, accomplished, inspiring fans again. The world is changed, and so have the fans of succeeding generations. In many ways, they’ve surpassed the achievements of fandom’s founders, who were (to paraphrase Alan Moore) “mining the raw material.” I have many friends among them. But the people interviewed herein came of age in a different time, and they had a different attitude about comic book collecting and appreciation. See if you don’t agree with me, as you read their words. They are special, as is the art form and hobby that we love.