Before there was blogging,websites or even Social Networking(unless you counted using the telephone to ring up your mates,to meet down the pub)back in the technological Stone Age that was the 70’s,there was no real way to share your passions.
And then during the D.I.Y era of Punk,sprang forth the fanzine;sure there had been underground newspapers in the 60’s but you needed a way to print them and unless you had a press,it just wasn’t plausible.
Then came the photocopier(and eventually,the colour version!)and suddenly it was possible to make multiple copies,quickly and easily of pages and pages…about the things you loved and wanted to share,with like-minded people.
Early examples were the infamous Punk fanzine,Sniffin’ Glue and the first Viz comics,that were literally hawked around the pubs of Newcastle and got the word around by word of mouth.
There were a few comics fanzines,but probably the first(it proceed Sniffin’ Glue and Viz,by 5-6 years)and once it had found it’s fanbase,definitely the best,was Bemusing Magazine(or BEM as it came to be known).
The first issue debuted on 17November,1973,edited by Martin Lock and by the end of the decade the biggest fanzine in the U.K.
So without further procrastination let me demonstrate some of the worldwide talent,on and in the pages of BEM;
First off is this wonderful cover from one of the world’s best cartoonists,Hunt Emerson.
I’d like to explain,Hunt Emerson to anyone unfamiliar with his work,unfortunately I don’t think I can..
In an effort to get us kids who found Sunday school and Religious Education,particularly the New Testament,bollocks,introduced us to Bible comics-some dire and offensive,some exciting but preachy: then there was Hunt Emerson!
He drew many,mainly Old Testament tales making them funny and interesting;and the New Testament ones just seemed to be taking the piss out’ve it all,and Jesus,kind of a magical hippy!
The last Hunt Emerson strips I’ve read are his monthly strips in Fortean Times,which fit him perfectly by doing a gig where he gets to draw regular slices of weirdness,that seem to need to leek out of his warped mind!I mean that in a good way!!
In between that time Emerson has drawn everything from soft porn to out and out humour titles,keeping me somewhere between strangely aroused and in genuine fits of laughter.
Basically he’s our Robert Crumb,but not as pervy and funnier!
Next up is a cover by Dave Gibbons(no.27)a genuine comic hero of mine,depicting another hero of British comics Dez Skinn,creator of legendary Brtitish comic mine,Warrior boasting some of the best talent to come from the U.K,containing the groundbreaking V for Vendetta,written by comics giant,Alan Moore;the wonderful Axl Pressbutton,the cyborg who’s button you really didn’t want to press(!)and the controversial Marvelman,also by Moore,(known as Miracleman in the states,for obvious copyright reasons).
Dez also ran a lot of conventions,published his own Quality Comics line of reprints for the US market,edited the monthly,Comics International from 1990-2006,wrote a book Comic Art Now,using his knowledge to gather together the crème de la crème of comic talent.(2008)
He also writes for Comic Heroes every month,and rightly celebrated on the cover.
He isn’t given enough recognition as the man has done so much for UK comics.
Yet another doozy of a cover(no.28)this one is charming,funny and a little cheeky!
It’s also by another huge comics talent,the incomparable Brian Bolland.
Done in 1980,he was still very much a U.K artist but had just started his U.S career by drawing a Green Lantern cover that year.
Once more a cover drawn by a massive influence on British comics,especially 2000AD and the look of Judge Dredd,Mick McMahon(or Mike as he was then recognised).
The cover (no.29)shows Britains greatest comic hero,Judge Dredd,grilling two real-life heroes of U.K comics,then editor of 2000AD,Steve MacManus and writer,Alan Grant(th’ wan wearin’ th tam,ye ken?),just in case you weren’t sure he was a Scot(apologies for the awful Scottish dialogue!)
To show that there was great talent in the pages of the comic as well as on it,and not just British,Canadian artist Dave Sim and his wholly original creation,Cerebus,the barbarian aardvark,about to put U.S artist,Steve Gerber‘s also highly original creation,Howard the Duck to the sword!
I’m sure that this drawing was done whilst Steve was still alive(he died in 2008),I think it actually
makes a fitting tribute.
The final cover I’m posting is by yet another comics genius,and was virtually single-handedly responsible for the artistic look of 2000AD,being art editor and drawing a lot of the strips ,the incomparable Kevin O’Neill.
His work on Nemesis the Warlock and Ro-Busters was nothing short of stunning and his quirky yet intricate style was completely different than anything in U.S comics at the time.
I’m not sure what issue of BEM this was or when it was published but it sums up O’Neill‘s art perfectly,depicting arch-enemies,Nemesis and future leader of Earth the evil,Torquemada.
All in all for a fanzine Bemusing Magazine was head and shoulders above it’s competitors and although responsible for being a little wordy at times it would be an extremely popular blog or website in today’s formats.
Hats off to Martin Lock for creating an outlet of information to fans of comics that kept them up to date with what was out there in the comics world on both sides of the Atlantic.