Saturday, August 06, 2011

Suddenly I'm 14 Again...

Just got in a package containing several back issues of Rocket's Blast Comicollector, a comic book fan magazine I had ordered on a whim. As I've mentioned before, RBCC was the magazine that first turned me on to the greater world of comic book collecting. In the pre-RBCC days, I was limited to buying back issues from friends, used bookstores, and Marvel Comics (in those days, Marvel actually had a back issue department, and I ordered several books from them).

When I ordered my first issue of RBCC in response to an ad that publisher Gordon Love ran in the pages of Marvel Comics, I wasn't sure what to expect. The idea of a fanzine was foreign to me; I had never conceived of fans writing their own magazines about comics. The concept of an adzine was also unfamiliar; I had never thought of finding other fans (and a few professional comic book dealers) who'd sell me the back issues I needed.

RBCC #53 was one of my particular favorites; the eye-catching John G. Fantucchio cover featuring the Shadow in both his pulp and superhero guises caught my attention immediately. Fantucchio was a fan artist who really should have been pro (and eventually he was, albeit for only a short period--he did a couple of stories for Warren Magazines in the early 1970s). His work was bold, stylish, and distinctive--and in an era when most fanzine artists were little better than I was, Fantucchio stood head and shoulders above the others.

This issue is also one that I actually ordered from.. and a few that I wish I could have afforded. Robert Bell had a complete set of Flash #105 up for $35; a complete set of Brave and Bold for $45; a complete set of Green Lantern for $20; and a complete set of Justice League (in mint condition!) for #30. Fantastic Four #1 could be had for only $14; Spider-Man #1 for $7; Daredevil #1 for $3.

However, I had a complete collection of Marvel superhero comics at this time, so my interest was focused on DC back issues (and alas, I couldn't afford those high prices for complete series). So, from advertiser Edward Gee, I actually did order and receive Aquaman #s 3, 4, & 5 for 40¢ each, Showcase #34 (first Atom) for $1.25, and Detective #275 for 75¢. I think I ordered a few other books as well, because I remember the total cost of the order being over $10, which was a substantial amount at the time. Shipping was 25¢ for orders under $5, but my massive $10+ order qualified for free shipping.

I also ordered at least four different fanzines from this issue: Comic Showcase, Fandomonium, On the Drawing Board, and Star Studded Comics. These weren't just fanzines about comics; most of them featured original comics produced by fans like me! My inspiration for fanzine publishing came from those early issues of RBCC--and from that, my involvement in science fiction fandom, my owning a comic shop, and the launch of Comic Shop News--in addition to my meeting the girl who would eventually become my wife!

Great stuff here--and while I can't order any of the books from these more-than-four-decades-old advertisements, I can still vividly remember poring over every page, marking the books I hoped to buy in colored pencil. And I still can feel the excitement and exhilaration that accompanied my discovery of the world of fandom...

1 comment:

Aaron Caplan said...

Hi Cliff,

Great post. I had a similar experience, responding to one of those ads in the back of Marvel Comics for The Illustrated Comic Collector's Handbook. I received the Handbook a month later along with a copy of Rocket's Blast Comicollector (RBCC) #55. The Handbook was great, but the RBCC was a revelation! As I opened up that brown manila clasped envelope and flipped through the pages, I suddenly realized that there were others out there like me… comic fans who openly loved comics. There were dealers who actually sold old comics. And there were fanzines. To this day, that John G. Fantucchio cover of The Fly on RBCC 55 is my favorite fanzine cover of all time. I probably looked at it 10,000 times as I anxiously awaited for my second RBCC issue.

By the way, I have set up a John G. Fantucchio tribute website at for those of you out there that wonder whatever happened to John. Well, he's alive and well in Arlington VA, the same place he's lived for over 47 years! At 73 years old, he's in fantastic shape and draws every single day. It may not be the old comics-oriented stuff of the 60's, but it's still got that unique Fantucchio twist to it. I created the site because a lot of people were asking about John and thought he was either dead or had dropped off the planet. If you would like to know exactly what John has been doing for the past 30-some years, take a look at the website. He is not retired!

By the way, John still owns practically all of his original art for the covers he did for RBCC, Comic Crusader, The Collector and The Buyer's Guide for Comic Fandom as well as much of the interior art he did for most fanzines! He's shown me quite a bit of it and it is still jaw-dropping!


Aaron Caplan