Marvelmania Magazine (1969 One Shot) #1

 Posted: 20 May 2024
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)


Let’s start with a quote I used in the ASM #77, October 1969 review that bears repeating here. It’s from American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1960s (1965-1969):

“Marvel’s in-house Merry Marvel Marching Society had recently fallen by the wayside – Martin Goodman saw it as a drain on profits – but Chip Goodman had made contact with a man named Don Wallace in California who was interested in licensing the Marvel heroes for products he’d sell through the mail. Once Wallace agreed to absorb the MMMS membership kits into his catalog, a deal for $10,000 was struck and Marvel began loaning the entrepreneur artwork – most of it by Jack Kirby – for illustration purposes. Early Marvelmania employee Steve Sherman added, though, that he believed Wallace never paid more than half of the agreed-upon fee. Wallace benefited greatly from the expertise of prominent Los Angeles fan Mark Evanier, a 17-year-old whose claims to fame then included the creation of a ranking system for Marvel collectors – i.e., ‘Real Frantic One’ or ‘Fearless Front Facer’ – that the company had adopted in 1967. ‘[Wallace] thought he was buying the rights to the Captain Marvel that Billy Batson turned into,’ Evanier sighed. ‘That’s how much he knew about comics and why he needed me.’ The young man was installed as editor of the Marvelmania fan magazine and Steve Sherman was named production supervisor. ‘At the time, Marvel was claiming, I believe, that they published six million comics a month,’ Evanier noted. ‘Well, that meant that they had about 25 titles were selling 200,000 to 300,000. But [Wallace] had this notion that there were six million Marvel fans out there’ and ordered product to sell accordingly. Once he realized that he was losing money on the deal, ‘Uncle Don’ – as Evanier sarcastically called him – ‘began siphoning money from the company to set up his next Get Rich Quick scheme and, suddenly, no one was getting the Silver Surfer posters they’d ordered.’ Incidents like Wallace’s payment to fans of loaned Jack Kirby art had raised Evanier and Sherman’s suspicions and they finally made a clandestine examination of their boss’ files. ‘We found hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of unpaid bills for previous companies under various permutations of his first and last names,’ Evanier revealed. ‘We cleaned up our ends of things as much as we could and quit – but not before we’d called everyone who was doing business with Marvelmania (like Stan Lee, Jim Steranko, and, of course, Kirby) and advised them of what was going on.’ The fan club was officially disavowed in the December 1971-dated Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page and Don Wallace – a day before he was to appear in court regarding an earlier scam – vanished into the night.”

Story Details

  Marvelmania Magazine (1969 One Shot) #1
Summary: Spider-Man on Back Cover and within
Editor: Mark Evanier
Artist: Jim Steranko (Back Cover)
Cover Art: Jack Kirby (Front)

That explains our cover, which is a Captain America pin-up by Jack Kirby. On the inside front page, Don Wallace (“Uncle Don”) gives us a “Welcome to Marvelmania!” He seems pretty knowledgeable about comics, referencing the E.C. Fan-Addicts Club and coming out with lines like “This promises to be the most exciting thing to happen to comic books since Irv Forbush tried to mail subscription copies of Silver Surfer with Comics Code stamps!” But, perhaps, he got all of this from Mark Evanier, who, as editor, has his editorial on the following page.

Before moving on to that, you may read this line from Don, “We don’t have to make any sort of a sales pitch for the merchandise in the catalog,” and wonder, “Catalog? What catalog?” Well, that’s Marvelmania Catalog #1 and then Marvelmania Catalog #2. I’ll get to both of them somewhere down the line. And, with the hindsight that we have of what happened to Marvelmania, soak in this quote from Don’s welcome: “After many months of secret planning in New York and Los Angeles, we burst forward with what shall soon prove to be only the beginning of the greatest comic book club in the history of mankind!”

Now, here’s Mark, who writes, “We conducted long ‘bull’ sessions in preparation of the club and it was constantly being expressed that some way would be needed for us to maintain some communication with the membership-at-large…Once conceived, ideas as to what should go into the mag began to come in faster than Quicksilver on his way to the newsstand on the day X-Men come out. What we present in this issue (put together at short notice) are a few of these ideas. New ones will appear as they are suggested by the readership and old one will disappear as they are disapproved by the readership. Two regular columnists (Tony Isabella and yours truly) debut this issue with two more columnists to be chosen out of the submissions for #2. We invite all member to send in articles and art--…as well as suggestions as to how to improve this fanzine and Marvelmania itself.” We’ll see if this all goes well in upcoming issues.

The Letters Page, entitled It’s Clobberin’ Time! features Jon Yost complaining about the “end of continued stories” policy. He writes, “It seems to be that some of the finest stories ever published have been continued ones! ...How about that Spider-Man series wherein he lost his memory?” but Robert Solomon says, “Count me in as one of those who are glad that Lee and Company have decided to drop continued stories!” While, meanwhile, Steve Sherman writes in praise of the Silver Surfer: “Let’s urge Marvel to keep making the Surfer one of their most creative efforts!” All three writers are from Los Angeles, California so I suspect that all three are friends of Mark Evanier. (Steve Sherman certainly was.) No doubt Mark solicited the letters but what do you expect for the first issue of a fanzine? Mark finishes the page by remarking on the “continued stories” issue: “The wisest and coolest head among them all seems to be represented in a letter (which we have since lost, but why give him credit anyway?) which said something to the effect of: ‘Why a policy either way? We can’t we readers merely let Stan decide which way each individual story should be done?’” Was the writer of that “lost” letter, perhaps, Mark Evanier?

Doom’s Dispatch follows in which Victor writes, “Pay attention, you dumb peasants, as I have no intention of repeating any of this! …In my boundless wisdom, I have deemed it to be expedient that I explain my profound design. By answering the questions that you may send into my column, I shall place you in my debt to the day when the world shall grovel at my feet!” He answers two questions here, one of which is from Ray Harris of Belleville, New Jersey, who “wished to know how the Lizard was able to walk on walls like Spider-Man. What do I care about the Lizard? He is nothing…a mere rodent, as his powers are only those of the various species of lizards on the Earth! Among those species are lizards with suction-claws designed for climbing, hence the repulsive reptile’s talents in that respect!”

Then, it’s time to test your Marvel I.Q. with ten questions, the toughest of which are the two that are not multiple choice. (Made even harder because they are over 50 years old.) They are “Name all four artists who have penciled ‘Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos’” and “name all six artists who have penciled ‘Iron Man’ in his own strip.” The only Spidey-related question is:

J. Jonah Jameson used to publish:

  • a. Eye Magazine
  • b. Why Magazine
  • c. Now Magazine
  • d. Better Homes and Gardens.

Answers at the end!

It is probably Mark Evanier who wrote the Spotlight on Jack Kirby that follows. In it, he states, “Kirby deserves credit for plotting of the comics he draws” and “His talented hands have rendered nearly every Marvel super hero at one time or another and created more than their fair share of new ideas,” statements that were not common knowledge at the time. Note that in the list of inkers who “preserve more of the Kirby genius than perhaps any other inker could” (“Joe Sinnott, Frank Giacoia, and Syd Shores”), Vince Colletta is conspicuous by his absence.

The Marvelmania International Club News includes an item telling us that the club will be included in the Hollywood Santa Claus Lane Parade. (Was it?) and plugs upcoming contests where “the prizes are certain to make every red-blooded Marvelite drool so much, his socks will shrink!” (Did they?) I’m not sure if either of these things happened but when we’re told “Marvelmania assembled wishes to compliment Marie (the She) Severin on her superb cover for the latest issue of Esquire,” we know that happened.

As you can see, it features New York Jet quarterback Joe Namath in his signature mink coat playing King Kong.

According to their website, “Toys For Tots began in 1947 as the brain child of Marine Corps Reserve Major Bill Hendricks. Actually, it was his wife, Diane, who was the real inspiration. She had a few handcrafted dolls and asked Bill to deliver them to an agency that supports children in need. When Bill reported back to his wife that he could not find such an organization, she instructed him to ‘start one!’.”

In 1969, Marvelmania joined up with Toys For Tots and a two-page feature appears next in our fanzine. In it, we learn that “Captain America, Thor, Spider-Man and other Marvel heroes will be making personal appearances on behalf of Toys For Tots on television and at special events,” we will also be staging rallies at various locations around the [Los Angeles] area…the stars already lined up to participate are: Mike Conners of ‘Mannix’,

Peter Graves, Greg Morris, Leonard Nimoy, and Peter Lupus of ‘Mission: Impossible’,

the Banana Splits

and a host of others” and “Foster and Kleiser outdoor advertising are giving us space for a Jack Kirby masterpiece on dozens and dozens of billboards in Southern California.” I can’t find any online evidence of these functions (I have no reason to doubt that they took place) but there are plenty of copies of Jack’s Toys for Tots posters to be seen including a black and white version appearing with this article.

Correspondence Corner is a column where fans can send in their name, address, and “one of your interests” in order to get a pen pal. The example given is:

Irving Forbush
317 Rainbow Bridge Road
Latveria, New York 31416
*Sgt. Fury fan

And now, it’s time for the Marvelmaniac of the Month!. It’s Bill Harroff of Elkhart, Indiana because “Bill was the first person to send in his loot for the Marvelmania kit.” He “has complete (or almost so) sets of all of Marvel’s mighty masterworks…His ambitions? He’s dying to complete his Marvel set by obtaining Fantastic Four #1 soon. Says Bill, ‘Do you realize how hard it is to get that?’ He also hopes to be a professional bowler some day.” I don’t think he made it as a bowler but his LinkedIn post says he is an NEA fellow, award-winning artist and illustrator, comic artist, ebook publisher, author” with ‘extensive exhibits at museums and galleries.” So, Bill, did you ever get that FF #1?

Tony Isabella’s essay The Coming of the Avengers! takes up five columns of print and is only Part One, ending with “”As we close this episode and await your response, we do so with the words permanently enshrined in every Marvelmaniac’s vocabulary…To Be Continued!” Tony Isabella began working for Marvel soon after. Wikipedia says, “Isabella's work in comics fandom attracted the attention of Marvel editor Roy Thomas (whose professional career began in similar fashion), and in 1972 Thomas hired Isabella as an editorial assistant at Marvel. With Marvel's establishment of Marvel UK that year, Isabella was assigned the task of overseeing the reprints used in Marvel UK's nascent comics line. He also served for a time as an editor for Marvel's black-and-white magazine line.” As a writer, he is probably best known for his stint on Ghost Rider. In the late 1970s, he wrote for a time for DC where he co-created the Black Lightning character. We have him listed for 20 Spider-Man related credits. (Not including Marvelmania.)

Tony begins his essay with “As man is a social animal, it was only natural that he should join together with his fellow beings in some sort of society with each member to benefit from this artificial union. Our ancestors were quick to realize that two men could usually accomplish more than two single individuals, especially if they shared the same basic beliefs. Before long, men were working in teams toward identical goals for the common good.” He then delves into Greek Mythology, citing Jason and the Argonauts, moves to the pulps of the 20th century, focusing on Doc Savage and his Fabulous Five, references the meetings of the Sub-Mariner and the Human Torch in Marvel Mystery Comics, although they mostly fought each other, avoids any mention of DC’s JSA or JLA, and skips to Stan and Jack’s Fantastic Four. It takes 11 paragraphs to get to the characters in the original Avengers. Tony views them (Thor, Iron Man, Ant-Man, Wasp) as dedicated servants for good in both their guises. The exception is the Hulk, which explains why he only lasts a couple of issues. More of this, presumably, next issue.

Mark Evanier’s Graphic Traffic praises the Inhumans. “There is nothing common about the Inhumans, nor is there any facet of them which might easily wear thin in repeated appearances. They are most certainly deserving of their own magazine…Stan Lee and Jack Kirby may take pride for the Inhumans. All the superlatives mustered for their creations are superfluous. They’ve taken the Inhumans this far and interesting possibilities await publication…it would be nice just to see more the Inhumans.” They do indeed get their own magazine (more than once) and their own TV show but, unfortunately, none of these last very long.

SERIAListic Writings! has Bruce Schweiger telling the story of the Captain America Republic movie serial from 1944. In it, “There was…a major change of identity in store for the Sentinel of Liberty – from G.I Private Steve Rogers to crusading and fearless district attorney Grant Gardner.” Why? Well, Bruce presents us with Larry Ivie’s theory “that the script had been intended for another Republic character and then been altered for Cap.” He finishes with, “Republic serials were very well accepted in their day. It is unfortunate that no live action drama has been attempted since those cruder days. It would indeed be interesting to see a modern-day adaptation of a Marvel character utilizing refined film techniques.” Bruce, I hope you’re still around to see all that has taken place!

Our last feature is Ed Noonchester’s Realism in Comics in which Ed tries to find realistic characterization and logic in super-hero comics, leading to this wishy-washy conclusion: “What may we conclude about realism in comics? It is necessary only when it helps fulfill the over-all goal of the comic book. It should be used only to add to, not detract from the entertainment value of the magazine as a whole. Realism is a good thing in its place and that place is not necessarily comic books.”

Is that it? No, there’s the main reason why this issue should be of interest to Spider-Man fans: Jim Steranko’s moody pin-up on the back cover, showing the Vulture stalking Spidey by the light of a full moon.

General Comments

Here are the answers to the Marvel IQ questions:

The four artists who have penciled “Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos” are Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers, John Severin, and Tom Sutton.

The six artists who have penciled “Iron Man in his own strip” are Jack Kirby, Don Heck, Steve Ditko, Gene Colan, Johnny Craig, and George Tuska.

The final answer is c: JJJ published Now Magazine but Eye Magazine (Vol. 2) #2 (Story 1) did have that cool reprint of ASM #42.

Overall Rating

It’s a small wonder that this and subsequent issues even exist but, all in all, there’s not much to its interior. The subsequent history of ‘Uncle Don’ and the club is more interesting. But it was a fun treat at the time and is a nice collectible today. The Steranko pin-up bumps it up from three webs to four.


Next: ASM #78 and the birth of the Prowler.

 Posted: 20 May 2024
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)