An influential 1960s Irish fan publication offering a fascinating interview with artist Al Williamson has just been added to the brilliant Classic UK Comic Zines archive site run by David Hathaway-Price.
Heroes Unlimited ran for just seven issues, edited by Anthony Roche, who also published The Merry Marvel Fanzine in 1966, the first comics ‘zine on this side of the Atlantic.
Al Williamson (1931–2010) was the youngest of the EC artists, joining their ranks at just 21 years old – and his work in comics remains hugely influential to this day. At Marvel UK in the 1990s, Editorial Director Paul Neary – a regular contributor to Heroes Unlimited – would point young artists to his work, noting how artists such as Jim Lee and others had done the same.
(Williamson himself was instrumental in supporting and introducing new artists to comics publishing, including Bernie Wrightson).
Williamson received his art training at Burne Hogarth’s Cartoonists and Illustrators School, where he met fellow EC artist Wallace Wood. After drawing short comic stories for various small publishers, he submitted his work to EC and was immediately offered an assignment. At EC, he dabbled in horror, suspense, pirate stories, and, of course, sci-fi yarns.
While perhaps best known for his EC work, he went on to have a prolific career drawing stories for such magazines as Creepy, Eerie, and Blazing Combat, drawing newspaper strips such as Secret Agent Corrigan and Star Wars, and inking superhero comics for DC and Marvel. He received a plethora of awards for his work and was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2000.
The Heroes Unlimited interview, published in the final issue of this hugely influential Irish fanzine, #7, in 1969, covers Williamson’s entire career and own influences, from his early work for EC and his own contributions to the Flash Gordon legend.
It also includes his own frank assessment of his art and some comments about British comics, including Look and Learn, revealing his fondness for the art of Luis Bermejo, Frank Bellamy and Don Lawrence.
Williamson also talks about the then only recently published first major book on Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, released by Nostalgia Press in 1967, for which he wrote an introduction. The book had a follow-up utilising Flash Gordon proof sheets supplied to publisher Woody Gelman by Williamson.
While an eight issue is trailed in the issue, Anthony Roche would drop out of comics fandom later that year, leaving the community to pursue an international academic career, culminating in a Professorship in Irish Literature in UCD. He resurfaced in 2017 and began sharing some of his early zines work with David Hathaway-Price, who’s been aided in assembling the Heroes Unlimited archive by Pádraig Ó Méalóid for the original scans, Rob Hansen and Simon Russell.
Featuring a cover by Paul Neary, Heroes Unlimited #7 also includes an SF strip by Paul, “Remus Dies For The Second Time”, plus other artwork by Neary, Dave Britton, Ken Simpson, and Al Williamson.
The Classic UK Comic Zines archive is well worth checking out for many other gems like this and offers a fascinating insight into British comics fandom down the decades since the 1960s.