I’m delighted to report the release of FANSCENE, a very special celebration of over fifty years of comics fandom in Ireland and the UK.
It’s a privilege to have been asked to be part of this free mammoth publication put together by artist David Hathaway-Price.
David, who also runs the terrific Classic UK Comics Zines online archive, decided that 50 years of British comics fandom needed celebrating and put out a call for contributions to a new anthology – probably not expecting in a million years the kind of response he got, including material from the likes of Dave Gibbons, Alan Moore and Dez Skinn.
There’s also an illustration from the amazing comics and games artist Bob Wakelin whose death, sadly, was announced at the weekend; and tributes to the recently-passed creator Jim Baikie and the still much-missed Steve Whitaker, who was such a vibrant part of comics fandom for many years, who died in 2008.
But despite the ephemeral nature of both fandom participants and zines, FANSCENE is overall a celebration, one that includes the revival of Albert the Mouse and much. more.
Colin Noble and Richard Sheaf, two of the downthetubes team, have provided articles on Commando and Dan Dare respectively.
This massive 300-page plus zine is a terrific mix of articles, personal reminiscences and new or unpublished artwork and strips. If you grew up reading comics in the 1970s and 80s, or attending comic events back then, there’s plenty to savour within FANSCENE‘s pages.
I can’t recommend this highly enough, and I’m grateful to David, clearly exhausted by the process, for offering some background to the whole project.
The Changing Face of Comics Fandom (not always for the better)
“I spent my 50th celebration surrounded by family, friends and loved ones,” says David. “Health wise, I’m a little more rough around the edges than I once was, but feeling quite chipper about the place I’m presently at in my life.
“The same I’m afraid can’t be said for the world of comics fandom. Or at least, fandom as I discovered it in the 1970s,” he continues. “Times have moved on. Technology now allows comics fans to communicate instantly, and share their views in a much more egalitarian way than the printing and distribution of A5 and A4 zines ever did. Every opinion is now given free rein, sometimes without the intervention of an editor, or the advantage of three months to perhaps reflect on a real or imagined slight, and how or if one should respond to it.
“I missed out on the start of fandom by a good ten years or so, but when I did discover it, it changed my world. As with a lot of ‘minority’ interests, people search out community, a place in which to not feel quite so alone.
“With comics now embraced by the mainstream, that aspect doesn’t feel so relevant now, and the scene online where comics are discussed is certainly very vibrant… but I do miss the treat of having a regular and varied magazine pop through the door every couple of months.”
Despite changing times, David’s love of comics fandom has been rekindled in recent times.
“As detailed in my own article for FANSCENE, I rediscovered my love of zines about three years ago, and since then, I’ve set up the online archive, in a bid to preserve what I can of the wonderful work that was produced over the last fifty years.
“I’ve received nothing but kindness from editors and contributors, and hopefully the whole exercise is stirring some pleasant memories; as well as showing the Net generation how it used to be done.”
Marking a milestone
Last summer saw the 50th anniversary of the publication of Phil Clarke and Steve Moore‘s KA-POW #1. The year was slipping by, with no sign (that David was aware of) of this momentous event in fan history being celebrated.
“It struck me as being a great pity, especially considering how many great zines appeared in that half century,” David reflects, “how many wonderful artists and writers cut their creative teeth in their pages, and the life long friendships that formed around the hobby.
“I put out some tentative feelers, regarding a possible celebration zine, and well… you can see the results. Sometimes these things just need someone to light the touchpaper, and suddenly all sorts of fireworks start going off.”
FANSCENE‘s content is very eclectic., but David’s making no apologies.
“If it was purely my own publication I might have tried to impose a stronger editorial vision,” he reflects. “But… it’s a celebration of the diversity of opinions of comic fans of all ages, and of people who may well not have agreed with each other when they were involved in fandom… or now.
“Fandom never, or very rarely, spoke with one voice, and it’s healthy to hear different opinions. If nothing else, it does make for a potentially lively letters column…” and on that subject, you’d better read David’s back page piece.
“You’re only going to see the lightest of editorial hands here,” David admits, although given the amount of work I know he’s put into FANSCENE, I think he’s being overly modest on this front. “My role has probably been more akin to that of an Apa’s central mailer; gathering material together, and presenting it in the best light I’m capable of. I’m sure there will be mistakes that will be obvious to someone who has had more sleep than me over the last couple of months, but I can assure you that it has been a labour of love from start to finish.
Let’s hear it for the team!
“I hope everyone will join me in thanking all of the contributors for their hard work, produced for this project,” he asks, “work graciously sent to me by some very busy, and well know individuals, presented here free of charge. They have all managed to make a happy man feel very old… Or something like that.
“Obviously, everyone who has contributed to this celebration deserves a special mention, but huge thanks must be made by me to a few people who also worked behind the scenes; contacting those I couldn’t, making suggestions to improve the zine, and generally offering their help and support.
“My grateful thanks to the following: Ewan Brownlow, Mike Conroy, John Freeman, Peter Hansen, Pádraig Ó Méalóid, Steve Poulacheris, Luke Rainford, and Richard Sheaf. I quite literally couldn’t have done this without your help.
“At three hundred and twenty pages, I was tempted to call this a Bookazine, but taking my lead from one of our lead contributors, I’ll settle on calling it what it is; ‘A bloody big fanzine’.
“I hope you enjoy reading it.”
Enjoy it? I bloomin’ well love it. Thank you, David!
• David Hathaway-Price presents FANSCENE, a publication featuring contributions from: Kyle Andrews, Enrico Ariis, James Bacon, George Barnett, Mark Wayne Barrett, Robert Lee Beerbohm, John Bishop, Brad Brooks, Ewan Brownlow, Nick Buchanan, Paul Chester, Paul Chokran, Brian Clarke, Mike Conroy, Mal Earl, Phil Elliott, Tony Esmond, Glenn B Fleming, Martin Forrest, Tony Foster, John Freeman, Bambos Georgiou, Dave Gibbons, Jamie Grey, Phil Hall, Martin Hand, Rob Hansen, Peter Hansen, David Hathaway-Price, John Higgins, Dave Hornsby, Paul Hudson, Iskander Islam, John Jackson, Ralph Kidson, Gerard Kingdon, Rob Kirby, Nigel Kitching, Jonny Kurzman, Geoff Lamprey, Guy Lawley, Victor Marsillo, Joe Matthews, Harry McAvinchey, Pádraig Ó Méalóid, Robert Menzies, Alan Moore, Bill Naylor, Nick Neocleous, Stan Nicholls, Steve Noble, Colin Noble, Tony O’Donnell, Steve Poulacheris, Nick Prolix, Luke Rainford, Murti Schofield, Richard Sheaf, Dez Skinn, Lloyd Smith, Richard Z Starbuck, Lew Stringer, Mike Teague, Bob Wakelin, Andy Williams, Russell Willis, Dave Windett and Hass Yusuf
Please note, this project has been released as Donationware. If you like what you read, please consider donating £5 to your favourite charity in response. What about the Hero Initiative, which supports comic creators in need, for example?
FANSCENE in Fractions!
• FANSCENE PRINT VERSION (1.8 Gigs. Zip file)
• Classic UK Comics Zines, David’s online archive of British fanzines