Fanzine Flashback – KA-POW, Britain’s first comics zine?

Over on the superb Classic Comics UK Zines site run by David Hathaway-Price, there’s a wonderful addition to its growing archive – the first issue of KA-POW, possibly Britain’s first comics fanzine.

Published in July 1967, KA-POW #1 was edited by Phil Clarke (today, the former owner of Birmingham’s Nostalgia & Comics and the man behind Blase Books, which sells old British comic art) and comics writer Steve Moore (sadly, passed), and features a cover by Ken Simpson (also, sadly, no longer with us).

“The Cat” – a strip by Ken Simpson

A mix of features (including histories of Flash Gordon and Thunderbolt Jaxon) and strips, KA-POW ran to only two issues in 1967/68 and was printed on a spirit duplicator using purple coloured alcohol instead of ink, and it’s a miracle we can actually still read this early zine as a result, as it’s far from the most enduring form of print!

As Dez Skinn notes on his terrific history of fanzines, the end product would have a pungent smell and could only be used for small print runs.

“Every page had to be drawn with biro, pressing through a cover sheet to the carbon-paper-like sheet before, or typed through to the same effect (no correction was possible),” recalls artist Kev Sutherland, who created his first comic, Banda, on the same kind of machine. “This then wrapped round the drum and, cranked by hand, produced your chemical smelling pages.”

“There’s some dispute over whether or not this actually is Britain’s very first Comics Fanzine,” David, currently working on FANSCENE, a tribute magazine celebrating 50 years of British comics fandom, “but since Frank Dobson’s Fantasy Advertiser was basically his own sales list, I think this is certainly in with a shout.

“Produced on a spirit duplicator, it’s a wonder the ‘ink’ hasn’t vanished completely after all this time. I’ve made it as legible as possible, as sympathetically as possible; where necessary, recreating ‘missing’ content by using elements from close by.”

“Nite-Man” by Steve Moore

The addition to David’s wonderful archive site is the result of a collaboration with Anthony Roche (editor of the early zines the Merry Marvel Fanzine, Heroes Unlimited) who owns the original and Pádraig Ó Méalóid, who very kindly scanned it. 

“It’s doubtful I would have ever seen this at all if not for their help, so my eternal thanks to both gentlemen.”

A feature on KA-POW is just one of many articles lined up for FANSCENE, a project we announced back in July, which has fast expanded into what is certain to be an incredible celebration of British comics fandom when the magazine debuts later this year.

“I don’t want to give the game away by naming the writer who is working on an article about the zine, just in case for some reason it doesn’t happen,” David teases, “But if anyone else wants to write about KA-POW, Steve, or Phil, as well, then the material is now here to refer to.”

Read KA-POW #1 here (PDF link) | Classic UK Comics KA-POW Page

• If you’d like to get involved contact David via – and let him know you’re interested in contributing

Check out David’s Classic UK Comic Zines Archive

• If you are interested in the history of comics fanzines, launchpad for many a top flight creator’s career, check out ace editor and publisher Dez Skinn’s in-depth chronicle of its 1960s birth, with stacks of early covers and art on his official site

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