Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Number 26

Ron Haydock's Sky Bird #1

Every once in a while I'll be departing from my usual Golden Age comics format to show you something from the fanzine days. I was on a comp list and used to get things like Sky Bird #1, posted here. They'd show up in my mailbox, and not many of them survived the periodic purges of my basement.

It's not strictly comics related, but I'll justify posting this by saying that Flash Gordon, the King Features comic strip of the 1930s by the artist, Alex Raymond, was the inspiration for not only the movie serial, but also influenced many of the earliest comic book artists of the golden age. How's that?

Science fiction and comic book fanzines, and especially the mimeo or ditto kind, were something like the Internet is today, only without the broad reach. I doubt Sky Bird #1 reached more than a hundred people, and probably more like fifty, which is about what a typical spirit duplicator stencil would last on a machine. What they were, more specifically, is freedom of speech. It was the right of anybody, anywhere, with access to a duplicator and a typewriter to make a stencil, to publish. That's what blogs are, many years later, just that sort of publishing, done in cyberspace instead of on 20-lb. duplicator paper. And of course, the potential to reach millions instead of a couple of dozen.

Author Sam Sherman takes an uncritical--what we used to call a "goshwow"--look at the old Flash Gordon serials, starring Buster Crabbe. Sherman lived in Hollywood and apparently knew Crabbe, who is quoted in this article.

Ron Haydock,who published this 4-page fanzine, was a very interesting character: rock singer, actor, writer. After his fanzine days he was the editor of a short-lived but entertaining magazine called Fantastic Monsters Of The Films.

By presenting this issue of Sky Bird, I'm giving it a potential audience unheard of by a fan editor in 1961, even someone who believed in the promise of a science fiction future like Flash Gordon's.

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