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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Wally Wood's Witzend

Okay, this has been slimmed down because Bill Pearson, the publisher of Witzend, has expressed fears that by appearing here, on this blog, I may have inadvertently, in the eyes of some misguided soul, possibly placed the work in the public domain.
I trust you not to assume that is the case.

When I named a graphic panel that Rex May and I put together, Witzend, I was completely unaware of Wally Wood's publication of the same name. Of course, after I did become aware of it, I got hold of a few copies, but it would be safe to say I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I mean, I was hoping for maybe some Vaughn Bode, but I certainly wasn't anticipating a full Mr A by Ditko. I suppose it would be redundant to announce that a magazine put together by Wally Wood and featuring work by the man himself, and Steve Ditko and Frank Frazetta, et al, is still one of the greatest self-published anthologies you can imagine - especially for the princely sum of one dollar?


skarab said...

Rod- Witzend was a really important seminal work. I still have a complete run of this great book from issues 1 thru 8 and I value them more than a lot of higher-profile books.

What made it important is simple: It was the first time professional comic artists and writers published their work without an editor. At a time when fanzines, comics fandom and underground comix were exploding, there must have been enormous pressure on these guys who had come up under a strict hierarchical system to do pretty much what they wanted, and not what the corporations told them they had to do.

I don't know that it was a commercial success, and I also don't know how long it lasted after issue 8. But that first burst of sheer creativity by polished, professional artists and writers changed things forever.

Rod McKie said...

Good points, Skarab.

You know it has always amazed me that more people don't get together to do this - even today. I've actually been sitting in a bar with ALL the cartoonists and writers who created more than one of IPCs comic books and it occurred to me even back then that we could really, and probably should, do it ourselves.

Of course back then you needed to print 100,000 copies on web-offset and only 2 printers could handle it. Now it's much more doable, but the cartoonists aren't around.

I think Wally sold the publishing rights for $1 and the thing continued, which was when Vaughn Bode contributed a lot of stuff.

skarab said...

Well there really isn't the need to do this today. It was things like Witzend, creator-owned properties, the creation of the Image Comics label, and the ongoing controversy to get some recompense for Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster that created a sea change in the comics biz. Today there's a greater range of outlets for, well , ANYONE to do ANYTHING and find someplace to get it published, up to and including the Print-on-demand industry made possible by computers.

Back in the era when Witzend was published, it would have been unimaginable for a pro comics artist with a family to support and bills to pay, to go out on his own for "artistic freedom" reasons, not to mention the possibility of being let go for violating the contract that made it possible to earn a living.

Rod McKie said...

Well, I don't know that it's that comfortable and rosey out there.

I followed the Tokyopop saga on Heidi MacDonald's Beat blog and a lot of people pointed out that some indy publishers, mentioning no names, are not shy about holding back on some rights, today. It may be called 'creator-controlled', but it still falls far short of the manga model.

Do the creators Tokyopop let go own their own characters, or do they just own web rights? Do you think DJ will get his rights to Hero by Night from what's left of Platinum, or will it appear as a new Vanguard project?

I think there are still good reasons for having a go today and although it is easier to do so, any cost - in these precarious times - is risky.

Although, it is still just about better than a real job.

John Farwell said...

hi Rod,

that frontispiece for Witzend #4 was the *only* artwork by Tom Conroy ever published. looking for it on the net was how i found this post. when much much younger, i had the complete run of Witzend but could not recall the frontispiece for #4 and so am grateful to find it here.

my curiosity of Tom's art was recently kindled by this post on The Comics Journal blog site,
-you may wish to see it.