Comic Art, Harbinger & Newfangles

By | Tuesday, March 25, 2008 Leave a Comment
Maggie Thompson was at the forefront of comic fandom in the early 1960s. She and her (later) husband Don were most definitely considered two of the biggest Big Name Fans (BNFs) of the time, and they continued to have a strong influence on fandom for years to come, and Maggie is still the senior editor of Comic Buyers' Guide.

Over on Maggie's web site, she's begun posting scans of her old fanzines. She recently added Newfangles #1-10 from 1967-68. Those issues strike me as particularly interesting, as they cover not so much comic news, but comic fandom news. It includes changes of addresses, fan obituaries, and the like. Issue #3 notes the birth of Don and Maggie's daughter, Valerie. This overall direction is strikingly poignant because it really speaks to the heart of what comic fandom is about: namely, a community built up around a shared interest.

Comics are enjoyable. I can sit down and read the latest adventures of the Green Lama or Groo or Doktor Sleepless or whomever, and be entertained for however long it takes to read through that story. But when I come online to discuss those stories, or hang out in a comic book shop beyond just purchasing those issues, I do so for the human interaction. The superficial shared interest in comic art is just a bridge to forming an emotional connection with other people. I'm more interested in, for example, David Gallaher as a person than as a writer. I'm more upset that I can't share any more conversations with Gregg Allinson than I am that he was no longer contributing to my web site.

I think all creatures have something of an us/not-us mentality when it comes to social interactions. There's something primeval about wanting to be with other beings similar to ourselves. Whether that's defined as our colony of ants, instead of another; or male versus female; or whatever -- there's some biological function that wants us to hold close similar creatures while pushing away dissimilar ones. (This is essentially where racism comes from.) But, using our allegedly higher reasoning powers, we're able to make more distinctions based on less obvious criteria. Intellectually, emotionally and psychologically, I'm more similar to a black woman living 250 miles away working in a completely different job role than I do to the white guy sitting ten feet away who has the same educational background and career I have in the same department of the same company. Superficially, the white guy is more similar to me, but in all the ways that I would consider significant, he's not. I've defined him as "not us" while I've defined her as "us." My connection with her is considerably more powerful than it is with him.

This is underlying purpose of fandom: to identify those less-superficial characteristics that we share with others, to allow us to connect with them in a deeper and more meaningful way than whatever physical attributes we might have in common.

So go check out what Maggie's been posting. The names and places are probably irrelevant to you, four decades after the fact, but it's easy to see the connections that she and Don were facilitating in those pre-Internet days of fandom. Oh, there were still disagreements and flame wars and even legal disputes back then. But I've rarely seen the purpose of fandom so much on display as I have in those issues of Newfangles.
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