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Alter Ego was one of the earliest superhero comics fanzines, founded in 1961 by Jerry Bails and later taken over by Roy Thomas. By providing a massive amount of information, interviews and art about the comics and creators of comic books (mainly from the period 1938–1970), Alter Ego is credited with helping to create a vibrant community of comics enthusiasts that came to play a large role in the evolution of the comics industry, especially during its "Silver Age."

Volume 1

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Alter-Ego's stated mission was to support the superhero revivals of the era Bails dubbed "The Second Heroic Age of Comics" (popularly known as the Silver Age of Comic Books). As a result, the zine had a double-focus on the new and the old, a mix that provided something for fans both young and old. Alter Ego came about through the tireless dedication of Golden Age comics enthusiasts Bails and Thomas, and the participation of DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz, who encouraged the two men in their creation of a fan community.

Bails sent out dozens of feelers to other readers whose letters had appeared in The Brave and the Bold #35 (the first comic book to print readers' full mailing addresses in its letter column).[1] Some of those readers were active in other fandoms, and quickly helped get the word out about Alter Ego. Schwartz loaned Bails his copies of the early fanzine Xero, and Bails wrote to everyone in their letter column as well. Soon, Bails was receiving two or three responses daily from people interested in subscribing to Alter Ego.[2]

The first issue of Alter Ego appeared in March 1961. Bails' wife Sondra typed out the contents, and the lettering was done with plastic lettering guides.[2] The 22-page issue featured three JSA-related articles, two columns, and an amateur comic strip:

  • A full-color cover featuring the "Bestest League of America," a Roy Thomas parody of the Justice League of America. The formation of the "new Justice Society of America" had been the energizing factor that inspired Bails to launch Alter Ego, so it was fitting that the zine's first issue was headed-up by this spoof of DC's superstars team.
  • "A Matter of Policy" — a brief editorial which announced Alter Ego's intention to be "a new comic fanzine devoted to the revival of the costumed heroes."
  • "On The Drawing Board" — Four pages of news, including advance word of the forthcoming "Flash of Two Worlds" story (Flash #123), previews of the upcoming Batman and Secret Origins annuals, and hints of the Atom revival slated for Showcase #34.
  • "The Wiles of the Wizard, Portrait of a Villain" — a two-page substitute for a JSA profile.
  • "Reincarnation of the Spectre" — Thomas's proposal for a new version of the Spectre, as a man divided into two characters representing good and evil, ego and id: the Spectre and Count Dis.
  • "Merciful Minerva: The Story of Wonder Woman" — This profile ran instead of a critical piece on the Comics Code Authority. (Perhaps Bails felt that criticizing the Comics Code might not be taken well at DC.)
  • "The Bestest League of America" — The first chapter of Thomas's JLA parody. The members of the BLA were Wondrous Woman, the Cash, Aquariuman, S'amm S'mith, Lean Arrow and the Green Trashcan.[2]

Alter Ego also sponsored the Alley Awards (the name at least partially derived from that of the comic strip character Alley Oop), a series of comic book awards which lasted until the end of the 1960s. (By the awards' third year, the number of ballots received had become so overwhelming that Bails called for a fan get-together at which votes could be tabulated by group effort. This gathering of Midwestern fans, held in March 1964 at the Detroit-area home of Bails, was dubbed the "Alley Tally," and its success provided inspiration for the organizing of comic-book fan conventions that began soon afterward.)[2]

The original run of Alter Ego lasted eleven issues, spread over a total of 17 years. Ten issues were released between 1961 and 1969, with issue #11 following nine years later, in 1978. Bails edited and published the first four issues of Alter-Ego, before turning it over to fan-artist Ronn Foss (and, initially, Foss' wife Myra, and his friend Grass Green) who edited issues #5-6. Thomas edited a further four issues solo, and issue #11 almost a decade later in collaboration with Mike Friedrich.[3]

The best of the original Alter-Ego was collected into paperback by Bill Schelly as: Alter Ego Best Of Legendary Comics Fanzine (Hamster Press, 1997) ISBN 0964566923.

Volume 2

In 1997, at a reunion of old-time comics fans, Roy Thomas and comics historian Bill Schelly met with TwoMorrows Publishing and agreed to bring back Alter Ego as a component of TwoMorrow's Comic Book Artist magazine. Thomas reprised his role as editor, with Schelly becoming associate editor.[citation needed] In spring 1998, Alter Ego volume 2 debuted as a flip-book with Comic Book Artist. This arrangement lasted for five issues, which have subsequently been collected into a book: Alter Ego: The Comic Book Artist Collection (TwoMorrows Publishing, 2006) ISBN 978-1893905597.

Volume 3

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The revival of Alter Ego proved so successful that it became its own magazine in 1999, again with Thomas as editor. Alter Ego volume 3 is now a slick stand-alone magazine, and is still being published by TwoMorrows Publishing. FCA, the Fawcett Collectors of America fanzine, is now published as part of Alter Ego. Schelly has contributed a series of Comic Fandom Archive articles to nearly every issue, as well as a column that usually focuses on "BNFs" (Big Name Fans) of the 1960s and 70s.[4]

In 2007, Alter Ego was nominated for an Eagle Award for Favourite Magazine About Comics, and won the Eisner Award for Best Comics-Related Periodical/Publication.

References

Sources consulted

  • Schelly, Bill. The Golden Age of Comic Fandom, Hamster Press, 1995.

Endnotes

  1. Bails, Jerry G., "America's Four-color Pastime..." in the guidebook to COMICS FANDOM (Bill Spicer, Summer 1965)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Schelly, Bill. The Golden Age of Comic Fandom, Hamster Press, 1995.
  3. Roy Thomas, "The Altered Ego: An editorial of sorts" in Alter Ego: The Comic Book Artist Collection (TwoMorrows, 2001), p. 7
  4. Kleefeld, Sean. "Of Fans & Fandom: The Jerry Bails Interview," Comicon.com: The Pulse, Aug. 29, 2004. Retrieved July 16, 2008.

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