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Contemporary Pictorial Literature (CPL): A Look Back

February 14, 2008

Back in the 1960’s when I was an avid comic book collector I started to receive fanzines. Fanzines are for the most part ‘amateur’ publications devoted to a genre of some sorts and comic book fanzines had a tremendous appeal to me, to the point where in the 70’s, as my interest in collecting waned to the point I no longer purchased comic books, I still ordered fanzines for several years thereafter.

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As an aspiring writer I had hoped to eventually have the opportunity to be published and fanzines were the perfect vehicle to hone ones skills, so to speak. In 1971, in the throes of junior high school my pal and fellow collector Mike ‘Buck’ Humrichouser and I produced two issues of our fanzine, Informative On Comics (more on this at a later time).

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We dutifully rented a post office box, put together an advertisement using my Dad’s typewriter and some horrible sketches I drew (Cyclops is one I remember) and purchased an ad in The Buyer’s Guide For Comics Fandom. I have no idea how many we sold, possibly 25 or 30 maybe out of a print run of 100. We probably mailed out another 30 or more for free (and for reviews) and gave the rest away to our friends. We also made sure our principal and selected teachers received one.) 

 

 

 

My interest for all things in writing, publishing and editing skyrocketed at that point.

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Soon after I began submitting articles to a number of fanzines and wouldn’t you know it, some of them actually published them. Some of the names escape me but I recall being published in ‘zines like The Media and Blast among others and soon had regular articles and a review column for a Canadian tabloid called The Journal that was published by Paul Kowtiuk and his Maple Leaf Publishing.

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Some of my favorite fanzines were ones I never wrote for, like The Collector, Rocket’s Blast Comic Collector, the aforementioned The Buyer’s Guide For Comic Fandom, The Comic Reader, Eclipse, Epoch, Inside Comics, Wonderful World of Comics, Mirkwood Times, Fantastic Fanzine, Etcetera, Comixscene, and a slew of others whose names now escape me.

 

 

 

One of my must-have’s was CPL, produced in Indianapolis titled CPL, short for Contemporary Pictorial Literature. Sometime circa 1972 or early ’73 probably I ordered a comic book sales catalogue from Bob Layton and received the first CPL. Within a couple issues it had evolved into a full-blown fanzine being produced by Layton along with Roger Stern and their ‘Gang’, mainly young then-unknowns like John Byrne, Roger Slifer, Tony Isabella, Don Maitz, Michael Uslan, Larry Brnicky, Duffy Vohland, Steven Grant and others.

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Most, if not all, continued in the field and eventually rose to the forefront of the comics industry.

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I had a couple letters printed in CPL and, I haven’t heard back from Bob on this yet, but I vaguely recall having some material published in CPL, but I may be confusing that with various letters submitted for publication.

 

 

 

 

I have fond memories of CPL and the excitement it generated in fandom.

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I was basically done with comics for the most part around ’76 but checked in from time to time and was thrilled to find out that former CPLers like Bob Layton, John Byrne, Roger Stern, Tony Isabella, Steven Grant and so many others achieved ‘star’ status in the comic book industry with Bob being, to this day, closely associated with Ironman, John Byrne with X-Men and Superman, Roger Stern with Spider-Man and Superman, Tony Isabella created Black Lightning, Michael Uslan goes on to produce the Batman movies, the list goes on.

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The funny thing is I eventually married and had three children I couldn’t get any of my kids to read a comic book or have any interest in superheroes or comics at all as they grew up. No matter what! Buying them comic books was a waste of time, they had zero interest and I couldn’t sell the kids on them.

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Now a couple decades later I presently have four grandsons. The two oldest (7, 4) can quote chapter and verse superheroes, their secret identifies, their archenemies, supporting characters…very impressive! I think the oldest one could be an artist! They have comics, coloring books, action figures, DVDs, etc… We are using comic books to help teach them to read (it worked for me!) I am sure once they are older Brenden (2) and Kaden (6 months) will follow suit.

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It must skip a generation.

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During most of the lifespan of CPL, which incidentally had a very entertaining mix of articles, interviews, columns, art, strips and more, I maintained correspondence with Bob Layton writing back and forth semi-regularly and I recall several telephone calls from Orrville, OH to Indianapolis. Bob, just a couple years older than I, always took the time to write back and offering encouragement and advice.

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Several years later when I was publishing my two music magazines, Boxoffice Rock and Bangagong, and still later in the 80’s when I published an auto racing magazine, Dirt Track Report, to say nothing of the STARS sanctioning body magazine I produced and countless auto racing souvenir programs for various race tracks and sanctioning bodies, I would always recall my fanzine experiences and in particular the motivation he gave me and what I was able to learn ‘back in the day’ from Bob Layton.

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With having extra time recently after ‘retiring’ from motorsports and recuperating from three heart attacks and open heart surgery, call it a mid-life crisis if you will, but I have gotten nostalgic for the old days of fanzines, comic books and rock ‘n roll. To the point I am beginning to search out such items as old CPLs, etc… to replace the ones I once had that are now long gone (an interesting story I will share at a later time). For some reason a copy of CPL 12 survived all these years.

 

 

 

 

Recently while surfing the net I discovered Bob Layton’s website and dropped him an email asking how he was doing and what his memories were from his CPL days. He responded promptly with the following (the full response is on his website):

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“Doc, you can’t imagine how surprised I was to hear from you after all these years! Since you were there, more or less, I’m sure you knew that we were all incredibly enthusiastic about comics in general and about launching our careers as cartoonists individually.”

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“Publishing fanzines in the early 70’s was an exciting time for me. This was before the internet and before the ability for fans to congregate online or at conventions. CPL was my first experience with meeting other people who were interested in comics and comic art. So, as you can imagine, my memories of that time are fond, indeed. I am still amazed, to this day, that there are so many people who remember that small digest fanzine.” 

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“I think we can attribute that to the number of contributors who went on to have notable careers in the comic book industry. Not just myself, but fan folks like John Byrne, Roger Stern, Don Maitz, Bob Hall, Michael Uslan, Tony Isabella, Roger Slifer, Steven Grant and Duffy Vohland all went on to work in the comic industry in one capacity or another.  Add to that, the number of contributors to CPL who were already-established professionals like Gil Kane, Alex Toth, Paul Gulacy, Mike Vosburg, Dan Adkins, P. Craig Russell and Joe Sinnott and I think you have a formula for a milestone in fan-publishing.”

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“So–yes, I look back to those days quite fondly. Not only did we carve a nifty little niche into the infancy of comic fandom, but we also created a few memorable characters like the lovable letter hack Rog-2000 (who went on to his own series at Charlton Comics).  And just to show you that I remember you from your letter writing days, I’m attaching a scan of the actual page from CPL 8.” 

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Below is the CPL letter page from CPL 8 Bob so graciously scanned that had a letter from me somewhat pissed off that someone unfairly (to me) attacked the talent of John Byrne. After discovering all that John Byrne had went on and achieved in the industry (and seeing artwork of his on Time magazine many years ago) after CPL I think its safe to say I called that one right (as did many others).

 

 

 

 

I have nothing but very good and fond memories of that time and how exciting it was in comic book fandom back then. I’m extremely impressed that Bob Layton, John Byrne, Roger Stern and the rest have accomplished so much. Their talent is amazing. They have much to be proud of and my grandsons have tons of exciting reading material and artwork to read and enjoy over the years thanks to all the archive editions of old comic books now being published.

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And I still have lots of good memories of the kindness, time, advice and consideration Bob Layton showed me so many years ago that served me well later on in my career, albeit not in comics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interesting Links:

 

Bob Layton: www.boblayton.com

John Byrne: www.byrnerobotics.com

Roger Stern: http://p081.ezboard.com/fsterntalkfrm2

Tony Isabella: http://www.worldfamouscomics.com/tony

Steven Grant: http://www.comicbookresources.com/columns/?column=10

 

Note: All images copyright © respective copyright holders.

 

Contact Doc Lehman at: DocLehman@sssnet.com

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4 comments

  1. Great memories. As a fellow, slightly younger Orrvillite comic book fan, it is too bad we never met. We didn’t move to Orrville until Jan 1971 and I didn’t rediscover comics until 1973 when I was a sophomore. I only knew one other comic book fan during that time. I did get into fanzines at that time, but mainly the bigger ones like TBG and RBCC.

    Your scans of Informative on Comics were great too. Is there any more history on those?


    • Thanks for checking out the website, Tim. Are you Paula’s brother?
      The IOC fanzines scanned are the only two I published back then.


  2. Yep, though she’s in Pittsburgh and I’m back in Orrville for awhile. Did you read a lot of other fanzines?


    • Well next time you see Paula tell her hello. She was one cool lady!
      Hey, these blogs, despite my last post, will begin being updated again end of July. Lots of material to polish and get up but hampered by time restraints due to very ill daughter.
      Other zines I got and enjoyed back then included The Collector (Bill G. Wilson’s zine), Comicscene (nee Mediascene), Comic Reader, Epoch, Etcetera, Blast, RBCC, Comic Crusader, The Journal (wrote a regular column and some features for that last two years of high school, pubbed in Canada), The Media, and scads more, including some Star Trek and James Bond zines too.



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