Sunday, February 24, 2008

anime zines of the 80s

Lightweight posting continues here at LET'S ANIME as we recover from an epic journey across town and complete a few non-blog writing commitments and generally goof off. Anyhoo, here to take us on a trip down memory lane are some newsletters produced by local anime clubs in the 80s. That's right, these zines are old enough to drink and vote. Keep in mind that these are by no means the oldest anime fanzines, nor are they the only anime zines being published in the 80s. They just happen to be the ones closest to my scanner at the time. 

As the first club out of the gate in the 70s, the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization had a leg up on the rest of us who were busy surviving elementary school at the time, and their amazing adult powers of "having money" and "knowing what to do" meant the C/FO was producing anime zines way before the rest of us. 

The scene was small at the time and freely mixed with the SF fandom culture prevalent among nerds; that's why the C/FO's mascot is a furry character named "Fanta" who comes from his or her own planet, has a backstory, a stop motion animated film, etc., and also why the early fanzines were kind of insular, serving a club membership who already kind of knew each other and what they were getting into.

Later C/FO magazines were less chatty and more deliberate about delivering Japanese animation knowledge to the people who needed it the most, whether they were attending local meetings in LA or they were across the country. This 1983 magazine was produced by people on both coasts and really made use of the C/FO's Tatsunoko contacts. 

The early 1980s would also see non-local anime publications. The crew of Ardith Carlton, Steve Harrison, and Jerry Fellows would release Space Fanzine Yamato, the first American zine devoted to a specific Japanese animation series. Also in this time period, the Dallas Texas based Earth Defense Command was publishing the regular fanzine Nova, a yearly compilation of fan news, artwork, stories, and details of various anime series. 

As anime grew in popularity most cities grew their own clubs, and most clubs needed zines to serve as bulletins informing the membership of when and where the next meetings would be held, what was shown at the last meeting and what would be screened at the next meeting. These regular publications would also detail upcoming conventions and activities of note, and print fan art, fan fiction, translations, synopses, and whatever else would hold still long enough to be xeroxed. In the days before the internets, newsletters like this were vital links in the information chain keeping people apprised of the latest episodes of Dirty Pair or Zeta Gundam or what have you.

Pictured here is the first and perhaps only issue of the journal of the Super Dimensional Space Cavalry Of Eastern Massachusetts. This digest-sized zine appeared in December of 1986 and was mostly Harmony Gold promo pix, mecha details, a quiz, and a list of comic shops in the Eastern Mass area where one could purchase Robotech memorabilia. Its slick design and professional looking graphics put it a notch above other zines of the era. Apparently only one issue was produced, which takes it right back down to a notch BELOW other zines of the era.

The C/FO was not idle during this period and continued to gather local chapters, many of whom published their own regular newsletters. All members of the national C/FO continued to receive regular issues of the C/FO Magazine, which continued to be the best of the bunch. 

Over in my home town of Atlanta we had our own local C/FO chapter which started in 1985 and immediately began printing newsletters, some of which were clumsy punk rock affairs and others, such as this one, which had great graphic design and a swell cover by Marilyn Morey which I stil have the original artwork to for some reason.

Speaking of long running zines, here's the first issue of THE ROSE, the newsletter of the anime club Anime Hasshin, which ran for 64 issues over 14 years. Lorraine Savage spearheaded the club, one of the first independent national anime clubs to spring up out of frustration with those jerks in Texas and California. Over the years Lorraine would feature art and articles from hundreds of fans, connect tape traders to spread the anime wealth, and generally act as a merciless Godfather crushing all who stood in her path of anime domination. Just kidding about that last part. I produced lots of terrible fan art for The Rose.

Across the country out west in Phoenix the local anime club had its own newsletter, full of synopses of Crusher Joe and Maison Ikkoku and a list of what's going to be shown at the upcoming Leprecon and the upcoming club meeting - Dirty Pair, Fist Of The North Star, The Humanoid, Famous Detective Holmes, The Guyver, Giant Gorg, Urusei Yatsura (listed as "Those Obnoxious Aliens") and Leda, The Fantastic Adventure Of Yoko. A well-balanced anime diet!

And on the other end of the continent in Baltimore the JASFA newsletter was going strong. JASFA stood for Japanese Animation Science Fiction Association, and their newsletter ran for something like ten years, listing when and where the next meeting would be held, etc. JASFA ran a lot of episode title translations, which I found very handy later, as well as the occasional comedy bits. Fun fact: one JASFA member once posed as an FBI agent to phone-prank a member of Atlanta fandom. Oh the fun we had breaking federal laws.

Meanwhile, local C/FO chapters continued to publish their own zines, and in the New York area, some fans got it together enough to attempt to publish anime fan magazines semi-professionally. 

In Tampa, in San Antonio, and in Atlanta, the anime zines didn't stop. Until they eventually did.

As the 90s loomed the C/FO imploded and local clubs assumed more importance as the anime convention came into its own in Dallas and San Francisco. The desktop publishing revolution meant that newsletter copy would no longer have to be printed on tractor-feed dot-matrix printers, but could be laid out professionally and laser-printed to crisp perfection. A new era of zines loomed in the 90s, led modestly by myself and my zine LET'S ANIME, which this blog is named after!

Actually, I did as little graphic design as I possibly could, composited everything using glue-stick and scissors, and resisted the demon computer as long as I could. And now I write about this online and my readership has increased a thousandfold without me killing even ONE tree. The future is now!! More zines to come!!

-Dave Merrill

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Anonymous said...

nice.... i always wondered why see nothing but the odd, relatively unpublicised public appearance by helen mccarthy of englands premiere (and highly influential, on me) anime zine / magazine 'anime uk'... what's happened to her writing and interest in anime?!

d.merrill said...

I think Helen still has an interest in anime; she's been knocking out book after book on the subject and lecturing...

From January to July 2007 she curated and presented a season of seven monthly lectures and screenings at the Barbican cinema considering anime in its context as part of world visual culture, attracting varied audiences and packing the cinema. A second season started in October 2007. Helen is also curating and presenting a week-long film season at the Barbican in November 2008.

The magazine market being what it is on both sides of the pond, I'm not too surprised that Anime UK only lasted a little while.

Unknown said...

Aw, you didn't mention Psychommu Gaijin. Not that it really matched what those other zines were trying to do.

d.merrill said...

Aw, you didn't mention Psychommu Gaijin. Not that it really matched what those other zines were trying to do.

Was PGaijin published in the 1980s? All the issues I have are from the 1990s. When I do a post on '90s zines rest assure PG will make an appearance.

Unknown said...

Now that you mention it, 2007 was the 15th anniversary of PGzine, so it was the 90s. Getting old, forgetting things.

Full Metal Nekokami said...

I remember The Rose, was a great fanzine and loved to submit art for them.
Also did many friends and trades there, btw anyone knows what's been loraine savage up to lately, is she still into anime?

d.merrill said...

Lorraine is more focussed on other fandoms right now, but she's still alive and well and living with a lot of cats in New England, we try to see her when we're in the area.

I loved The Rose, it was a no-nonsense news and reviews and fan art newsletter that never wasted a minute on rules or fan politicking.

Elyse said...

When I was a little girl, my dad rented a movie about a blue haired woman, it had something about a train and child, or something like that. The only thing my dad can remember about the tittle of the movies was galactic railroad or galaxy railroad; but when I've looked up galaxy railroad, it came up about something totally different. I do remember it looking like an anime and it had to be in the late 80s or very very early 90s. If anyone has any answers, please let me know. I don't know if this is the sight I'd be able to find anything about; but I figured someone might know. I can't get it out of my head, it was such a beautiful movie is all that I can remember.

d.merrill said...

I believe the film you're talking about is GALAXY EXPRESS 999. It's just about to be released on DVD in the US by Discotek!

Elyse said...

I remember distinctly that it was blue haired woman and the clips I saw remind me of nothing like that and I know it was in english.

d.merrill said...

Well, GALAXY EXPRESS 999 (the 1979 film) was dubbed into English in the 1980s by New World Pictures and shown on HBO and released on VHS in the United States. And there are several female characters with blue hair; Shadow on Pluto, for one.

I don't know of any other anime film that fits the criteria of "space" + "railroads" + "boy".

Elyse said...

I don't remember it at all being in space and I don't remember if it was a boy or a girl and I believe the last scene is the girl with blue hair and not blonde.

Elyse said...

I was wondering if anyone had seen Galaxy Express 999...seeing as it was on this blog that I found out about the movie I saw as a young girl and hoping that it will be the movie I've been wanting to see again.

Can anyone tell me if the movie is dubbed in re-release of the movie is dubbed in English and if adieu galaxy express is the same movie or a sequel.


d.merrill said...

You can find out all about Discotek's DVD release of Galaxy Express and Adieu Galaxy Express (the sequel) here: and here:

Anonymous said...

Would love to find some copies of these old zines. They seem very hard to come by!