Friday, May 6, 2011

real fun

Back in 1984 my family went on a vacation trip to Philadelphia, which for me meant visiting comic book stores and watching Starblazers and Force Five on "Philly 57" in the hotel room. It also meant my first look into the world of free urban weekly zines, the mere sight of which impacted my youthful consciousness in ways that have not quite yet finished bouncing around my brain-pan.

REAL FUN was a shock: a cheap newsprint thing full of badly toned photographs, ugly comics, cut and paste typesetting, one or two colors somehow making the whole package look CHEAPER than if it was just black and white. Handwritten columns were next to primitive Macintosh typesetting. Ads for independent punk rock labels, record stores, and head shops coexisted with strips by Peter Bagge, Dennis Worden, Bill Griffith, Spain, the mysterious XENO, Henriette Valium, and other future stars. Fake news articles, anti-McDonalds editorials, and a general contempt for Reagan's America made REAL FUN authentic subversive literature for this suburban kid. What else did REAL FUN have? Japanese cartoons!

This article by D.M. Kister and F. Couch continued across two issues and not only was it filled with amusing typos and blatant editorializing, it was living proof of my firm conviction that Japanese animation was a vital element of America's mass media zeitgeist, that it had a place at the trash-culture table along with comic books, Pez dispensers, the 45 single, and late-night diner food.

As it turns out Mike Kister had a business selling Japanese animation books and magazines so I suppose there was an ulterior motive behind this article.

Remember, this was a time before businessmen even considered the idea of selling Japanese cartoons to America as anything but edited, dubbed syndicated children's television. The thought that there might be something worthwhile in these robot cartoons... that the degree of artistry and design in your Macross or your Nausicaa might be of interest to more than sugar-addled 8-year olds... this was SUBVERSIVE THOUGHT in 1984.

Was Japanese animation as transgressive as the "Ugly Comics" of Atlanta's own "Baby Sue"? Only "Bob" knows for sure. Memorize his predictions for 1985!

And if "Bob" can't heal you through slack, your only hope is Fred Lane And His Hittite Hot Shots.

Remember, the wing tip of destiny casts no shadow.

You doubt the convergence of underground culture and Japanese cartoons? You fool! Perhaps this "Dead Planet" comic strip will convince you with its clip-art Unico.

Also in REAL FUN: this ad for the WCC Animation Comics STAR BLAZERS.

The day of the free ad-zine might be over, but that doesn't mean I don't miss the punk-rock typography or the casual thrown-together design. If I had my way ALL magazines would look like this, which probably explains why I failed Graphic Design. There just wasn't room in the future for this kind of breezy insolence that can't help being REAL FUN.


Daniel C. Parmenter said...

I have one of those! A relic of the Factsheet 5 era.

Devlin Thompson said...

I have the red/blue cover issue pictured, plus the green Godzilla-themed issue, but I'm unclear as to exactly by what agency I acquired them. Possibly in St. Mark's place on an art-class field trip... I know I got a batch of zines that time. It was a fine periodical, indeed!

Unknown said...

I feel ashamed I never had anything like this growing up in my neck of the woods! Also interesting to see I wasn't the only subversive one to use that "girl in the TV screen" image from the VHS tapes either!

Creginald Vandercleve said...

*Love* the use of process Yellow!

I much prefer 'zines like this to the assortment of complementary periodicals I find nowadays (but to be honest independent print journalism of this type now accounts for about 5% of its all-time high output -- I blame Internet ; )

Kanji Heisig said...

"If I had my way ALL magazines would look like this, which probably explains why I failed Graphic Design."


Very interesting post... and yeah, it's a shame that ad-zines are no longer with us hehe
Thanks for sharing!

Mike Kister said...

Hey, that's me! ^___^

Sure there was an ulterior motive for the article, we LOVED Anime!

The business side of it really didn't amount to much but I was happy to be able to bring these publications and toys to other enthusiasts in the area. And yes, it helped pay for mine.

Nice article and a surprise to see it after all these years.