Forward… Into The Past, by Mike Gold
Typically, birthdays are a time for self-reflection and so, in this spirit, I am today changing the name of my column to “Brainiac On Banjo.” I have come to accept the likelihood that few, if any other than Mark Waid, got the “Whizzy’s Wazoo” reference. “Brainiac On Banjo” is a bit easier.
In fact, both are titles of APAzines I used to produce. In today’s age of blogging and Twittering and other ways to avoid actual physical contact while maintaining the ability to be instantly obnoxious, APAzines are the buggy whips of comics fandom. They’re still around, although I suspect the average age of the APA participant is over a half-century.
APA stands for “amateur press association” and it’s a holdover from science-fiction fandom from whence comics fandom came. What it is is this: you, as a member of a specific association, write up your fanzine. You write all kinds of stuff: what comics you like, which ones you hated, which movies are great, which comics creator(s) has his head so far up his ass he can get a haircut by swallowing… you know, blogging. You comment on all the other ‘zines in your APA. Said association may or may not be based around a common theme, and said theme may or may not be addressed on every page of your ‘zine. Things tend to wander a bit.
APAs require far more work: you mimeograph or photocopy your ‘zine, collate the pages, staple them, mail them off to the Central Mailer (a guy named Norman) who then collates all the other APAs and mails the package out to each member. The roster is usually around 25 or 35 members, so there’s often a waitlist for membership. Waitlisters can participate and might get the overage ‘zines, but there’s no guarantees.
A lot of people were involved in the production of their own APAzines and I had established many of my most enduring and wondrous friendships through this vehicle, including many folks in the media like Richard Pachter and Mike Valerio and folks in comics like Paul Levitz, Kurt Busiak and Carol Kalish. I met my closest buddy, ComicMix’s podcast producer Mike Raub, through a Legion of Super-Heroes themed APA back when Gutenberg was a kid.
It was a lot of fun. Like I said, it was labor-intensive, but it was more relaxing than blogging and Twittering and such. You could produce and read APAzines at your leisure, and engage in considered (as opposed to instant) discourse. We’d meet at various comic book conventions and hang out together for much the length of the show.
But, eventually, our real lives took over. Kids, careers (even in comics), TiVo, and the rest of the usual travails of life competed for our time. All that labor intensive stuff started eating away at our schedules.
But the friendships endure. So as I contemplate my year-older naval fresh from having returned from the San Diego Comic Con where I got to see so many of these old friends, I’ve got to give respect to those who lived with mimeo stencils and industrial-strength staplers.
I wonder if there’s large-print APAs for retired comics geezers?
Mike Gold is editor-in-chief of ComicMix.