Squa Tront (Jerry Weist)

#1 - September 1967 - 40 pages

During his summer vacation after graduating from high school, teenager Jerry Weist (1949-2011) started an EC Comics fanzine.  This first issue had only 14 subscribers and sold at a loss for 75 cents.  The name "Squa Tront" is an exclamation of surprise used by various EC aliens.  Mr, Weist and three friends produced the fanzine on high-quality paper with an original color cover drawn by "Staff Artist" Roger Hill.  EC legendary artists Al Williamson (1931-2010) and Reed Crandall (1917-1982) provided some drawings for the first article ("The New Flash Gordon") that evaluated the first six issue of a new comic book series.  The writing by editor Weist is a bit awkward in places but the dedication to the subject is evident.  The second article ("G.Ingels") misspells the name of Graham Ingels as "Ingles" throughout except for the graphic that introduces it.  The central feature of Squa Tront #1 is the original EC-style sci-fi story by Weist ("Exposed!") with drawings by Rick Showalter and Bob Barrett.  The issue concludes with reproductions of three EC Annual covers drawn by Al Feldstein (1925-2014); and then a tribute to the work of the great science-fiction artist, Frank Frazetta (1928-2010).  In spite of some typos and inconsistent fonts, this fanzine is an impressive first try at self-publication.  This low-volume fanzine sells for $40 to $100 on ebay today if you can find one.  [JAM 12/22/2014]

#2 - September 1968 - 48 pages

The cover of the second issue is an original man/turtle/dinosaur full-color drawing by Al Williamson.  The back cover is an original EC color collage by Reed Crandall.  In this issue, editor Weist pays tribute to the EC war comics (Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat) edited with cover drawings by Harvey Kurtzman (1924-1993).  Many of the great EC artists participated in these classics.  The Kurtzman tribute is followed by a dozen pages from the "Williamson Portfolio", and then four pages of the unpublished Tiga series by Frank Frazetta and Joe Greene.  In the discussion that follows the Frazetta work, it is evident that the greatest of all sci-fi artists was seeking an outlet for his talent in the early days.  Frazetta tried to break into the newspaper comics business (including work on Al Capp's L'il Abner)but eventually became the cover artist (Conan, John Carter, Tarzan, etc.) for which he was mostly known.  Weist also added a short profile of Berni Wrightson who suffered somewhat from the comparison of his work to Frazetta's.  The fanzine ends with some photos from the 25th World Science Fiction Convention (August-September 1967) in New York and some black-and-white copies of copyrighted comic book covers (Weird Fantasy et al.).  In this second issue of the fanzine, Weist's privileged access to the greats of comic book industry is evident.  There is great information here for EC fans although the editorial writing is not the best.  The editor complains throughout the issue of money problems but after all, fanzines are usually just the manifestations of hobbyists who publish for the love of the subject.  [JAM 1/3/2015]

#3 - 1969 - 80 pages (unnumbered) including cover

Editor Weist leads this issue with a comment that SQ #3 could be the last issue, and if there is a SQ #4, "we can promise ... it will be a final statement for us ..."  Fortunately for EC fans, JW was very wrong and more issuees of Squa Tront have been published to date even though Mr. Weist did not live to see those printed after his death in 2011.  The first two issues were good but the third volume elevated it to its current status.  SQ #3 is filled with excellent articles which cannot be found elsewhere.  Weist wrote a detailed 16-page text about the EC science fiction titles that concludes with letters of congratulation from Ray Bradbury, Bill Gaines and Boston journalist, Larry Stark.  Squa Tront had arrived and it continued to deliver.  The Weird Science-Fantasy article is followed by Bob Barrett's description of his meetings with Frank Frazetta; MAD Editor Nick Meglin's wonderful account of the legendary "Fleagles"; some great drawings by Reed Crandall; some excellent information about "E.C.'s Death"; and an amazing, unpublished series of comic strips ("The Flying Swifts") drawn by George Evans (1920-2001).  It seemed that Weist did not have enough room or time to include all of the great material that was coming his way.  There are 50 pages of drawings in the issues from many of the greatest comic artists of all time.  The Frazetta (4 pages), Crandall (1 page) and Evans (12 pages) comic strips are worth the cover price ($2 but $1 for subscribers) and much more.  It is evident that the outpouring of adulation for Squa Tront #3 caused Editor Weist to reconsider his plan to stop at three or four issues.  [JAM 1/11/2015]

#4 - 1970 - 100 pages (unnumbered) including cover

This "last" issue of Squa Tront is loaded with material from EC publisher Bill Gaines, MAD editor Harvey Kurtzman and EC staffers Jerry DeFuccio & Nick Meglin.  In addition, the first five issues of The National E.C. Fan-Addict Club Bulletin are reprinted at the back.  The bulletins provide oodles of inside information about EC staffers and a rolling history of the Comic Code battle that caused the demise of most of the classic EC titles.  The second bulletin claims that 17,700 fans were members of the club at 25-cents per membership.  With several more great Frank Frazetta drawings - see "Conan" on page 84 - and spectacular drawings by Kurtzman, Kenneth Smith (double-splash centerspread), and the full-cover, second back-cover by Vaughn Bode, this fourth annual edition of SQ delivered an incredible value for subscribers.  Editor Weist confessed  that he had "... never been able to write ..." but his ability to collect 100 pages of priceless fandom into one volume, while also pursuing a college degree program, was an amazing accomplishment.  [JAM 1/13/2015]

#5 - 1974 - 50 pages

After a four-year absence, SQ returned with a new editor (John Benson) but without an introduction to explain the transition.  The original editor (Jerry Weist) retained the position of "Publisher" and one of the original staffers (Roger Hill) is listed on the contents page but his contribution to the publication is unknown.  The text starts with 12 pages of "Kurtzman on Sesame Street".  The drawings are interesting but the link to EC is weak.  Of greater interest are 1. "The Planetoid" by Al Williamson and George Evans; 2. The great double-splash page from Pageant by Bill Elder; and 3.  The full-page, thank-you drawing by "Lil M. Severin.  Note the special touches by Elder: Detective Ed has no glass in his spyglass; Liberace has a candelabra on his accordion; Prince Violent has been impaled by two swords.  The major contribution by Benson is "Part One" of his exhaustive history of "The E.C. Fanzines".  The continued cooperation of MAD publisher Bill Gaines is evident throughout this shortened fanzine.  Benson ends the volume with promises of SQ editions to come.  While Jerry Weist was likely very happy to see his creation given new life, the innocence of the amateur writer - a trademark of most fanzines - is missing. [JAM 1/14/2015]

#6 - 1975 - 58 pages

This entire issue is dedicated to Bernard Krigstein (1919-1990), the great but under-rated EC artist.  The core of the issue is the 18-page (plus illustrations) interview with Mr. Krigstein by John Benson and Bhob Stewart (1937-2014).  Like many of the artists of the era, Krigstein saw himself as a commercial artist who unfortunately had to draw for the comics to make a living.  He had little use for writers or editors who just seemed to get in the way of his art.  Certainly, his talent was impressive but he seemed to lack the sense of humor that was so important for comic book art.  With this issue, SQ took a departure from the original fan format that provided a variety of great comic art for subscribers.  As an annual publication (at best), it seems unusual that a "special issue" would fill the entire output of the publication.  However, I appreciate the difficulties that fanzine publishers face and cannot complain too loudly about a specialized periodical that was supposed to end in 1970 after only four issues.  [JAM 1/16/2015]

#7 - 1977 - 50 pages

After skipping 1976, John Benson came back with a great issue in 1977.  The front and back covers are color drawings by Fleagle, Roy Krenkel (1918-1983).  The issue starts immediately with the best of some fan letters received mostly after the Krigstein issue (SQ #6).  Letter writers include Disney great Carl Barks (1901-2000), underground cartoonist, Denis Kitchen, magazine publisher, Bill Spicer, Bhob Stewart and several others who draw lengthy responses from Benson.  The issue includes Krenkel drawings from Creepy and Eerie, a discussion about comic "swipes", "The EC Fanzines Part Two", and the animated advertising cartoons by Jack Davis.  However, the gem of the issue is the full-color, 16-page western drawn by Harvey Kurtzman, that warns of the dangers of venereal disease ("Lucky Fights It Through").  The comic insert shows Kutzman's ability as an accomplished comic writer and artist in 1949.  Toward the end of the fanzine, readers are treated to two classic, full page drawings by Will Elder (1921-2008) - aka Bill or Wolf.  Elder's "Thanks For Your Note" drawing is a good example of the work he did for Mad #1-28 until he left town with Kurtzman.  The second drawing (trading beads with aliens) has no point of reference.  The variety of EC-related material in SQ #7 takes readers back to the mission of the Weist publications of 1967-1970.  [JAM 1/17/2015]

#8 - 1978 - 62 pages

John Benson is elevated to the position of "Editor and Publisher" for this issue as founder Jerry Weist settles into the "Publisher Emeritus" position.  SQ #8 is dominated by "The Transcripts: 1972 EC Convention", the 24-pages Q&A gleaned from the panel sessions during the greatest gathering of EC fans ever.  The meeting took place at the McAlpin Hotel in New York with most of the EC staff attending and answering questions from fans.  Fred von Bernewitz recorded the sessions and the SQ faithfully transcribed them.  Publisher Bill Gaines participated in all of the discussions, either on the panel or from the panel.  Although most of the EC titles were discontinued in 1954 because of the Comic Book Code, this convention provided a degree of closure for loyal fans.  Also in the issue is the first publication of Al Feldstein's first EC job ("Going Steady with Peggy").  For various reasons, "Peggy" did not make the cut.  Filling out the issue were letters, more swipes, "Fanzines Part 3", an unused Panic covers, plus drawings by Jack Davis, Roy Krenkel, Al Williamson, Bill Spicer, Wally Wood, George Evans and Johnny Craig.  [JAM 1/19/2015]

#9 - 1983 - 98 pages

Five years passed before John Benson could get another SQ issue to the printer but it was worth the wait.  The issue is dominated by transcripts of three interviews that span the years from 1973 to 1981.  Al Feldstein (in 1981) claimed not to remember much about the hundreds of comic book stories he wrote with Bill Gaines during the pre-Code EC years.  It seemed that he was not proud of his writing or artwork during the period, and was just doing it to earn a living.  Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder met with Benson in a restaurant in 1976.  Most of the Kurtzman/Elder interview consists of good-natured bantering while also being careful not to offend anyone.  Elder seemed to have a better memory of actual events.  The best of the three interviews is the 1973 reunion-of-sorts between Kurtzman and Gaines.  Both men tried to recall the events from 1949 to 1954 but were careful to avoid any discussion of their differences when Kurtzman quit Mad to start a humor magazine (Trump) for Hugh Hefner.  As always, Bill Gaines was the most generous of the bunch with his honest accounts of people and places.  There are numerous drawings in the issue that have rarely been seen in any publication.  Feldstein's drawings for the 1951 EC Christmas illustrate the various personalities and the family atmosphere that existed at EC.  The giant poster that the staff artists drew for the 1952 "Camera Party" is another excellent example of EC family art.  There are many drawings here from the Wally Wood collection that appear at the same time as his obituary and a letter to the editor from "Wally" commenting on the merits of SQ #8.  Throughout the issue the reader is reminded that the golden (platinum ?) age of EC lasted only six years (1949-1955) and that comic book fans will never see such quality and quantity of comic stories again.  [JAM 1/23/2015]

#10 - 2002 - 48 pages

Where have all the years gone?  EC fans must surely have thought that Squa Tront was dead.  But, almost two decades later, Benson brings it back as if 1983 was last year.  The cover of SQ #10 is an excellent painting of an EC Weird Science cover by Al Feldstein who has become a commercial artist in his post-MAD days.  None of the articles in the issue are especially significant but this is just a feel-good publication for the Boomers who are now approaching retirement.  The letters from 1984 in praise of SQ #9 are all excellent and they certainly deserve to be published in one place.  The bulk of the issue are old interviews with EC greats and the rehashing of fanzines passed including Benson's own Image from 1960.  Unlike previous issues, there are fewer drawings but there are some surprises.  Grant Geissman, who is a writer & a musician & a collector, shared his wonderful discovery of the lost Wally Wood page from Incredible Science Fiction 31.  The story of "You, Rocket" illustrates the tragedy of the Comic Code days.  Other interesting drawings here are the Roy Krenkel roughs from the Sid Check storage unit, the limo color drawing by Jack Davis, the sepia horror drawing by Wood, the unused MAD logo concept by Wood, and the in-progress "Rufus DeBree" pages with Will Elder inking.  SQ #10 brought the memory of EC into the 21st century.  The challenge for future issues will be to unearth more gems from that era.  [JAM 1/25/2015]

#11 - Spring 2005 - 64 pages

John Severin (1921-2012) has been promising and issue dedicated to artist John Severin and here it is.  Severin's career with EC was short compared to his work with others.  He mainly drew for Frontline Combat Tales, Two-Fisted Tales and none of the first ten MAD comics.  He was a competent artist with an attention to detail but he lacked the versatility and sense of humor required at Mad.  Editor Benson barely allowed any mention of Severin's 45-year relationship with Cracked, the ubiquitous but inferior copy of Mad.  In interviews, Severin admits that he wished that he had done more work for Mad, the acclaimed leader in the field of published comic art.  Now that Benson has paid tribute to Severin in SQ #11, he can get back to the business of dredging old EC art from forgotten archives.  [JAM 1/27/2015]

#12 - Summer 2007 - 64 pages

While much of SQ #12 is devoted to non-EC publications - notably, the Kurtzman adventures with Trump & Humbug - there was still more EC "meat" to reveal.  Bill Spicer's interview with Lyle Stuart (1922-2006) gives a great deal of interesting, inside information about the cut-throat business of comic book publishing in particular and all publishing in general.  The reprinting of the six issues of the EC newsletter to wholesalers (The Profit) is a treasure that was almost lost.  The best drawing in the issue is the back-page caricature of the entire EC staff by Kurtzman that was drawn for the EC apology that followed the "offensive" Gaines/Feldstein "Publisher of the Issue" joke in MAD #5.  Kurtzman was a great artist, writer and editor but he failed miserably as a businessman. [JAM 1/29/2015]

#13 - 2012 - 48 pages

The highlight of the issue is the amazing story of the restoration of the original Basil Wolverton art for the cover of MAD #11 by Roger Hill.  But, did we really need the first printing of MAD copier Flip #3 in an EC fanzine?  The unpublished 1954 comic book and the interview with writer/artist Howard Nostrand fill 23 pages of this short issue of Squa Tront.  There are fewer letters in the issue and not much EC art.  The last ten pages consist of 72 "Boondocker" cartoons drawn by Jack Davis while he was working for the U.S. Navy.  The art is good but the humor is weak.  Mr. Davis always needed a good writer to get him started. [JAM 1/31/2015]