I read last month that early fandom contributor and zinester Jerry Fellows passed away -- my condolences go out to his friends and family. I never had the chance to meet Jerry, but he sounds like a dude after our own hearts and the kind of person I'd like to highlight here on Same Hat.
Jerry came to my attention a few years back, when I was reading Fred Patten's personal history of the development of Anime/Manga fandom in America, "Watching Anime, Reading Manga: 25 Years of Essays and Reviews". In Patten's timeline of anime fandom, he noted the following about February 1983 (the same month that Nakazawa's I Saw It was published in English by Educomics):
Space Fanzine Yamato is published by Steve Harrison, Ardith Carlton, and Jerry Fellows in Michigan as "the ultimate information source" on Space Battleship Yamato/Star Blazers. This is the first American fan effort to produce a "Roman Album"-style complete information guide to a particular anime title.
Manga fandom is a strange and fascinating thing to me, and treads somewhere between the two (formerly-overlapping) worlds of early SF fandom and comic book fandom. Manga (and more specifically, Anime) fandom developed along similar timeframes as the SF scene, but remained the realm of very devoted enthusiasts for a long time; the scene was, perhaps happily, kept small initially by the double-whammy limitations of 1) a physical barrier to getting your hands on the actual media you wanted to consume-- first 16mm films, then later more easily VHS tapes-- and 2) a language barrier to understanding the anime/manga, in a time before the "boom" in Japanese Language programs at US universities that happened alongside the Japanese economic bubble of the mid-to-late 80s.
Interestingly enough, a "collector" market of manga/anime (as distinct from toys, models, vinyl) remains mostly non-existent to this day; you can find old VHS tapes and 1st editions of early Viz floppies for under a buck easily at used book shops. The fan translations, early dubs, and fanzines at the start of the scene were simply labors of love, currency of in-group identification between folks "in the know" but mostly invisible and valueless to folks outside of fandom--- and now mostly forgotten to all but the hardest core/weirdest of current anime/manga fans.
In the context of typewriters and expensive/early Xerox technology (and no access to things like InDesign or um, the internet), the gleeful and thorough devotion of fans like Steve, Ardith and Jerry impresses me and inspires the little zine projects I want to work on. Steve wrote a detailed and very personal recounting of the experience creating Space Fanzine Yamato on his blog, Let's Anime!, and it details the dorky/poignant way in which friendships blossom and wither over the course of a long project. Please take a second to read it!
This excerpt from my interview with Fred Schodt in 2007 gives a little more context to the scene that Jerry was a part of, the pioneers of fandom from which all weeaboos are descended:
ANT: There’s some stuff written about other early fandoms – whether it’s science fiction fandom or American comic book fandom – that thing when a sub-culture scene later turns into a big business. I’m always curious about how that gets started. The people you knew in the US who read your first book were probably part of a sort of vanguard of manga or anime fans. Who were those people? Were they science fiction fans? Dungeons and Dragons people? Or Japanophiles?
FRED: I knew a lot of those people in the very beginning, the people from the really enthusiastic manga and anime fans were very unusual people. Jared and I were actually working and interpreting for Tezuka on an early trip – I think ’79 or 1980, I don’t remember the exact date, but I know that we went to see the C/FO folks (Cartoon Fantasy Organization) and I had never met people like that in my life. It was almost frightening. [LAUGHS] I had never met people who were so dedicated to something which was so obscure in the United States at the time, and it was a very small group. But they were people who became quite big in fandom, such as Fred Patton in particular, he was a real central figure in American fandom, and still is.
They were people who were obsessed with anime – more anime than manga, very few people could read it because there weren’t any English manga available. So their entry point had been actually the early 60s anime that was shown in the United States, such as Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion. Fred Patten's good friend Robin Leyden from the C/FO was a huge Astro Boy fan, the likes of which you’d rarely see. He later on became a special effects animator. Robyn actually made a model of Astro Boy and presented it to Tezuka...
ANT: What was Tezuka’s reaction to that, to these strange American anime fans?
FRED: Oh, he was overwhelmed. [Tezuka] had been in contact with some of them even before Jared and I met him. But they were the first Anime fans in the US, to such a serious degree. Almost scary. These were not people who were interested in Japanese business or technology or anything like that. They were just focused on anime, the characters and the stories, they just loved it. So it was actually very touching.
ANT: It seems like a lot of those people in the early 80s were the ones that eventually drummed up interest in anime, and a lot of them were the people who first ones that did fan subtitles.
FRED: That’s right. And organized the first conventions.
Here are a few more images from Steve's post, I gotta take a minute and track down a PDF/scans of this great piece of fandom history sometime soon.
RIP, Jerry Fellows... and hats off to all the early fandom pioneers!
(The staff of Space Fanzine Yamato)
[More soon: Gyo manga, tons of Vertical releases, my dumb projects, Umezz Carnival 2011, etc!]