| Witzend (1966)
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Publisher: Wonderful Publishing Company
Publication Date: Summer 1966 - 1985
Country: United States
Edited and published by Bill Pearson on an irregular schedule spanning decades, the alternative comic book witzend featured contributions by both newcomers to comics, leading comic book artists and professional illustrators. The title was printed in lower-case. With the emphasis on graphic stories, the magazine is generally regarded as a forerunner of the underground comics movement of the late 1960s. It was launched in 1966 by the writer-artist Wallace Wood shortly after Richard Kyle coined the term "graphic story" (1964-65) and Bhob Stewart, during a panel discussion at the second New York comic book convention, coined the term "underground comics."
In 1965, when the illustrator Dan Adkins began working at the Wood Studio, he showed Wood pages he had been creating for his planned comics-oriented publication, Outlet. This inspired Wood to become an editor-publisher, and he began assembling art and stories for a magazine he titled et cetera. A front cover paste-up with the et cetera logo was prepared, but when Wood learned of another magazine with a similar title, there was a last-minute title change.
Wood launched witzend in the summer of 1966, with a statement of "no policy" and a desire to give his friends in the comics field a creative detour from the formulaic industry mainstream. The contents included Wood's "Animan" and "Bucky Ruckus," and another highlight was Al Williamson's science fiction adventure, "Savage World." Reed Crandall illustrated Edgar Rice Burroughs, along with a mixed bag of contributions by Steve Ditko, Jack Gaughan, Gil Kane, Jack Kirby, Ralph Reese, Roy G. Krenkel and Angelo Torres. The issue wrapped with Frank Frazetta's back cover portrait of Buster Crabbe.
The second issue has a front cover by Wood and a back cover by Ralph Reese. Gray Morrow takes the lead with his scifi fantasy story "Orion", featuring some of his best work; it was not completed in witzend but was eventually in Heavy Metal in 1979. Next is two pages of "Hey, Look!" by Harvey Kurtzman; then "a feeble fable," "If You Can't Join 'em... Beat 'em" by Warren Sattler. The next five pages feature Reed Crandall at his best with more illustrations from ERB's John Carter series. The center spread has poems by Wood, Reese and Pearson plus art by Frazetta for Burroughs' Pellucidar series. Bill Elder has a cartoon. There's "Midnight Special" by Steve Ditko and "By the Fountain in the Park" by Don Martin. The issue concludes with another installment of Wood's "Animan."
The third issue has a Wood front cover with an Al Williamson back cover. It opens with Ditko's first "Mr. A" by Steve Ditko and another Reed Crandall installment. "The Invaders" was illustrated by Richard Bassford. Following Wood's "Pipsqueak Papers" came more "Hey Look!" by Kurtzman and "Last Chance," a previously unpublished EC New Direction story from the 1950s, drawn by Frank Frazetta and rewritten and edited by Bill Pearson. The issue also featured work by Roger Brand, Will Eisner, Richard "Grass" Green, Art Spiegelman and Bhob Stewart.
With witzend 4, Wood began a serialization of his epic fantasy, "The World of the Wizard King." These installments of illustrated prose fiction were co-authored with Pearson. Shifting from illustrated text to a comics format, Wood continued the storyline in his later graphic novel, published in two editions (one b&w, one color) -- The Wizard King (1978) and The King of the World (Les Editions du Triton, 1978).
After the fourth issue, Wood sold witzend to Pearson "for the sum of $1.00," and the Pearson-edited issues continued to explore new avenues with contributions from Vaughn Bode, Eisner, Jeff Jones, Wood, Bernie Wrightson and others. Pearson also assembled theme issues -- Good Girls (diverse drawings of women in issue 13) and a non-comics issue profiling W.C. Fields (issue 9).
A critical survey of the magazine, "Wood at His witzend" by Rick Spanier, appears in Bhob Stewart's biographical anthology, Against the Grain: Mad Artist Wallace Wood (TwoMorrows, 2003). Designer-typographer Spanier once edited a similar graphic story publication, Picture Story Magazine, requested by the Museum of Modern Art for its collection. After analyzing all 13 issues of witzend and fitting it into the context of alternative publishing of the period, Spanier concluded that witzend's "salient point, that comic artists were entitled to more control and ownership of their own work, would eventually be recognized by the publishers of comic books, but it is hard to argue that witzend itself was a key factor in that development. Like so many other visionary endeavors, it may simply have been ahead of its time."
Issues #1-4 published by Wally Wood, #5-12 by Wonderful Publishing Company, and #13 was self-published by Bill Pearson.
Number of issues cataloged: 13