Friday, May 22, 2009

Those Awesome Fan Mags: Amazing Heroes

Remember Amazing Heroes? That twice-monthly, comicbook-sized (more often than not running 100+ pages), professional-quality fan magazine that ran from 1981-1992? I sure do. It was kind of the TV Guide of comics. As I recall, it was pretty much intended to be a lighter, more superhero friendly antidote to publisher Fantagraphics' heavy, scholarly-minded (read: pretentious) The Comics Journal. At first, Gary Groth (Fantagraphics' publisher) kept it a bit of a secret that the same publisher was responsible for both TCJ and AH, and published AH as "Redbeard, Inc.", but eventually the cat came out of the bag, and nobody really cared, anyway.

Suffice to say that Amazing Heroes (affectionately referred to as AH), was a fun mag. Each issue listed all the comics that were to be published over the next two weeks ("Coming Distractions"), had great feature stories and/or interviews with/on popular writers, artists, and comics, loads of reviews ("Comics in Review") and sported a lively letters page--which actually ran several pages ("Amazing Readers"). Many issues reprinted popular comic strips like Star Hawks and Star Wars, as well as running sometimes funny "editorial cartoons" poking fun at various comics characters and creators. One of the best features of AH was its "Hero Histories" in which we'd get an exhaustive overview of anything from X-Men or Teen Titans to Enemy Ace or even Brother Power, the Geek. Best of all, each issue was chock full of art, including original pieces by both pros and up-and-coming fan artists. Oh, and AH's covers simply screamed "buy me!" more often than not.

AH's most popular feature, by far, was its "Preview Issues" in which we'd get info about every comic to be published for whatever year the Preview Issue was published for. It was a really cool and handy resource, as the entries were run in alphabetical order making it easy to find and read the scoop on your favorite titles first. The "Preview Issues" were so popular, in fact, that they were eventually spun off into their own mag, appropriately titled Amazing Heroes Preview Special.

Lighter than TCJ, but much more substantial than every issue of Wizard piled one on top of the other, AH filled an important niche and did so with tons of class. But then, what else would one expect from a mag edited by guys like Mark Waid and Dave Olbrich?

Sorry about the relatively short post for this week, but between getting back on track from my son's wedding last weekend and preparing for my daughter and son-in-law's college graduation this coming weekend, Ol' Groove is in a bit of a pinch for time. Never fear, though, for next week I'll be back with a huge post on the T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents in the 1980s. Or something else if I don't get that monster-post finished. Either way, it'll be good stuff, I promise!


Daniel Graves said...

I loved this mag, Groove. When did it end? They just don't make 'em like this anymore. I still enjoy reading magazines about comics, Alter Ego being my favourite as I love the Golden & Silver Ages. I'd almost forgotten about AH -- there was some good readin' there.
Fr. Dan

The Groovy Agent said...

You're welcome, Father! As for when AH ended, best I can tell, it stopped amazing us with the July 1, 1992 issue, #204.

Booksteve said...

Ahhh...AMAZING HEROES. My first published article ever was in AH but it happened in the middle of a round of musical editors so the guy I had established a relationship with was gone by the time I attempted a follow-up and the guy that replaced HIM was gone before I could establish a relationship with HIM! Thus, only one AH article for me.

Scott said...

Amazing Heroes was a great resource when I came back to comics in 1984 - lots of articles alerting me to the good new stuff, and the Hero Histories reminding me of the good old stuff to search out.

I'll probably never forgive them for their April fool issue that made me think Ditko was returning to Spider-Man, though!

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As for the rest of ya, the purpose of this blog is to (re)introduce you to the great comics of the 1980s. If you like what you see, do what I do--go to a comics shop, bookstore, e-Bay or whatever and BUY YOUR OWN!