Bhob Stewart (1937-2014)

Against the Grain_Mad Artist Wallace Wood edited by Bhob StewartArtist, writer, editor and fanzine fan Bhob Stewart, died February 24. He was 76, and had struggled with emphysema for 35 years.

Stewart’s The EC Fan Bulletin was one of the earliest comics fanzines, first appearing in 1953. He was art director for Xero, Dick and Pat Lupoff’s Hugo-winning fanzine published from 1960-1963.

A few years ago Bhob explained for File 770’s readers how he got the “h” in his first name

When I was in college I did a weekly cartoon for the campus newspaper. One day I decided to change my signature on the cartoons. I recalled the fannish “h” and added it in my signature. When I later did fanzine drawings in 1960, the NY fans just began using the signature as my name.

Stewart came from Kirbyville, Texas, and later lived in Missouri and New York.

Working in New York’s comix scene in the late Sixties, Stewart succeeded Vaughn Bodé as co-editor of Gothic Blimp Works, beginning with #3 which sported an R. Crumb cover.

And he is credited for coining the term “underground comics” while on a panel at a 1966 comics convention.

He wrote comics for Byron Preiss, Marvel, Warren, Charlton, and Heavy Metal, and edited and designed magazines Castle of Frankenstein and Flashback.

GreenChant1Bhob Stewart devised Wacky Packages and other humor products for Topps.

He wrote the book Scream Queens with Calvin Beck (1978). He helped Bill Gaines select stories for The EC Horror Library of the 1950s (1971), edited Against the Grain: Mad Artist Wallace Wood (2003) and the Mad Style Guide (1994).

From 2005 until late last year he posted regularly on his blog Potrzebie about his experiences in the field, such as time time he helped Wally Wood knock out an issue of Jungle Jim in 48 hours.

Juggling jobs and temporarily minus his regular assistant, Ralph Reese, Wally Wood faced a sudden two-week deadline on a Jungle Jim comic book for King Comics. Nothing had been done. His solution to the problem, I was told, began with me. I was to write three Jungle Jim stories in two days, he told me. In 15 minutes, he outlined how to do it: Draw roughs on typing paper, begin each story in the middle of an action situation, write as few captions as possible (so the pictures tell the story) and use conventional panel layouts rather than sprawling, tricky page designs.

With no time to research the original Alex Raymond characters, I resorted to a near-satiric approach based on a hazy, half-buried recollection of the early 1950s Johnny Weissmuller Jungle Jim film series…

[Thanks to Bill Warren for the story.]

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11 thoughts on “Bhob Stewart (1937-2014)

  1. A MONUMENTAL figure in many of the genres we love.

    …And I truly believe comics fandom would have developed differently without Bhob’s early fanzine(s).

    (For those who loved the great eclectic fantasy and science fiction media magazine, CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN (a nationally distributed newsstand pub), it was also Bhob who edited many of the best issues for editor in chief/publisher Calvin Beck.)

    Bhob was also generous with his time, sending emails over the last few years, helping whenever I had a research question about his particular epic.

    This FILE 770 headline was like a kick in the gut…

    And a terrible reminder not to put off anything. For quite a while, I’ve meant to pick up the phone…

    Fortunately, Bhob has left a wonderful legacy.

    And his delightful blog, the aforementioned PORTZEBIE, gives everyone a chance to meet him.

    James H. Burns

  2. Bhob was an amazing man. In the early 1990s he decided out of the blue to call me from his office at DC Comic and began feeding me artwork chores associated with the then new Animated Batman TV show. I did puzzles, I did a coloring book, I did advertising graphics and, amazingly, a Happy Meal box design. It was a wonderful time and he taught me much, while never treating me as anything other than a peer.

    We stayed in occasional (but regular) contact after that. I went to his website often and he would send me links to cool stuff. The best, however, was when he’d call and we’d have long conversations about everything. The last time was about a year ago, I believe. He was a dear, sweet guy. Very mellow and funny.

    While it is true that he was one of the real founders of comics fandom, Bhob was also one of the early practitioners of fannish cartoons and comic strips. He originated the multi-page covers on VOID, as well as his noteworthy work on XERO.

    He was also well respected in the independent film industry as a reviewer and champion of experimental animation and bizarre amateur cinema, which he wrote about extensively in his column in HEAVY METAL during Ted White’s brief tenure as editor there.

    While it is true that he was very involved in the early days of THE GOTHIC BLIMP WORKS, he did not follow Bode as the editor. That chore was left to Kim Deitch. Bhob was supposed to be the original editor before Vaughn got the job, but politics amongst the early contributors caused him to step back from the position, which led to Bode being selected as the editor instead Bhob or the other candidates who were jockeying for the position. Nevertheless, he did suggest Bode for the job and brought folks like Mike Kaluta and Steve Stiles into the paper’s pages.

    How very fortunate I was to have been his friend. He will be missed. Shit.

  3. Ghod no…but then it seems the obits have been a regular here lately and that will continue, sadly…

  4. Dan: Thanks for your excellent reminiscence. I just want to assure you I based my line on a 2012 NYT blog post “Where Underground Comix Lurched Into Life” and this comment Bhob left there

    When Vaughn Bodé decided to drop out, he phoned me and asked me to take over as the “Gothic Blimp” editor. I don’t have #3 to check, but #4 has the credit line: “Editors: Kim Deitch, Bhob Stewart”. Some sources name Van Howell and Joe Schenkman as the co-editors of #8.

    And online I found #3 listed for sale with info citing Bhob as editor (or at least, one of the editors). So that’s how I arrived at the statement I published. I’ve updated the reference to show him as a co-editor.

  5. Mike:

    Thanks for your explanation. I don’t doubt the correctness of Bhob’s listing as an editor, as of GBW 3, but as he once explained it to me, the BLIMP WORKS and it’s parent publication THE EAST VILLAGE OTHER were part of a very tumultuous political atmosphere and despite Bhob’s presence at the publications, he tended to hang in the background because he didn’t want to step on too many toes around the place. He mainly worked in the background where he would send artists to Bode or Deitch, or whoever, to get them into the paper.

    He wasn’t viewed as being a contemporary by many of the cartoonists at the paper who were very close friends and were suspicious of others they weren’t sure of. For instance, Bode was selected to be the editor of the first issue because there had been a power struggle going on for the editorial post and he’d briefly come to NYC in 1968 from Syracuse and was not part of the political dynamic, so they gave him the job. That disconnect made him a safe choice for the editorship. When he went back to Syracuse he gave up the job and it officially passed to Kim Deitch, who didn’t particularly want it, either, but needed the meager paycheck.

    Bhob had originally suggested the idea of an underground comics paper to EVO publisher Walter Bowart — who was an old friend of Bhob’s from his own days as an sf fan — and Bowart asked him to pull it together and be the editor. After that, as Bhob was beginning his work, other artists got interested and one of them — who is very well known now, but shall remain nameless here — started lobbying hard for the job as editor. At the time he was known to be emotionally unstable and Bowart didn’t want him to have the job, but Bhob didn’t want to get into a pissing match with anybody about it and began adopting a wait and see position.

    Finally, when the competition got rather crazy, Bhob withdrew from the job — though he had already started getting material together. Bowart didn’t want the unstable cartoonist to be the editor and asked Bhob to suggest someone else, he suggested Bode, who he’d just met through SF fandom. Bowart agreed to offer the job to Vaughn mostly because he was from out of town and not part of the competition. Vaughn came up with the name GOTHIC BLIMP WORKS, which most of the other artists hated — they preferred the title that R. Crumb had used on the cover of the 1st issue, JIVE COMIX. Most of Bode’s work in the paper was reprints of earlier strips he’d done in Syracuse, though he also contributed ads and recruited some artists, like Doug Lovenstein, from fanzines.

    Though he was listed as editor in the second issue, Bode had already returned to Syracuse and had given up the editorship. It then passed to Deitch, though Bhob continued to send cartoonists to the office with new art. Bowart was apparently responsible for putting Bhob’s name on the masthead, though insiders at the paper didn’t consider him to really be an editor, but Bhob was happy to get the recognition. He would have loved to have actually edited the paper, but didn’t want the headaches that the position would bring him nor the competition from the other cartoonists.

    So, while it is totally fair that he was listed as an editor, he personally felt that he had been more like the mid-wife or, perhaps, the sperm donor for what became GOTHIC BLIMP WORKS.

    Bhob never wrote about all of this during his lifetime because he did not want to create any bad feelings between himself and the now famous cartoonist and asked me not to write about it either — at least not while he was still around. The credit as editor was less important to him than keeping the peace with the once unstable artist who had fought so hard for the job at the time.

    There’s no need for you to publish this if you don’t want to. I just thought I’d give you whatever background I had on the whole thing. On the other hand, Bhob was quite happy to take credit for his inflammatory comic strip about Jesus that ran in early issues of THE REALIST, years before EVO and GBW ever existed. He also was the guy who first created the format and stylebook for movie listings in TV GUIDE in the early ’60s, among many other amazing things.

    Oh, and don’t forget, he could put his foot behind his head, too. He will be extremely missed. Thanks, Mike.

  6. Bhob also did a column for my ALGOL/STARSHIP, “Filmedia”, on films and other stuff. As I wrote in 1979, “Stewart, who used to go by the name Bhob to distinguish himself from Bobby Stewart of Texas… I remember his ‘The Year the Universe Lost the Pennant,’ an experimental film that involved Bhob rolling down the aisles at the 1963 Worldcon on a hospital cart; his really fine artwork, both in XERO and other fanzines over the years; and his name cropping up more and more over the last few years in film and media-oriented magazines, including TV GUIDE and CINEFANTASTIQUE.”

    And who can forget that he was famous for being able to put his foot behind his head, not an easy thing!

  7. Dan: Thanks for reconciling Bhob’s comment with history. I figure you know the field inside-out, yet I couldn’t quiet the shrill little voice in my head that kept repeating “but–but– I read it on the internet!”

    I’m also glad you included the detail about being able to put his foot behind his head — I came to fandom too late to witness that.

  8. Around 1972 or 1973, in a room party at some east coast convention (maybe Balticon?), faned Dave Hulvey said to me, “Prove you’re a trufan — put both feet behind your head.”
    With less sense of fanhistory then than I have now, I didn’t know the details of the fhannish reference.

  9. St. Louis fan Steve Frischer used to be able to do that, too — when he demonstrated it to David Gerrold, he called it his impression of The Man Who Folded Himself.

  10. A Bhob Stewart Memorial will be held at the Columbia University Library on Sunday, May 4th from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. Those interested in updates are invited to contact Brad Verter — brad (dot) verter (at) gmail (dot) com

  11. Bhob Stewart saved me from a nasty, mean, unpleasant urban commune I had become wrapped up in in 1969. The day I decided to finally leave, I realized I had lost the ability to figure out how to take the subway or bus (I had five bucks, but brainwashing will do that to you). I called Bhob from a pay phone and he came for me at once in a taxi.
    He lent me his apartment for several days and helped me to get in touch with my boyfriend, Art Spiegelman, who had been kicked out of that same commune a few days before.
    I owe him my sanity and possibly my life.
    Thankfully I was able to tell him how much I appreciated his kind and generous act before he died.
    — Ladybelle Fiske

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