Don Markstein (1947-2012)

Don Markstein, always a colorful and entertaining figure, and early in his fannish career sometimes a controversial one, died March 11 due to respiratory failure following a prolonged illness. Don spent his last years in Arizona but remained deeply linked to New Orleans and Southern fanhistory.

Don was a charter member of the New Orleans Science Fiction Association (NOSFA) founded June 25, 1967. Other charter members were John Guidry, Doug Wirth, Don Walsh, Justin Winston, and Rick Norwood.

He co-chaired DeepSouthCon in 1968 and 1973. Don became official editor of the Southern Fandom Press Alliance in 1970 and was credited by Guy H. Lillian III for a boom in the apa’s popularity. For this Don was honored with the Rebel Award in 1978.

Don’s consuming passion was comics. He collected tens of thousands of newspaper comic strips. In 1981 Don and his wife Gigi founded Apatoons, an apa for research in the field of cartoons. In 1999 he created a comics history resource, The Toonopedia, and wrote for it daily until health prevented him.

Don edited Comics Revue and books on comic history, including The Prince Valiant Companion. He also wrote Walt Disney comic book stories for such characters as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck — and the rather less famous Bucky Bug.

Irv Koch introduced me to Don at the 1972 Worldcon in Los Angeles. The three of us had become acquainted before the con through fanzines. (Mark Evanier also remembers meeting him at L.A.con.)

Don sporadically published issues of Rally, his fannish newzine, during the Seventies. What was surely Rally’s most controversial story ever criticized Harlan Ellison prior to his GoHship at the 1978 Worldcon in Phoenix. Ellison planned to dedicate his appearance to raising consciousness about the Equal Rights Amendment because ERA supporters had declared a boycott of businesses in non-ratifying states after Ellison accepted the invitation, Arizona among them. Louisiana was another, and when Ellison went to New Orleans sometime before the Worldcon Don lambasted the appearance as a violation of Ellison’s pro-ERA stance. Ellison was outraged, for his activities there had included lecturing in support of the ERA.

Don was educated at LSU in Baton Rouge. For a time he worked on the staff of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, writing for the Sunday magazine. Over the years he did restaurant reviews for the Phoenix Business Journal and editing and production work for Arizona Living, Arizona Women’s Voice, Comics Interview, Comics Revue, Phoenix, Phoenix Resource, and Louisiana Weekly Employer.

Don suffered a stroke in February 2011 and had been in long-term care.

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11 thoughts on “Don Markstein (1947-2012)

  1. Don frequently straddled the thin line between “gadfly” and “troublemaker”, and could raise hackles. Some people liked him, others didn’t. I was one of the former. He was witty and funny, and I’m sorry we’d fallen out of touch over the years.

  2. I remember that I used to trade for one of his fanzines — it was just about the hardest one to spell right, too. Tandschtickerzeitung. (Maybe… )

  3. Tandstikkerzeitung. The internet tells me that translates as “toothpick newspaper”but I do not remember why Don chose that title.

  4. According to comics blogs, he was active only in comics fandom, not SF fandom. They all mention “NOSFA” without spelling out that it stands for, mention his work on conventions without mewntioning they were SF ones, and one hilariously says he was in Sons of the Sand, which it explains is a “science fiction advocacy group”. Sure.

  5. As for the fanzine name Tandstikkerzeitung!, if I recall correctly, either Don or Faruk von Turk found it in an old novel and Don liked it so much that he took it as the title of his personalzine.

    I remember one year Don described his Mardi Gras costume which he wore whenever a Krewe parade went past his house as a plastic trash bag with “For Use Only for Prevention of Disease” taped onto it.

    I’m very sorry he’s gone. His was a unique voice even for fanzine fandom, the Toonopedia website is full of useful information, now frozen with no more to be added, and he was just fun to hang around. And when I told him of a comic con pictured in Duckberg (in retrospect perhaps written by Mark Evanier or Don Rosa), he turned it into a report that Duckberg, Calisota was about to bid for a worldcon. That would have been a hell of a convention, even if only in imagination.

  6. While comics was Don’s primary interest, he was also involved in “regular” fandom. According to an email I received from Don back in 2010:
    “I do publish that “newsletter” on a regular basis (and have for more than 40 years), but it gets printed and sent to a group where it’s distributed to all the members. Sometimes I give away overruns (the early issues were mimeographed) or send somebody a PDF, but don’t have a regular mailing list.” He attached copies of ‘Sphere’ #s 244 and 245 for me to read – they were mainly concerning his day-to-day life while at the same time were witty and fun to read. I don’t know what ‘group’ he referred to above.
    It was soon thereafter that his health, then not the best, deteriorated fast, and I regret that I never got a chance to see or talk to him again. Due to a combination of unforeseen circumstances I also lost contact with GiGi at about the same time – if someone has her email address (not FB, please) I’d dearly appreciate it being forwarded to me. My deepest condolences to both their families and friends. Don was one of a kind.

    As a note to Bill Higgens above, it was Don’s unique style to have chosen a title like ‘Tandstikkerzeitung!’ If it wasn’t a challenge to decypher, it wasn’t worth his time. RIP, Don.

  7. I read random forums occasionally and ther are times I feel like I’m getting to know a whole new man. He was amazing in more ways than I knew.

    Carol, Mom can be reached at toonopedia at Yahoo dot com. The address was set up for questions about and suggestions for the toonopedia, which we would like to keep going. I’m sure a more personal way to reach her directly can be given from there.

    I grew up in fandom, attending my first science fiction convention at the age of 8 days. It was years before I realized that comics and science fiction were not one and the same, my dad was just diverse.

  8. We hope the toonopedia is not frozen. Dad had a lot more to give to it and wanted to keep it going as best we could (which is why it’s been up despite his inability to contribute in any way since it’s 10th anniversary). We are opening the site up to articles by others. Feel free to submit entries to see your byline in the toonopedia. Any questions or suggestions or even articles for consideration may be sent to toonopedia at yahoo dot com.

    Please keep in mind, that with many exceptions, he tended to post about toons that were at least 10 years old. These exceptions tended to involve toons that were being brought back in current media (such as a new movie coming out involving toons that were more recent than 10 years), high demand from readers through email, or his own whim. Which he was more able to get away with than the most who might be considered to submit articles.

  9. Rachel

    I met Don in the spring of 1967 or there abouts. He done good. He will be missed.

  10. Carol

    That group that Don mentioned was the Southern Fandom Press Alliance (an APA) still going strong in it’s 51st year.

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