K-a Blam

Man in mask, cape, and bodysuit sitting pensively by a drawing board with large question marks above him

I drew the picture above 15 years ago for CAPA-Alpha #362.

CAPA-Alpha was (and still is, I think) comics’ premier apa — or a.p.a., or APA, but “apa” went fairly quickly in usage from acronym to outright word, like “scuba” or “laser”. There’s also slight variation on what the term stands for: I’ve found “amateur press association” the most popular with “amateur publishing alliance” and the expected variations mixing those two phrases used on occasion. Apas can be focused
on pretty much any common interest or discipline and the form can be traced back well over a century. The gist of it all is that each member puts together a homemade fanzine, or just ’zine in modern parlance, known as an apazine because it’s directed specifically at the apa’s readership; it’s then sent to a coordinator who collates all the contributions into one central mailing, distributing the whole thing back to members.

While this may sound quaint or flat-out crazy today, it wasn’t so long ago that the Internet was still very slow and text-based, and correspondence within a shared hobby was still done on paper through the mail. I still miss the days of putting my ’zines together by hand, if not the copying costs and other frustrations.

Founding father of organized comics fandom Jerry Bails started CAPA-Alpha in 1964 and it was still running strong nearly 30 years later when I joined the waitlist and eventually the membership roster at the encouragement of fan-turned-pro Tony Isabella. Many future professionals began in comics apas — Mark Waid, Paul Levitz, Don & Maggie Thompson, Wendy & Richard Pini, Frank Miller, Mark Evanier, on and on. What enticed me in particular about CAPA-Alpha, as I graduated college and looked to break into the comics industry beyond the little freelance journalism I’d done, was that pros like Tony who remained fans at heart tended to stick around there. The “CAPA” in CAPA-Alpha, I just realized I’ve forgot to mention, stood for “comics a.p.a.” while the “Alpha” was both a designation of primacy and a play on the fact that the “CAPA” sounded like the Greek letter kappa; “CAPA-Alpha” was frequently abbreviated “K-a” with the “a” written by some as close to the lowercase Greek “α” as one could, although I always pronounced it “kay ay” in my head. (CAPA-Alpha was, by the way, the name given to both the organization and the central mailings, each of which was numbered; I tend to italicize the name when referring to the mailing as an omnibus publication.)

I was an eager kid, relatively speaking, especially compared to the rest of the roster when my tenure began — all the other fellas (and a couple of ladies) were at least nominally grown-ups with careers, many in comics or related media; for the most part, they were quite kind and encouraging. Writing is a tougher skill to demonstrate than drawing or other visual arts, so my cartooning got attention and whatever aptitude I had was in demand among those in K-a who enjoyed collaborating.

Most of the ’zines in CAPA-Alpha featured writing about comics (and such related subjects as animation, SF/fantasy, and pulp fiction), often with attendant photocopied comics panels or covers. The drawing of mine that leads off this post was for the cover of a genuine K-a comics section, mailed with CAPA-Alpha #362 in December 1994, consisting of creative work by the members. I swiped the main concept/pose from the cover to Superman #41, cover-dated July-Aug. 1946, which for decades I only knew from its reproduction in miniature in my beloved hardcover copy of Superman from
the ’30s to the ’70s
, and I swapped in a version of the superheroic K-a mascot that I had seen in some apazine or another. The chair is based on the one in the Superman cover, but I drew in my own art table and the box that sat next to it holding my supplies — except the box is way smaller than it should be and the perspective on it, to my lingering chagrin, is out of whack.

Superman cover with the hero sitting pensively by a drawing board with large white question marks above him Man in mask, cape, and bodysuit sitting pensively by a drawing board with large question marks above him
Left: Cover to Superman #41 © 1946 DC Comics. Pencils: Wayne Boring. Inks: George Roussos. Colors: Unknown. Right: Cover to CAPA-Alpha’s Comics and Stories © 1994 Brian Saner Lamken.

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