Win a FREE Autographed Copy of ‘The Early Years of McFarlane Toys’ signed by author PAUL BURKE!

Win a FREE Autographed Copy of ‘The Early Years of McFarlane Toys’ signed by author PAUL BURKE!

Asylum Publications

*Special thanks to Paul Burke and Asylum Publications for this*

We are raffling off 3 autographed copies of ‘The Early Years of McFarlane Toys‘ signed by author and co-founder Paul Burke!

*3 winners will be selected at random. Enter now for your chance to win!*

https://detroitbookfest.com/enter-to-win/

The raffle will run from Monday, October 14 to Sunday, October 20.

Asylum Publications

Asylum Publications is a new publishing company located in Metro Detroit. Owned by serial entrepreneur Paul Burke, Asylum is slated to publish 100 titles by Summer 2020.

One of their most recent offerings is a beautifully rendered book called ‘The Early Years of McFarlane Toys‘.

Paul Burke worked closely with Todd McFarlane to co-develop McFarlane Toys and he has created a book about the unusual and ever-interesting twists & turns in bringing this multi-million-dollar toy company to life.

At the time, Paul was Co-founder / co-CEO / Vice Chairman of TMP International, which McFarlane Toys was a division of and, fun fact, they also had a partial ownership stake in the Edmonton Oilers NHL hockey team.

Image courtesy of Spawn

McFarlane Toys started in 1994 as Todd’s Toys, after they detached from Mattel and became independent. They quickly became the world’s 4th largest toy company and the largest US action figure company in Japan.

McFarlane Toys originally made Spawn action figures based on Todd’s comic book series called Spawn. After those were wildly successful, they started producing other general horror, movie and sports figures.

Span logo courtesy of Spawn

Fun Fact:

The Spawn comic book series just received a Guinness World Record for issue 301, making it the Longest Running Creator-Owned Comic Book in history.

‘The Early Years of McFarlane Toys’ is a fascinating book which you will enjoy immensely.

 

Biography of Paul Burke 

Paul Burke (left) and Jack Faragasso (right) at Jack’s apartment in Manhattan NYC

Paul Burke is a well-known behind the scenes serial entrepreneur and financier whom typically does business on behalf of creators and artists.

Paul currently lives in Metro Detroit but has lived and traveled all over the world for business.

He has been a businessman for five decades and was involved in the management of rock band KISS in the 1970’s and even went on to found his own music publishing company, Stabur East Music / Can-Am Music, Inc.

In 1983 he got out of management and into publishing when he founded Stabur Graphics / Stabur Press publishing companies.

Stabur worked with some of the top cartoonists in the world and published several high-quality books, art prints, specialty books, books for Disney, Rocky Horror Picture Show, etc, until eventually merging with Caliber Comics, a company owned by his pal Gary Reed.

Among many other endeavors, Paul co-founded and was chairman of an automotive design and fabrication company, Blue Fusion, which became the 44th Global Tier One supplier to Ford Motor Company.

He re-organized a security mapping and documentation company for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

And he formed a company to advise private equity firms, EverGreen Capital Management and The Gores Group.

Stabur Home Video ‘Comic Book Greats’ (image courtesy of Stabur)

Over the years, Paul has interfaced with an impressive cross-section of pop-culture titans ranging from Stan Lee to Mad Magazine (Jack Davis and Bill Elder) to Bob Guccione (Penthouse) and others.

Paul Burke and Stan Lee even co-produced a 13-episode video series called ‘Comic Book Greats‘ from 1991-1992 for Stabur Home Video.

Paul also co-developed Deadworld Zombie Soda with Gary Reed. It started as a fun novelty joke, but sales unexpectedly took off and it became internationally popular.

Deadworld Zombie Soda (image courtesy of Deadworld)

Paul is currently involved with Asylum Publications, Source Point Press, Binary Press, and more.

Asylum Publications is scheduled to bring a number of books to market in all facets of pop culture, including publishing the fine art of 91-year-old Jack Faragasso, renowned New York artist and educator, in a follow-up to his ‘Early Photographs of Bettie Page’ book.

Asylum is working to make people aware of this great artist who has devoted his life to art, through a series of books and prints.

Dedd Fredd holding bottle of Asylum Zombie Soda (image courtesy of Asylum)

 

Asylum Publications

https://www.asylumpublications.com/

 

Source Point Press

http://sourcepointpress.com/

 

Binary Press

https://www.facebook.com/binary.press/

 

McFarlane Toys

https://mcfarlane.com/

 

*Special thanks to Paul Burke and Asylum Publications for this*

We are raffling off 3 autographed copies of ‘The Early Years of McFarlane Toys‘ signed by author and co-founder Paul Burke!

*3 winners will be selected at random. Enter now for your chance to win!*

https://detroitbookfest.com/enter-to-win/

The raffle will run from Monday, October 14 to Sunday, October 20.

 

Stabur Home Video ‘Comic Book Greats’ (image courtesy of Stabur)

 

Asylum Zombie Soda (image courtesy of Asylum)

Exclusive Interview: The Comic Book Wizard of Ypsilanti, GEORGE HAGENAUER, Reflects on 50 Years of Collecting Thousands of Comics, Artwork and Books!

Exclusive Interview: The Comic Book Wizard of Ypsilanti, GEORGE HAGENAUER, Reflects on 50 Years of Collecting Thousands of Comics, Artwork and Books!

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer is a funny guy. He is the man of a million, brilliant, chattering tangents, weaving in and out of multiple stories simultaneously like a Benzedrine-crazed Grand Theft Auto driver, yet he never loses the threads. His stories and thoughts are engrossing, they envelop your curiosity.

George is also a walking encyclopedia of comic books, comic art, illustrations, books, pulps, and obscure knowledge.

He owns about 2,500 pieces of original comic art and illustrations. He currently has 1,500 pieces online at Comic Art Fans. In addition to this, he owns the art for two complete 1915 animated cartoons, which he has started restoring, and he owns 5,000+ books and probably tens of thousands of comic books.

We frequently hang out at my favorite drinking establishment in Michigan, The Corner Brewery in Ypsi, where you can find me holding court at least once a month. George, wearing a Hulk t-shirt & bike helmet, will bike up to The Corner on his dad’s old 1936 bicycle from his house a few blocks away and we’ll drink dark beer and talk comics and books for hours.

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Right now, we’re at George’s house in his basement. I’m sitting in a comfortable old rocking chair. George has famous Chicago author (who was born in Detroit) Nelson Algren’s stained-glass lamp hanging over his favorite reading chair. Beyond that are bookcases overflowing with brainfood, mounds of treasures, stacks of rare papers, long boxes of comics, framed original art, heavy-duty locked fireproof filing cabinets, etc, everywhere.

George notices me admiring a piece of art at the foot of his stairs.

Dick Sprang, the Batman artist, an old friend, did that. He was a great guy and quite talented. Recently, I did a statistical analysis of my art collection and came to the conclusion that I have 10 different collections of artwork. The core of my personal favorites are: Chicago history, the history of mystery, paper giveaway premiums, pre-code comic book covers, pulp art, etc.”

George Hagenauer holding original art for Phillip K. Dick’s ‘Gannymeade Takeover’ (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“My wife Mary Ellen and I moved to Ypsilanti in 2017 to be closer to our daughter Megan and our granddaughters. Freelance work helps supplement my Social Security. I’ll be doing a ‘History of Mystery’ exhibit this October at the Kenosha Public Museum in Kenosha, Wisconsin and to prepare for it, I’ve been reading a mystery novel every other night.”

“Current interests for me are wide-ranging, depending on mood. For instance, right now I’m really into French crime novels of the early 20th century. Also, silent films and 1930’s cinema. In terms of comics, I’m digging on some European stuff like Corto Maltese (1967, Hugo Pratt), Modesty Blaise, and Garth (the British comic strip from Frank Bellamy). I’m from Chicago and Chicago fandom in the 50’s and 60’s wasn’t superhero, it was heavily skewed toward EC, horror, crime, sci-fi, which is also what I like.”

BIOGRAPHY: The Guy Behind The Guy, Behind The Guy

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Born in 1950, George grew up on the South Side of Chicago. George lived in Roseland (South Side Chicago), then as an adult, Ravenswood (North Side Chicago).

From 1968-1972, he attended Northwestern University, graduating with a degree in journalism and political science. While at Northwestern, he set up an Ivan Illich Learning Exchange, one of the first in the USA. This was a program geared toward school reform, deschooling, and non-institutionalized independent learning. It came about because George’s friend knew Ilitch personally. He was considered the bridge between South American leftwing radicalism and the USA school reform movement.

That was followed by 10 years starting and running a city-wide adult literacy program in Chicago and then 25 years with 4-C, a nonprofit program which provides support for early childhood education programs in many counties near Madison, Wisconsin.

Daredevil Battles Hitler #1 (1941) image courtesy of HA.com archives

George has always been a comic fan and collector and in 1976 he was part of the team that started the Chicago Comicon until it was bought by Wizard World.

In 1990, he moved from Chicago to Madison, Wisconsin, where he lived before moving to Ypsi. During this time, he wrote over 200 columns on original art for the Comic Buyer’s Guide.

“Also in the early-to-mid 90’s, I wrote some non-sport trading cards, including the infamous Eclipse True Crime cards, the set of Serial Killers and Gangsters. I collaborated with Max Allan Collins on it. Max is a MWA Grand Master mystery writer. He did ‘The Road to Perdition’, which later became a movie starring Tom Hanks that they filmed in Chicago and Grand Haven, Michigan. I did research for Max’s historical novels and he asked me if I could help with the trading cards, I said sure. So, I did the Gangster cards and the ladies did the Serial Killer cards. We also co-wrote a book on ‘The History of Mystery’ and a book on ‘Men’s Adventure Magazines’. Both were nominated for best mystery non-fiction with the Men’s Adventure book winning!”

George Hagenauer holding original Kelly Freas drawing ‘Dukes of Desire’ from 1967 (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“I’m a member of the Comic and Fantasy Art Collectors Amateur Press Association (the CFA-APA), which while having the amusing title of “amateur”, actually over 40% of the current membership are professionally published nationwide.”

“In addition to being a comic & pulp reader, I’ve been a heavy reader of books in general my whole life. Books are tools. I buy books because they’re useful for building knowledge.”

“As for my heritage, my Mom was 3rd generation American of Swedish descent. My Dad was 4th generation American of German, Austrian, Irish, Bohemian and Scotch descent.”

George Hagenauer III: The Early Years

I’ve been collecting books and comics since I was 10. I was into adult sci-fi before I was reading Superboy!”

In the mid-1950’s, my parents didn’t want me reading super-hero comic books, so my dad would bring me Boys Adventure Series books featuring Tom Swift inventing the motorcycle and things like that. Books he read as a kid. They were available in used bookstores for a quarter as opposed to the new versions which were a dollar or more. That got me into a host of used bookstores at a very young age.”

 

“My first actual experience with comics was my dad reading me at age 4 or 5 ‘Uncle Scrooge McDuck’ by the great Carl Barks for Dell Comics. It was written for kids but had many subtle adult undercurrents. You could find them at dime stores or glorious Skid Row book stores for a nickel each.”

“Uncle Scrooge is this amazing satire on American Capitalism, published under the Disney imprint by Dell Comics via Whitman Publishing out of Racine, Wisconsin. Barks worked in manual labor jobs before being a cartoonist, so his work often features characters with great, real-world perspectives.”

Dell Comics oddly tend to be ignored by most collectors. I collect them heavily. In the 1940’s-50’s they were extremely subversive. Dell was doing stories like Donald Duck selling furnaces for Uncle Scrooge to Cambodians, Little Lulu early proto-feminist comics (Now Girls Allowed) and even Tarzan’s promoting positive race relations (Brothers of the Spear).”

Mad Magazine’s Free Fall Ferris circa 1956 (image courtesy of online archives)

“Then, I discovered Mad Magazine. Free Fall Ferris by Wally Wood, one of the cartoons therein, was brilliant. So, as a youngster, I was periodically exposed to Uncle Scrooge and Mad Magazine, which is an odd combination and probably explains a lot about who I am. Tales Calculated to Make you Mad”.

Chicago’s 3 Skid Rows in the 1960’s

Skid Row Chicago (photo courtesy of George Hagenauer’s archives)

“One thing that frequently brings back a lot of memories is remembering seeing books on North Clark Street when I was a kid. At age 10, my dad would give me a $1.00 and send me to Skid Row for books. ‘Here’s a dollar, go to Skid Row,’ he’d say.”

“Books were 15 cents to 20 cents on Skid Row. Early wacky Roy Rockwood steampunk stuff from 1905 and Carl H. Claudy, got me into sci-fi. Then, I started going to the library, reading Heinlein, Asimov, Dick, etc. Back then librarians were worried about what you were reading. Now, they’re just worried if you’re reading or not! On Skid Row, I was finding used copies of John Campbell’s Astounding sci-fi magazine for pennies.”

Chicago had three Skid Rows at that time: North, South and West. The North Skid Row area was loaded with bookstores all run by incredibly eccentric human beings.”

You’d be stepping over rummies in doorways to go buy your comics. Pimps, hookers, drug dealers, junkies and a 10-year old George Hagenauer. $3.00 would buy me 60 comics on Skid Row! You just couldn’t beat the prices, it was worth dodging the shady characters and obsessively watching your back. I was buying early Marvel Comics off the stand for cover prices. Some of those comics in high grade are worth tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars more nowadays. Unfortunately, mine all went when they hit $10 because they paid for my first quarter in college in the late 60’s!”

Chicago Skid Row: Acme Books and ABC (photo courtesy of George Hagenauer’s archives)

South Skid Row was along South State Street and had the YMCA Hotel where Chicago’s monthly comic convention was held starting in the late 1960’s. I always wanted a Gustave Dore’ 1883 folio edition of ‘The Raven’. When I was 9 years old, I saw they had a stack of 10 in this used bookstore in the Loop on the south side of the river. At the time they were $8 each!  Way more money than I could afford. Today, I think they are still way more money than I can afford. West Skid Row ran along West Madison Street. Today it is the site of Oprah Winfrey’s studio – back then it was where mass murderer Richard Speck was caught in 1966.”

“I spent most of my time on North Skid Row. It ran along Clark Street had four used book stores run by possibly the most eccentric group of book dealers ever known. This was part of the old “Hobo Bohemia” neighborhood where hobos slept after jumping off in the Downtown Chicago Trainyards. The neighborhood ran from Clark Street to Bughouse Square.  Across from a residential hotel (i.e. partial brothel) inhabited by a host of seedy characters, you had Acme Books (414 N. Clark Street). with ABC Magazines next door. On the same block you also had Gallery Books.”

“My favorite store was ABC Books and Magazine Service. ABC sold a lot of racing forms as well as almost any other magazine published since the 1800’s. The building dated back to right after the Chicago Fire and was heated by a potbelly stove. Whatever was unsaleable went into the stove for heat! If you went after books on the top shelf (10 feet up) you had to brush off the soot.”

Acme Books had a Superman #1 in their window for $100. And Green Lantern #1 and Batman #1. Acme was run by Noel Roy, a man who looked like popular Marvel supervillain, the Red Skull. After his wife died he was assisted by Sam La Chappelle, a redhead girl with a bouffant hairdo who attracted and maintained the attention of a lot of predominately young male collectors.”

Acme Books (Skid Row, Chicago) featuring Sam La Chapelle (left) and Noel Roy (right). “They sold comics, books and had a heavy-duty safe full of rare books. Those comics up front, which were considered ‘secondary’ at the time, would be worth a lot today!”-Hagenauer (photo courtesy of George Hagenauer’s archives)

Gallery Books was the most legitimate looking of the three, with first editions by Hemingway and the rest lining the walls. When Weird Tales left Chicago for NYC, Tony the owner of Gallery Books, bought their files and had multiple mint copies of every issue for sale. Tony had an apartment in the back of the store. Most of the bookdealers sold pornography either under the table or more openly. In the case of Tony, he traded porn to various pickers for 1st edition Hemingway’s and real treasures.”

“In the early 1960’s, I’m at Gallery buying nickel comics and while I didn’t know it at the time, the boxes were atop a low flat file filled with original Brundage pastels. Margaret Brundage was a cover artist for Weird Tales (1931-39). She and her husband met at the Dill Pickle Club, a radical Bohemian club created in a stable during Prohibition just off Bughouse Square.  Bughouse Square was a free speech center. Anyone could pull up a soapbox or stand on a park bench and speak or rant about any issue. The Dill Pickle brought that atmosphere inside with Hobos hanging out with major Chicago writers.”

Weird Tales (1934) featuring Conan. Art by Margaret Brundage. (Image courtesy of Hagenauer’s archives)

“Margaret’s husband was a Wobbly (IWW union) organizer and the first cover image ever of ‘Conan the Barbarian’ is a portrait of her husband, the Wobbly organizer! He was active in the Sixties Counterculture, the Hobo College Movement and the Anarchist Press in Rogers Park. She played a key role in developing the South Side Community Arts Center in Chicago African American Bronzeville neighborhood. The center is still there serving the community.”

“Out of all the characters though, there’s one guy who particularly stands out. On a scale of 10 for eccentric bookdealers, Bill Ostfeld of William Ostfeld Rare Books, sometimes located on North Clark Street skid row (depending on if he was keeping up on his rent) would be a 12 . He was notorious. The photo of him here is from an article in Genesis where he claims to have given Hugh Hefner the idea for Playboy and that Hefner owed him for an umbrella he borrowed!

Wiiliam Ostfeld, notorious Chicago book dealer. (photo courtesy of George Hagenauer’s archives via Genesis)

“At one point he had a Superman # 1 from 1939 hanging in the front window of his shop for only a cool $25.00. Bill liked to play the game of ‘how much can I get out of the store before its padlocked?’ Bill could be a difficult guy. He even threw a book at my head once. Once comics became collectible, he was known to sell the same collection to multiple mail order dealers in other states often right before he changed locations. Ozzie dealt porn openly.”

“Beyond Skid Row, I always loved going to the Harding Museum as a kid. It was this cool Gothic stone castle on Lake Avenue in Hyde Park, a glorious medieval fantasy mansion full of suits of armor and weird trinkets. Unfortunately, the place closed in 1982 and everything was ultimately transferred to the Art Institute of Chicago.”

Detroit Triple Fan Fair (1964-77)

image courtesy of DTFF archives

Detroit has an enduring legacy of great shows. For example, September 4th-7th, 1959 the 17th World Science Fiction Convention was held at the Fort Shelby Hotel in Downtown Detroit. The toastmaster was Isaac Asimov with the assistance of Robert Bloch!

But what really put Detroit on the convention map was Detroit Triple Fan Fair.

Started in 1964, the Detroit Triple Fan Fair was the first regularly held comic book convention in the United States.

Jerry Bails, the Father of Comic Book Fandom, moved to Detroit in 1960 to teach at Wayne State University. Jerry lived on Brooklyn Street at the intersection of Plum Street. Plum Street was Detroit’s psychedelic Haight-Ashbury-esque neighborhood in the Sixties.

Jerry Bails and wife in Detroit (photo courtesy of Inter-Fan)

Jerry Bails also got a young George Hagenauer into collecting original art. In the pre-internet days, nobody knew the full extent of what existed.  Jerry decided to create a database of all the comics in existence with credits, when possible, for artists and writers. In 1967 he did this through his fanzine and offered prizes for the most data entries on comics not in the Bails collection. George entered the contest and won a piece of free art. The Bails database ultimately morphed into the Grand Comic Database currently maintained by MSU.

In 1964, the Detroit Triple Fan Fair (DTFF) Convention was started by Robert “Bob” Brosch (of Allen Park) and Dave Szurek (of Detroit’s Cass Corridor; a monster magazine enthusiast). The DTFF featured 3 fandom realms: comic books, science-fiction and film.

In 1965, Jerry Bails took over DTFF with the help of native Detroiter, Sheldon ‘Shel’ Dorf who came onboard and helped expand it. He had studied briefly at SAIC (School of the Art Institute of Chicago) and moved back to town. The Fair swelled to massive attendance.

In 1970, Shel moved to San Diego and immediately started the San Diego Comic Con. Still running to this day, the SDCC attracts 160,000 attendees.

The Detroit Triple Fan Fair lasted until 1977.

Genesis of the Chicago ComiCon

Chicago ComiCon

“In 1972, Nancy Warner, this Chicago antiques dealer, started a show called the Nostalgia Con. After a couple years, she grew weary of it and in 1975 sold the show to Joe Sarno. In 1970, Joe had bought one of Ostfeld’s closed bookstores, then he opened his own shop in 1973, the Nostalgia Shop on Lawrence Avenue.”

Joe Sarno’s Nostalgia Shop in Chicago (image courtesy of Sarno Fanpage)

Joe Sarno was the nexus point for everything relating to comics in the city of Chicago. He had started a comic club in his basement on the North Side (Pulaski and Lawrence Avenues) and had 30-50 people there. A guy named Dave Denwood later let them use the community room at Northwest Federal Savings & Loan Bank on West Irving Park Road, so they moved the get-togethers there and they grew tremendously. Joe was a dual-fandom guy, he loved sci-fi and comic books. Everybody liked him, no one ever had a problem with him.”

Stan Lee (left) and Joe Sarno (right) at the first Chicago Comicon (image courtesy of Sarno Fanpage)

“So, Joe took over the con from Nancy. Joe then called Ross Kight, Larry Charet, Mike Gold, myself and some others. From 1972-2002, Larry Charet ran Larry’s Comics (1219 W. Devon Ave, Chicago). Anyways, Ross later bailed, the rest of us hung on and we held the first Chicago Comicon on August 6th-8th, 1976 at the Playboy Towers Hotel. Admission was only $2.50! We had about 2,000 attendees and Stan Lee and Jeanette Kahn as guests. The Chicago Comicon ended up becoming the second largest convention in the USA, behind the San Diego Comic Con.”

“In 1997, Wizard World came in. They bought the Chicago Comicon, rebranded it toward their magazine and turned it more into a media con.”

Hagenauer: Collector Stories

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

In addition to his basement of treasures, George has a packed off-site storage unit (essentially an adjunct library) tucked behind a green steel roller shutter door, full to the brim of comics, books, ephemera, etc, all stored on shelves he put together of scrap wood and discarded pallets.

My rule of thumb is only very rarely have more than one copy of anything. The few extra ones I have, must go. Also, anything that I lose interest in has to go. This is especially true as I age, given there is no one in the family who wants most of this stuff. The new house is a lot smaller, so the storage locker is designed as a reference library for the books I use in historical research but no longer have space for in the house.”

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“One of the sad things I have had to do is help several widows of friends of mine figure out how to dispose of their late husbands’ collections. If you want to maximize value, that is not an easy thing to do as often it means dividing the collection up and selling it in different venues. Most auction houses do well with some material but not great with others. A lot of dealers I know buy material at auction for resale. So, figuring out what the best strategy is to dispose of a collection, can be an interesting puzzle.”

“Helping my friends’ widows caused me to think about an exit strategy. I mean, one friend’s rather large and complex collection took something like 12 years for the family to sell. So, right now, I’m working on an exit strategy, which is why I’m restoring the cartoons and doing the museum exhibit among other things.”

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

I’m a reader. I also collect artwork. Everyone is a temporary custodian of their possessions. You really don’t truly “own” anything, you’re just a temporary steward until you die. Art is another way to connect to the stories, authors and books that you enjoy as you can see the art daily on your walls. I display artwork at libraries and museums. I’m curating the upcoming ‘The History of Mystery’ exhibit at Kenosha Public Museum using mystery and detective related art to tell the story of the development of the mystery genre in America in all its different media. I want to turn it into a low-cost touring exhibit. To do that I need a sponsor to cover the costs of the framing material.”

In 1968, I went to college, got rid of stuff, then immediately re-accumulated 1969-72. When you get into collecting, when you’re active and knowledgeable, you start running across lots and collections.”

Detective Comics #2 (1937) image courtesy of HA.com archives

“One tragic example is Richard Martin Fletcher. He was a comic artist from 1936-64. He died and his family wanted to sell his house and studio, which was inside of a shed on the property. They told the workers to tear down the studio and trash whatever was inside. They found $1 million worth of comics congealed in barrels of water where the roof had leaked. So, yes, he had amassed a fortune but it cruelly, ironically, paradoxically, was utterly ruined in the end.”

“It’s pretty fun amassing too, though. One particularly memorable haul I had was when I used my relatively inexpensive clarinet and saxophone as collateral for a stack of Golden Age comics. This was at Kings Three Antiques in South Evanston, Illinois, which was a rathole antique store that had uncharacteristically incredible finds like hand-carved Polynesian deflowering tools in the main display case, pieces of Samurai Armor, and amazing early Japanese carvings.”

Military Comics #9 (1942) image courtesy of HA.com archives

As a collector, you also come to enjoy the various shops and their owners. For instance, all the used book dealers in Cleveland would close mid-day and play poker and drink. The game floated between their stores. It would be at hosted by John Zubal at Zubal Books one day, then by Mark Stueve at Old Erie Street Books the next. Zubals is still there but Erie is no more. Old Erie Street Books (2128 E. 9th St, Cleveland) 1976-2018 R.I.P.”

“Another great place was Renaissance Books in Milwaukee. They used to have a 5-story warehouse, built in the 1880’s, it was a quarter of a block of unpriced books 5-stories tall. The books were unpriced, they’d price them at the counter. Incredible selection of stuff. Renaissance is still around, but only inside the Milwaukee Airport and Southridge Mall. The main store closed in 2011.”

Hagenauer on the Art & Business of Collecting

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

I have always tended to collect more to read than to have an amazingly nice condition copy of something. Also, working my whole life in community-based non-profits, I have never had a lot of money to spend. So, if I can accumulate all this stuff, anyone who puts the time in and learns a lot about the areas that interest them can do it as well.”

“And because of the internet, this is probably the best time to collect books and other material related to them. Though frankly you often will do better buying at shows. I once did an article for the Comic Buyer’s Guide on one visit to a big comic con. I didn’t have to pay admission because I was doing a panel discussion so there was minimal overhead. I had saved up about $200 and bought a lot of material at the con. With a few exceptions (about 20-25 dime novels circa 1900 I got for a dollar each) all of it could be found online for about the same price. But buying online in most cases meant shipping costs. When I compared the buys at the show to buying online, the show was 40% cheaper. I also like the social aspects of shows talking to dealers and other collectors.”

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“Still it helps to consider all costs when looking at buying something. When looking at realized prices at auction it also helps to take into account seller, grading and buyer’s fees.  That $100 item at a major auction house may have netted $65 to the seller, $80 on eBay etc. If you decide you want to later auction it, you need to take that into account. I saw a highly successful businessman, the type of who makes money daily in big deals, very savvy in that world, buy a high-end piece of comic art and lose $8,000 on it due to first selling it too quickly at auction and not taking into account the various rules that can help you or hurt you at auction. In any area there is a lot of knowledge that needs to be developed, you can’t just hop in at the high-end and expect to make a killing.”

“Dealers will sometimes take into account the costs involved in selling online when pricing for shows, resulting in cheaper prices at shows”

“A key aspect of the internet is that is has made a large amount of material not scarce. I like to collect Yellow Kid buttons, which are pinbacks from the 1890’s of the first successful comic strip character in the USA. It used to be you would see one or two a year at $15-25 each. If I had the cash, I would pick one up. Now any week you can find a dozen or more on eBay going for under $30. If I had the cash or the inclination, I could double the number of buttons I now own. To the average person these are scarce. To those of us who collect them they are now oddly common. When I wear the buttons to shows, most people have no idea who the Yellow Kid is.”

George Hagenauer displaying his Yellow Kid buttons (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“In some areas, prices have dropped even lower with the rise of the internet. Dime novels are usually 100+ years old and quite scarce. They usually go for a lot less than pulps or comics. I periodically pick up issues at shows or online for $5 or less.  No one knows the characters, the text is small, and now if you want to just read them, digital copies are online for free or on discs with hundreds of issues on one disc for less than $10.”

Yellow Kid Button (image courtesy of online archives)

“In contrast, there are plentiful copies of first appearances of popular comic book characters that have appeared in the last 25 years that are going for far more money than a really scarce surviving dime novel. People know the comic book character but don’t know the dime novels. Scarcity often takes a back seat to demand.”

“As digitization and copies proliferate online, prices shift around on older books, often with dust jacket-less copies dropping in value. That makes it a really neat time to start collecting as a wide range of books become far more affordable. I have a friend and his wife who are into mysteries. Retired and with limited space they only buy paperback versions but look for the earliest editions possible. He tends towards hardboiled, she towards more conventional mysteries. They are having a great time collecting and reading on tight budget. Whatever area of paper that interests you, there is probably a way to start collecting it today.”

George Hagenauer’s copy of The Challenger, a rare 1946 comic book about backing socialist coups in Greece (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“The other interesting aspect of this is often the cheapest prices are at specialty shows. The dealers have less overhead than a store, but the key thing is the amount of material available. I bought a lot of mystery books, all early vintage paperbacks from the 1940’s & 1950’s, at last year’s Windy City Pulpcon for $1 each. They were solid reading copies. Some specific books I needed and didn’t get there, I bought online or at DreamHaven Books. Online was usually the most expensive option due to shipping, though some titles still came in at only $2-3 a book with free shipping.”

What kills areas of collecting is lack of new blood, an inability to attract younger members/collectors, which is why many collectibles flatline over time. For the new collector or the uninitiated, it is often hard to figure out value. A lot of people steer clear of collecting comic art because of perceived high prices. What gets covered and promoted in the press are the top dollar prices for the high end or high-grade collectible material. Comic art is a good example. You’ll hear about the Steve Ditko Dr. Strange page that went for $66,000. If you are into Dr. Strange or Spider-Man, you don’t hear about the fact you can pick up published pages from more recent issues for $75 or get drawings done by some current artists for far less than that. As a result, new collectors feel they cannot even start. And yes, if you want some specific artists and characters, you can’t start unless you are rich. But if you want a nice piece for your wall they are out there for sale or trade. This weekend, for example, I got two original published cartoons by a major Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist for $20 each, which is about equivalent to the cost of a current graphic novel, for each one.  And that was at a major online auction house who has had record prices on comic art. ”

Black Cat Mystery #50 (1954) image courtesy of HA.com archives

“I have a portrait from The Life of Pancho Villa by the great illustrator Wallace Smith from 1918-ish, I bought it online, it’s a fascinating piece.  The artist is relatively unknown, an associate of the Brundage’s at the Dill Pickle Club and it’s an historic piece. Interests like this in more off-trail areas, you can find stuff cheaper, undervalued or misidentified. Your collection is an extension of who you are, it becomes a part of your identity.”

“And that is true about almost any area of book of paper collecting. The shows, the online auctions or sales platforms like www.ABEbooks.com are out there to browse. There are tons of neat material to find and be interested in. You just need to spend a little time hunting for it and that is part of the fun. That and for me the social aspects getting to know other collectors, is the best part.”

George Hagenauer holding original art Life of Pancho Villa from 1918 by Wallace Smith (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“In Ypsilanti, there is a group of comic book fans that are meeting in a microbrewery once a month to socialize about comics, network and do a little trading. Ann Arbor has a group forming. I am surprised more of that is not happening in other areas like mysteries, militaria, romance novels, children’s books etc. Being social is not just posting online, being social is getting together with others with similar interests. That is why I love shows like the Detroit Festival of Books and the Windy City Pulp & Paper Convention. Lots of interactions and lots of learning from other people.”

“And the learning, the intellectual activity is what I really enjoy. Collect what you really truly find interesting and find other people who are interested in the same stuff. Link up with like-minded people. Don’t buy purely for investment. Buy for enjoyment for yourself and others. The ultimate goal of all collecting is that so other people can enjoy your collection.”

One fun aside: BILL HELMER IS FAT FREDDY

Bill Helmer (photo courtesy of Adam Gorightly)

“Decades ago I made contact with a guy named Bill Helmer in my neighborhood in South Evanston, Illinois who wanted to sell or trade a pile of Golden Age comics.”

“Bill had moved to Chicago in 1969. He was a key editor at Playboy Magazine at the time. This was back when Hef lived at the original Playboy Mansion in Chicago. I periodically helped Playboy with graphics research for years.”

Bill Helmer’s card (image courtesy of Adam Gorightly)

“Helmer had a pile of EC Comics and other obscure Golden Age Comics at his house, a Thompson sub-machine gun and a Japanese helmet with a skull on a shelf. His knowledge of Prohibition-era history is unparalleled. Among other things Helmer founded the ‘John Dillinger Died for Your Sins Society’. He has been the major influence on most research done on the Capone and Depression era bandit gangs. So, I bought some comics and got to know him.”

“During and after college Bill shared an apartment with Gilbert Shelton who did the Furry Freak Brothers, whom he knew from Texas, when Gilbert was doing Wonder Warthog, in 1966 at the University of Texas in Austin.”

Fat Freddy (based on Bill Helmer) from the Fabulous Furry Freak Bros.

Bill, Gilbert and this other guy moved to NYC, these 3 guys were roommates and they became the inspiration for the Furry Freak Bros.  In the comic, Bill became Fat Freddy. Gilbert painted amazingly good cover recreations of EC Comics on the ceiling of this apartment. Bill had photos of the ceilings with the Jack Davis style rotting corpses and Graham Ingels’ ghouls. It was pretty wild.”

Comic Miscellanea

Obadiah Oldbuck (printed in Germany, circa 1837, the world’s first comic book)

“Some of the oldest comic books are from Germany and Switzerland.

One of the oldest comic books, I believe, is Obadiah Oldbuck, printed in Germany in 1837 and later reprinted in America.”

George Hagenauer’s This Magazine is Haunted #13 (1953)

“A cool comic you should take a look at is ‘This Magazine is Haunted’ (1951-53) from Fawcett Comics in NYC. Great supernatural comic from Sheldon ‘Shelly’ Moldoff. I have some original artwork and comics from Shelly. The original Fawcett archives were divided up between 3 dealers. I knew all 3 of them. The warehouse was sold off in the 1980’s. Moldoff designed the original concept but lots of artists worked on the comic. I own a small painting of the host, Doctor Death, done by Shelly years later.”

George Hagenauer’s painting of Doctor Death (from ‘This Magazine is Haunted’) done by Sheldon ‘Shelly’ Moldoff

George on Living in Ypsilanti

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Ypsi is such a cool city! The social aspects here are incredible, the people you talk to are amazing.”

Washtenaw Community College is an amazing resource especially for seniors like me, who can attend classes free if they are not filled. I took a photoshop class so I could work on graphics. This knowledge is helping me do restoration work on two animated films from 1915. It’s amazing to see figures move on the screen after being lost for over 100 years.”

Ypsilanti is one of the most intellectually stimulating communities I’ve ever been in. I love all the fun, random conversations. You run into people and start talking and it becomes something magical and interesting.”

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“Plus, many cool spots are here like The Corner Brewery, Hedger Breed’s White Raven Books, Cross Street Books, Sidetracks, Dolores Mexican Restaurant, Cultivate Taphouse, etc. It’s an incredible concentration of cool shops and places. One of the last bastions for viable antique stores.”

“Also, fun fact, Perry Preschool in Ypsi is historical in terms of early childhood education. They did a historic study here from 1962-67, which showed how important early education is for human growth and development.”

“My barber, Alex Fuller, has a literacy program inside his barbershop! That’s investing in your community. And there are barbers across the city especially in the black community who are doing the same thing. I don’t worry about waiting when I go to the barber because there are so many neat books to read.”

“Ypsi, there’s some incredibly good stuff happening here.”

The Ypsilanti Comic Roundtable

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“The Ypsi Comic Roundtable is a group of people including myself, Ryan Place, James Arnoldi and about 12 others who meet the first Thursday of every month from 6:30pm-10pm at the Ypsilanti Alehouse and…you’re invited to join us!”

James Arnoldi started it in November 2018 and it’s an interesting example of what people should be doing more of.”

“The YCR is just people interested in comics, getting together in-person to talk comics and trade/sell comics over beer. This would be a good model for book collecting groups as well. Start small, very focused, with discussion groups. Much like tidepools by the ocean, it’s where life starts.”

Contact George

*If you’re interested in buying/selling anything, especially comic and illustration art, comic books, pulp art, rare movies from the silent era and 1930’s, etc. or for information about the Ypsi Comic Roundtable*

George Hagenauer

yellowkd@tds.net

 

Hagenauer profile on Comic Art Fans

https://www.comicartfans.com/gallerydetail.asp?gcat=4536

 

The Host Shelly

https://www.comicartfans.com/gallerypiece.asp?Piece=1528704&GSub=82174

 

Hagenauer Ebay

https://www.ebay.com/usr/georgehagenauer

 

Comic Link

http://www.comiclink.com/

 

Ypsilanti Comic Roundtable

https://www.facebook.com/groups/770177856658436/

 

 

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer: “Charles Biro invented true crime comic books in 1912.” (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer’s Prohibition-era flask (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer, “These are railroad spikes from where Frank Nitti committed suicide. Also we have a Maxwell Bodenheim from Chicago Literary Times.” (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

 

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer: “This is ‘Space Pirates’ by Kelly Freas. It’s painted on burlap!” (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

 

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer: “This is another Kelly Freas piece. It was done in 1969 and used in Wolfling by Gordon Dickinson.” (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer: “This is a rare bound volume of Black Mask.” (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Ryan Place writing notes (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Ryan Place writing notes (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

George Hagenauer (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

All Star Comics #38 (1948) image courtesy of HA.com archives

National Comics #33 (1940) image courtesy of HA.com archives

The Thing #16 (1954) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Baseball Heroes (1952) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Suspense Comics #11 (1946) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Superman #45 (1947) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Cat-Man #9 (1942) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 (1964) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Crime SuspenStories #22 (1954) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Crack Comics #1 (1940) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Silver Streak #6 (1940) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Detective Comics #2 (1937) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Great Comics #3 (1942) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Batman #3 (1940) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Mask #2 (1945) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Cookie #17 (1949) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Green Lantern #1 (1960) image courtesy of HA.com archives

All Star Comics #8 (1941) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane #1 (1958) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Dennis the Menace #1 (1961) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Mystic Comics #2 (1940) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Batman #73 (1952) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Jerry Lewis #78 (1963) image courtesy of HA.com archives

Exclusive Tribute: In Nine Kinds of Pain: Detroit Author LENNY FRITZ Died of Cancer But His Legacy Of Inadvertently Creating a Singular Genre of Gritty Detroitica Lives on!

Exclusive Tribute: In Nine Kinds of Pain: Detroit Author LENNY FRITZ Died of Cancer But His Legacy Of Inadvertently Creating a Singular Genre of Gritty Detroitica Lives on!

Lenny Fritz, author & illustrator from Southwest Detroit

I remember Lenny Fritz vividly. He was a big dude who looked intimidating and whose peripheral manifestation evoked possibilities of an outlaw biker or a club bouncer to those who didn’t know him.

In actuality, Lenny was a fun, cool, extremely creative and hilarious individual. He lived down the street from my family’s house on Springwells Street in Southwest Detroit.

His family, the Fritz’s, grew up with my family, the Place’s. The Fritz’s lived at 2655 Springwells Street and my family lives at 2606 Springwells Street. Lenny was a popular figure around the neighborhood due to his good nature and artistic abilities.

Graciously, his mother Mary Anne Fritz and sister Patty Saenz (pronounced ‘signs’) sat down with me recently at Patty’s home Downriver to discuss the uniqueness of Lenny and the enduring impact of his work.

Biography

Southwest Detroit

Lenny was the middle child. He had an older sister Patty and a younger brother Eric.

“Lenny and I were Irish Twins,” says Patty, “We were born one year and five days apart. Lenny was born on June 27th, 1967 and I was born on June 22nd, 1966. He passed away in September 2012 from cancer. June 27th, 2017 would have been his 50th birthday. I miss him so much.”

Lenny went to school at St. Gabriel’s (8118 Vernor) and Holy Redeemer Catholic High School (1721 Junction) in Southwest Detroit.

Lenny Fritz house (2655 Springwells Street, Detroit)

Mary Anne tells us more about Lenny.

Lenny graduated Holy Redeemer in 1985 and went on to WSU. He worked a variety of odd jobs around the neighborhood, including being a janitor at St. Gabe’s and grass cutting at Holy Cross Cemetery. Lenny’s true passion though was writing and illustrating comic books.”

“Lenny was even a Detroit Firefighter for a little while until life took him elsewhere. He was playing basketball in flip-flops in his backyard one day with the guys when he stepped off the curb and broke his ankle. As a fireman, he had the fastest time in doing the stair running exercise drills with 50-pounds of equipment on.”

“Lenny was a regular customer at John K. King Books, a great big bookstore a few miles from the house.”

Exclusive Interview with John King

Exclusive Interview: JOHN KING, owner of John K. King Used & Rare Books in Detroit, internationally voted one of the World’s Best Bookstores!

“He also used to hang out at K-Andy’s Bar (8736 W. Vernor) and Bucks Good Eats on Dix, it’s now the Mexican restaurant Mi Pubelo (7278 Dix). Many of these places factor into his work.”

“On Thursday nights, he used to head up to Beacon Bowling Alley (6735 W. Vernor) and go bowling with his Dad, Uncles and cousins. Detroit was the bowling capital of the world back then.”

Lenny was 6’3”, 250 pounds and at one point he had a Travis Bickle type mohawk that he got from Ralph the Barber. He also sported a ‘To thine own self be true’ tattoo on his forearm that he, Patty and Eric all have.”

“Lenny was great friends with Father Anthony Bologna from St. Gabe’s. Fr. Bologna was legally blind and Lenny would drive him around and take him shopping. They would also go to Sunday dinner in St. Clair Shores at Fr. Bologna’s family’s home. He would pick him up at St. Gabe’s in Southwest and drive him out there. While they were out, a trip to the neighborhood grocery store to pick up Fr. Bologna’s favorite Progresso soup was always a must.”

Lenny’s dad, known as Lennie, was a Detroit cop at the 7th Precinct, located at Mack and Gratiot near Eastern Market. His dad would often come home with vegetables and fruit from Eastern Market vendors and nuts from Rocky’s. He was a cop from June 1967 to September 2007. He finished the police academy on the day Lenny was born. Many of his true tales as a cop are woven into Lenny’s writings.”

“About a month after Lenny was born, the Detroit Riots erupted. The National Guard was camped at Patton Park, Dix and Woodmere Street, tanks and all, right down the street from us.”

Patty & Mary Anne Move Out of Southwest Detroit

Southwest Detroit (photo courtesy of Michigan Radio)

The neighborhood used to be great but it changed quite a bit over the decades and became very dangerous with gangs, burned down houses, graffiti, drugs. It was time to leave. Patty moved her family out of Southwest in 1998 after a 10-year-old kid broke into their car.

“My husband Reuben caught a little kid breaking into our car one day,” says Patty, “We called the police but they never came. So, after a few hours, we went down to the kid’s house and it was some kind of big drug dealing house. His parents just laughed at us, they didn’t care. They didn’t care at all, they didn’t even get up. At that moment, I realized we needed to move to get our baby son Ricky out of there.”

Mary Anne moved out in 2004. She is now living on the island of Grosse Ile.

Lenny Goes to School

Western Michigan Broncos

Lenny excelled academically and was a very well-educated man. In 1998, he received his BA from Norwich University.

Then in June 2002, he got his MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University. A few of his plays were produced by the Drama department. His final project was entitled ‘Wet,’ which is street slang for a joint of marijuana dipped in PCP.

Wayne State University

Also in December 2002, he received his MA in English and Rhetoric from Wayne State University. He was also on staff at Washtenaw Community College and Owens Community College (Toledo) teaching English and Film History. He later secured a tenure position in the English department at the University of Toledo.

Lenny’s Connections with Chuck Palahniuk, Stan Lee & Charles Bukowski

Mary Anne tells us about some of Lenny’s interesting literary and comic connections.

Chuck Palahniuk

“Lenny was a huge fan of author Chuck Palahniuk (pronounced paula-nick) and he wrote to him once. Chuck surprisingly wrote back and they maintained an infrequent correspondence over the years. In Lenny’s copy of FIGHT CLUB, Chuck wrote “To Lenny-May you never be perfect and complete…” and in SNUFF, Chuck wrote “To Lenny-May your every money shot bring a standing ovation.”

Stan Lee

“Lenny submitted artwork to a contest that Stan Lee was a judge for. Stan Lee picked Lenny’s submission as the winner and Lenny got his caricature done by Stan Lee in the Spider-Man Sunday comic strip along with the original signed Stan Lee comic art.”

Stan Lee draws Lenny in a Spider Man Sunday Comic! (October 10th, 1999)

“Lenny and Charles Bukowski were writing buddies in the 1980’s-90’s on and off.”

Charles Bukowski

“After Lenny passed away, I became the recipient of dozens of boxes of his letters and writings.”

Lenny the Writer

Lenny Fritz

Mary Anne tells us about Lenny’s writing habits and contributions.

“There was a network, a brotherhood support system of writers and comic book people that Lenny belonged to, a sort of feedback loop that helped each other out in critiquing each other’s work.”

“Lenny wrote and drew constantly, daily. He generated copious amounts of notes, most of which are written on scraps of paper and napkins. We have boxes full of his notes and sketches.”

Perg illustration for ‘Perg’ comic book series by Lenny Fritz

“Lenny did most of his writing while sitting in a recliner, keyboard in his lap, in his first-floor bedroom on Springwells. While driving, he used a voice recorder to capture his thoughts while they were hot and fresh and would later transcribe them into his computer. I still have his original tapes.”

“While working on his Masters of Education, Collegiate Sports Administration at Wayne State University, Lenny did an internship at the University of Michigan Sports department and out of that grew his long-standing relationship with U of M. Lenny published Krater Quarterly, a nationally distributed literary magazine, from Block M Press. He wrote for the U of M Dekers Blue Line, the booster club for UM hockey. “Deke” means to fake out a hockey goalie. Lenny also did illustrations for U of M which were sold as officially licensed material and merchandise.”

poster designed and illustrated by Lenny Fritz for the University of Michigan

In Nine Kinds of Pain (2011) by Leonard Fritz

In Nine Kinds of Pain (October 2011) Lenny Fritz

In Nine Kinds of Pain’ is a book written by Lenny Fritz. I’m an avid reader with a 2,000+ volume personal library and I’ve never encountered any other book like this one in terms of distinctive styling, unclassifiable-ness and comic book mingling.

Here’s the synopsis from New Pulp Press:

“Baby. She knows how to play the streets of Southwest Detroit. But when her boyfriend entangles her in his life of criminal treachery, she’s forced to go underground to stay alive. Her pursuer? The mysterious Tall Black Man, a cold-blooded dope dealer who believes she’s ripped off his stash. Baby flees to presumed safety in the arms of Father Anthony Costa, a drunken, delusional priest, and Dallas Sharper, a Detroit cop gone off the deep end; she hopes to buy more time to figure a way out. Throw into the mix the Canadian Mafia, some killer cops, and an unyielding city, and you have just another week in the Murder Capitol of the World. IN NINE KINDS OF PAIN is a fast-paced, beat-of-the-street story of torment and redemption, of failure and salvation, that proffers crime fiction at its best.”

The book centers around a group of morally conflicted characters and takes place entirely in Lenny’s old neighborhood of Southwest Detroit. The narrative is interspliced with comic book panels illustrated by Lenny, giving it a graphic novel-eqsue feel. The writing is so good and the situations so bleak and characters so grim that it’s hard to put the book down. After finishing it, you immediately want to re-read it.

This book is not for children. This book is not for people with faint hearts and rosy visions of idyllic settings. This book is for people who want to read about gritty characters and thinly veiled true-life stories written in Lenny’s own distinctive style. The story is not linear and its told in short, violent vignettes interspersed with ‘Here is Wisdom’ narration guides for non-Detroit natives.

Comic book panel by Lenny Fritz

Some of the characters include: Baby the prostitute, Father Costa the delusional alcoholic Catholic priest, Dallas the mentally unstable Detroit cop, Tall Black Man the dope pusher, Jimmy Bible the redneck cop, Frankenstein Anson Davis, etc. All characters are locked into an existential bloodsport of survival of the fittest.

The characters in the book essentially equate being a resident of Southwest Detroit to being an inmate at a prison. Each character is trapped in their own personal prison and all characters are trapped inside the prison of Southwest Detroit, where it is impossible for them to escape from. Escape is impossible because after living there, they cannot function in the outside world.

Living in the nebulous purgatory of Detroit’s Southwest side has made them crazed and ghostly, it has created a unique form of acute insanity, a permanent deranging of the soul, which cannot be gotten rid of. By existing in the realm of Southwest, they have each been robbed of their humanity and turned into quasi-monsters. Remember, this is just a book. Lenny was a die-hard Detroiter at heart.

I imagine that the title ‘In Nine Kinds of Pain’ refers to the multi-dimensional realms of suffering you can live in simultaneously. There were 9 Circles of Hell in Dante’s Inferno and there’s 9 Kinds of Pain in Lenny’s Southwest Detroit.

excerpt from Lenny Fritz

Mary Anne offers her recollections of Lenny’s book.

“Around 2000, Lenny started the initial idea for ‘In Nine Kinds of Pain’. It wasn’t titled until after he finished the manuscript.

90% of the material in the book involves real people and true stories from the neighborhood with some minor embellishments.”

“The book was published in October 2011 by New Pulp Press, a publishing house which was based in Colorado at the time. After its release, Lenny did a few book signings in Ann Arbor & Detroit, however, shortly after its release, he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in May 2012.”

“Lenny and I lived in Monroe at the time of his illness. Lenny was a professor of English literature at the University of Toledo. He had just completed spring semester classes mid-May and was diagnosed with esophageal cancer at the end of May.”

“While he was in ICU at the University of Toledo Medical Center and unable to speak, we would steady a pen in his hand and he would write in a binder to communicate with us, never once needing to look at the page as he jotted. His body was collapsing but his brain was still true and clear.”

Lenny tragically passed away on September 13th, 2012. It was an overwhelmingly fast death and still difficult to deal with at times. We just want to keep his memory alive. He was 45 years old when he died.”

Throughout his work, Lenny offered many haunting premonitions. His 2000 thesis for Wayne State alluded to September 11th over a year before it happened. And in his book, he spookily alludes to his own death a few times.

Lenny won a Fireball Award from Spinetingler Magazine for having one of the 25 greatest opening lines in crime fiction. The opening line is, “This is Detroit, so welcome to the jungle.”

Throughout the book, Lenny pays illustrative homages to Daniel Clowes, Margraret Kilgallen, Jorge Longaron and Alden McWilliams. In a separate project, Lenny illustrated the cover for Jake Hinkson’s book ‘Hell on Church Street’.

Overall, ‘In Nine Kinds of Pain’ is a fascinating read and would make a great movie. The film would have to be raw, gritty and shot on location to do it justice.

Although it has never been discussed by anyone, I am labeling Lenny’s unique work as the beginning of ‘Detroitica’. Detroitica will henceforth be defined as a literary sub-genre of crime noirs which contain elements of the gritty, erotic, surreal, underworld, criminal and insanity specifically taking place in and around Detroit. The genre was inadvertently created by Lenny Fritz.

Lenny’s Unpublished Book: ‘You Can Kill Anyone’

illustration by Lenny Fritz

Mary Anne tells us about some upcoming projects.

“Lenny was originally going to do a trilogy and he wrote a second companion book called ‘You Can Kill Anyone’. The book is about Jimmy Bible, a character mentioned in the first book.”

“Lenny described Jimmy Bible as “one of those ‘redneck cops’ who can’t seem to draw a line between reality and the video game Grand Theft Auto.” The book is about Jimmy Bible spiraling down but becomes a love story involving Jimmy Bible, Plain Jane Dunleavy, Spanker and other characters.”

“A company called 280 Steps based in Oslo, Norway was going to publish the book in November 2015 but they never did. It was scheduled for release but kept getting delayed as ‘to be published’ and now the company no longer exists. Fortunately, I own the intellectual property rights to all of Lenny’s work and we will be actively pursuing the publication of this book in the near future.”

Lenny also has several short stories that we are going to compile into a book and publish.”

Fond Memories of Lenny & the Fritz’s

Lenny Fritz

Lenny’s mom Mary Anne sold my dad his first car in the 1970’s and Patty has my Aunt Mae’s rosary.

My Aunt Mae & Aunt Dae, two hilarious Italian sisters (real names Amelia & Adele Miglierino), also lived down the street at 2576 Springwells. They had glass bowls of stale candy corn around the house, a dog named Rocky and they used to argue frequently and call each other “Pep” and “dog in the manger”. They used to give my cousin Tim and I coffee and crackers starting when we were 4-5 years old. Coffee, cream, about 20 spoonfuls of sugar poured in from the restaurant-style sugar jar and we would dip saltine crackers in the foul concoction. My Aunt Dae wore a hairnet, terrycloth shorts, slipper socks and would wander the alleys of Southwest Detroit picking dandelions and collecting discarded toys and assorted trinkets. It’s a miracle she was never mauled by a pitbull or bopped on the head. Lenny and his family knew them well.

Patty recalls some fond memories.

“Your Grandma used to babysit us. I remember she would make pancakes in various shapes for us. Then years later, I babysat Renee when your Aunt & Uncle lived over on Wendell. Lenny would do these elaborate chalk drawings with her on the sidewalks.”

“Every summer, our whole family would go to Camp Dearborn in Milford for 3 weeks. It’s a tent village of large wood frame tents with canopies. The tents have beds and bunk beds, they’re very spacious and we would rent 8-10 of them for 100+ people. We have a big family, I have 35 first cousins. While we were at camp, your Aunt Sue “watched” our house for us (aka: she threw parties).”

“At camp, Lenny would organize football teams, The Fritz Blitz v.s. The Fritz Connection. He made t-shirts for the games at Sheridan Sport Shop on Vernor Hwy near our house. Archery, swimming, rowboats, etc, the summer dream. We had so much fun.”

Christ Recrucified Two Thousand One AD

Christ Recrucified Two Thousand One AD (2000) By: Lenny Fritz

Lenny’s master thesis ‘Christ Recrucified Two Thousand One AD’ is 244 pages long and was written in 2000. This engrossing 42-chapter novel is a fictional account of the last week of the life of Jesus Christ.

In the book, Lenny describes it as “I strayed from the known events of Jesus, and created a world in which the supernatural plays a key role in the characters life. God & Satan also play significant roles in the manuscript, battling for control over Jesus and his decision to be executed.”

It is considered a “lost rarity” by fans of his work. If you want to read it, it’s housed at the Wayne State University storage thesis collection at Adamany Undergrad Library in Detroit. To go read it, fill out this storage request form:  https://library.wayne.edu/forms/storage_request.php

Christ Recrucified Two Thousand One AD (2000) By: Lenny Fritz

Final Thoughts

R.I.P. Lenny Fritz

Mary Anne, Patty and Eric will be at the Detroit Festival of books selling copies of ‘In Nine Kinds of Pain’ for $10.00 each.

The final resting place of Lenny is at Our Lady of Hope Cemetery in Brownstown. He is cremated. His ashes are inside a bronze Krater-style urn with black enamel etching. The urn sits inside a polished marble niche.

Friends, family, the city of Detroit and readers everywhere lost Leonard Daniel Fritz too soon. But his legacy lives on.

R.I.P.

Leonard Daniel Fritz

June 27th, 1967-September 13th, 2012

Lenny Fritz

Krater Magazine by Lenny Fritz

Krater by Lenny

Lenny Fritz

Lenny illustrated the book cover for Jake Hinson’s ‘Hell on Church Street’

Lenny’s etching on the front page of the Dekers

Rendering by Lenny Fritz

Rendering by Lenny Fritz

illustration by Lenny Fritz

In Nine Kinds of Pain by Lenny Fritz