The Best of Xero
Pat and Dick Lupoff (introduction by Roger Ebert)
with illustrations by Larry Ivie, Steve Stiles, Andy Reiss, Lin Carter, Ajay Budrys, Dan Adkins, Arthur Thompson (ATom), Cathy Bell, bhob stewart, Sylvia White, Eddie Jones and Roy Krenkel
Tachyon Publications, 255 pp.
Modern comics fandom effectively began in 1960 with two SF fanzines, Don and Maggie Thompson’s Comic Art and Dick and Pat Lupoff’s Hugo-winning Xero. This book reprints some excellent pieces from Xero but its title is a bit of a misnomer since the heart of the fanzine was a series of essays that were picked up and published in book form in the 1970s under the catch-all title they shared in its pages, All in Color for a Dime. But this collection, 30+ years later, is the second shoe dropping—and it demonstrates that the fanzine’s excellence was not limited to those essays. Rog Ebert, in his introduction, writes of his teen years when he was a fan who wrote poetry for Xero, before he went on to become a film critic. This is followed by more than a dozen pieces, some humorous, some not, all excellent, interspersed with the commentary of notables which originally appeared in Xero’s letter column. Perhaps most worthy of mention are Harlan Ellison on the Bloch-Hitchcock Psycho, the late James Blish with two offerings (his days as a writer for Captain Video and his take on Kingsley Amis’ New Maps of Hell), Bob Tucker conducting an imaginary interview with his old friend Robert Bloch, Donald E. Westlake detailing why he found it necessary to move from writing SF to writing mysteries (not to mention various editors’ responses, and Westlake’s devastating rejoinders), Don Thompson on why he preferred the Spectre to Superman, Roy Thomas on Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang and, last but far from least, Lin Carter’s delightful pastiche of Sax Rohmer. The book is not without error—I can imagine Westlake bridling, e.g., over his two best-known caper mystery characters being mislabeled in his credits (Dortmunder as an “incompetent mobster” and Parker as a “hit man”; Dortmunder is an incompetent thief whose exploits have reached the silver screen in The Hot Rock and Bank Shot, while the first novel in the Parker series—where Parker does kill a few people, just never for hire—has twice been made into a movie, first as Point Blank with Lee Marvin and more recently as Payback with Mel Gibson). But, that said, this is also a handsomely produced book, a fascinating read for anyone interested in SF, comics, fanzines and/or all three, and well worth the $29.95 cover price.