|Jerry Bails (c. 1961–1964)|
Paul Gambaccini (1964–1965)
Dave Kaler (1965–1968)
Mark Hanerfeld (1968–1970)
The Academy of Comic-Book Fans and Collectors (ACBFC) was the first official organization of comic book enthusiasts and historians. Active during the 1960s, the ACBFC was established by Jerry Bails, the "father of comics fandom." A vital player in the development of comics fandom, the ACBFC brought fans of the medium together, administered the first industry awards (the Alley Awards), and assisted in the establishment of the first comic book fan conventions.
Origins and the Alley Awards
The idea of the Academy was inspired by Bails' friend and fellow enthusiast Roy Thomas, who felt a comics-industry version of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences would be an effective way "to emphasize the seriousness of comics fans about their hobby." Bails further liked "the idea of a fandom organization that would not only perpetuate the concept of comics as an art form, but would also act as a sort of umbrella for all his ideas and projects, and those of others." In short order — 1961 or 1962 — the Academy of Comic-Book Arts and Sciences was established. Bails served as the Academy's first executive secretary, which had an initial roster of about twenty members.
The Academy's first order of business was to administer the Alley Awards, which traced their origin to "a letter to Jerry dated October 25, 1961," by Thomas, in which he suggested to Bails that his fanzine Alter-Ego create its own awards to reward fandom's "favorite comic books in a number of categories" in a manner similar to the Oscars. Initially suggested as "The Alter-Ego Award," the resulting idea was soon named "The Alley Award," "named after V. T. Hamlin's Alley Oop" by Thomas "because surely a caveman had to be the earliest superhero chronologically." The first Alley Awards, given for the calendar year 1961, were reported in Alter Ego #4 (Oct. 1962).
- conduct and administer the Alley Awards
- publish the comics news fanzine The Comic Reader
- endorse a "code of fair practice in the selling and trading of comic books"
- publish "a directory of comic fans" in the hopes of building local chapters
- endorse other fan organizations
- assist in establishing a yearly comics convention, and encourage industry professionals to participate
Forum was name of the ACBFC journal, the first issue of which was published in October 1964 out of South Bend, Indiana.
On March 21–22, 1964, the first annual "Alley Tally" by ACBFC members was organized by Bails at his house in Detroit, with the purpose of counting "the Alley Award ballots for 1963." This became notable in retrospect as the first major gathering of comics fans, predating the earliest comic book conventions, which were held later in the year. Attendees included Ronn Foss, Don Glut, Don and Maggie Thompson, Mike Vosburg, and Grass Green. Comics historian Bill Schelly notes that the Alley Tally and "even larger fan meetings in Chicago . . . helped build momentum" for these earliest conventions. (Bails himself was "on the organizing committee" for the Detroit Triple Fan Fair, held in 1965.)
By 1965, the title of ACBFC Executive Secretary had passed to Dave Kaler and the Academy had a membership of 2,000. Under Kaler's leadership, the Academy produced three successful "Academy Con" comic book conventions in New York City during the summers of 1965–1967, attracting industry professionals such as Otto Binder, Bill Finger, Gardner Fox, Mort Weisinger, James Warren, Roy Thomas, Gil Kane, Stan Lee, Bill Everett, Carmine Infantino, and Julius Schwartz.
Decline and demise
By 1968, comics fandom — including annual conventions being held in New York, Detroit, St. Louis, and the Southwest — had become well established, and the Academy's mission had been essentially fulfilled. In early 1968, due to a number of factors, Executive Secretary Kaler left, and Academy member Maggie Thompson declared the ACBFC "moribund." A 1969 mention in "Marvel Bullpen Bulletins" may have helped revive interest temporarily — it noted that the group "holds an annual poll to determine the most popular mags, writers and artists of the preceding year," (referring to the Alley Awards) and directed fans to obtain a ballot from then ACBFC executive secretary (and future comics professional) Mark Hanerfeld (who resided in Flushing, New York). Nonetheless, the Academy waned, "and it was disbanded for lack of interest by the decade's end." 1970 was also the final year of the Alley Awards (awarded for calendar year 1969).
The Comic Reader, meanwhile, became "a mainstay of fandom," continuing as a (generally) monthly magazine under a succession of editors (including Hanerfeld and Paul Levitz), before being taken over in 1973 by Street Enterprises, which published the magazine until the mid-1980s.
- Lopes, Paul. Demanding Respect: The Evolution of the American Comic Book (Temple University Press, 2009), p. 94.
- Schelly, Bill. Profiles of 90 Publishers, Dealers, Collectors, Writers, Artists and Other Luminaries of the 1950s and 1960s (McFarland, 2010), p. 181.
- Schelly, Bill. "Jerry Bails' Ten Building Blocks of Fandom," Alter Ego vol. 3, #25 (June 2003), pp. 5-8.
- Gabilliet, Jean-Paul. Of Comics and Men: A Cultural History of American Comic Books (University of Mississippi Press, 2010), p. 265.
- Graves, Philip. "Early comics fandom (Part 1) - The Alley Awards," Examiner.com (Sept. 3, 2009).
- "The Alley Awards for 1961: A Report from Roy Thomas, Secretary of the Academy of Comic Book Arts and Sciences". Alter Ego (4). October 1962. Reprinted in Thomas, Roy; Schelly, Bill, editors (2008). Alter Ego: The Best of the Legendary Comics Fanzine. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing. pp. 48–49. ISBN 978-1-893905-88-7.
- Schelly, Bill. Founders, p. 23.
- Skinn, Dez. "Early days of UK comics conventions and marts," Archived 2012-02-01 at the Wayback Machine DezSkinn.com. Accessed Mar. 3, 2013.
- Graves, Philip. "Early comics fandom (Part 2) - After the Alley Awards," Examiner.com (Sept. 11, 2009).
- "With a Little Help From His Friends...," Alter Ego vol. 3, #25 (June 2003), pp. 14-19.
- Schelly, Bill. "Introduction," Founders (McFarland, 2010), p. 8.
- Schelly, Bill. "The Kaler Con: Two Views: Bigger And Better Than The Benson Con Just Three Weeks Before?? (Part VIII of '1966: The Year Of (Nearly) Three New York Comics Conventions')," Alter-Ego #64 (Jan. 2007).
- RBCC Rocket's Blast Comicollector #52 (1967).
- Thompson, Maggie. "Academy Moribund," Newfangles #7 (Feb. 1968).
- Marvel "Bullpen Bulletins" page, "Fabulous Facts and Frivolous Fables from Frantic Fans, Faithful Friends, and Fiendish Foes!" in Marvel Comics cover-dated April 1969, including The Incredible Hulk vol. 2, #114.