K-a Boodle

CAPA-Alpha superhero mascot sitting in plush chair pensively, by the drawing board, with large question marks over 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 pretty quickly in usage from acronym to outright word, like "scuba" or "laser". Likewise there's some slight variation on what the term stands for, but I've found "amateur press association" the most popular with "amateur publishing alliance" and the expected variations combining bits of those two phrases used on occasion. Apas can be focused on just about 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 publication — a fanzine, or just 'zine in modern parlance, directed specifically to the apa's audience, known as an apazine — and then sends it to a coordinator who collates all the contributions into one central mailing, distributing the whole thing back to the members.

While this may sound quaint or just crazy today, it wasn't long ago that the information superhighway was still very slow and text-based, and correspondence between like minds 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, lack of color, 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, simply 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" rendered 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 membership when my tenure began — all the other guys (and a couple of gals) 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 — often, just to get people to care about — than drawing or other visual arts, so my cartooning stood out and whatever aptitude I had was in demand among those in K-a who liked to collaborate.

Most of the 'zines in CAPA-Alpha featured writing about comics (and other subjects, often but not exclusively in historically related areas like animation, science fiction, etc.), sometimes with attendant photocopied comics panels or covers. The drawing of mine that leads off this post was for the cover a genuine K-a comics section, mailed out 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. The logo apes that of the venerable Walt Disney's Comics and Stories, and I swapped in a version of the superheroic K-a mascot that I had seen in some apazine or another. While the chair is based on the one in the original cover, I drew in my own drawing table and the box that sat next to it holding my art supplies — except that the box is way smaller than it should be and the perspective on it doesn't work with the chair.

CAPA-Alpha's Comics and Stories cover: above image but with logo Superman #41 cover: Superman in same position as in CAPA-Alpha piece, sitting in plush chair pensively by the drawing board with inkwell atop it and brush behind his ear
Left: Cover to CAPA-Alpha's Comics and Stories © 1994 Brian Saner Lamken. Pencils, Inks: BSL. Right: Cover to Superman #41 © 1946, and Superman ®, DC Comics. Pencils: Wayne Boring.
Inks: George Roussos. Colors: Unknown.

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