ProJunior and pals. Artist: Jay Lynch.


Medium: Comix
Published in: Fanzines
First Appeared: 1961
Creator: Don Dohler
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The "underground" comix of the 1960s and '70s were such an idiosyncratic lot, obviously the product of a single (usually eccentric) cartoonist's individual vision, it's hard to see one as …

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… common property, available for use by a wide range of creators. But that's what ProJunior, originally created (probably in the late 1950s) by cartoonist/movie producer Don Dohler, eventually became. When, a decade after his first appearance, he was finally published in his own title, the first (and only) issue contained interpretations of the character by no less than 23 others, including R. Crumb (Mr. Natural), Bill Griffith (Zippy the Pinhead) and S. Clay Wilson (The Checkered Demon), and only a single page by Dohler himself.

Dohler began publishing Wild, an imitation of Mad magazine, in 1961. As a high school student, he had only limited resources, so he did it in the form of a fanzine. Aside from the satire theme, it had one big thing in common with the pro publications — a distinctive mascot. Mad had Alfred E. Neuman; its #1 imitator, Cracked, had Sylvester P. Smythe; and years later Marvel's Not Brand Echh had Forbush Man. Wild had ProJunior.

It was an overriding concern of many in fanzines to eventually "turn pro", that is, to become professionals in the field of the 'zine's interest. ProJunior was conceived as an avatar of Dohler himself, and aspired to become a professional in the comic book field. Tho the character didn't appear in print until '61, Dohler had created him a few years earlier, when he was in grade school. ProJunior was drawn by several of Wild's contributors, but could always be identified by two characteristics — his Dagwood-style haircut; and the fact that the "whites" of his eyes were black, and the irises white.

Like many fanzines, Wild ended when Dohler grew up and needed to earn a living. It was replaced by Cinemagic, devoted to science fiction movies, which differed from the average fanzine by the fact that most of its material was created by professionals, and it made a profit. Dohler eventually sold it to Starlog, but by that time he'd "turned pro" and was producing independent movie features himself.

Meanwhile, ProJunior continued as a character in comix, mostly produced by Jay Lynch (Nard & Pat) and Art Spiegelman (Maus), who had been regular contributors to Wild. In 1971, Lynch edited Don Dohler's ProJunior for Kitchen Sink Press (Steve Canyon, The Spirit), which went through four printings over the next couple of years.

That was ProJunior's big moment of glory. He faded in prominence after that, and now the entire underground comix movement has faded as well. He never did graduate to full prodom.


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Text ©2007-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Jay Lynch.