|I never met Bill but did have those great three issues of AFTA. Also since receiving documents from Jim Bertges of IF's early days I did find correspondence from Bill to Jim and hope to have those scanned and put on this page. I also had tried to look for Bill on the internet and found references in Elayne Riggs' blog but wasn't until his passing that I found more. I would like to thank Clifford Meth for his permission to use phrases from his tribute. You can find his site at :
Bill-Dale Marcinko�s Infinite Second Comings
December 4, 2005
Elayne breaks the bizarre news to me in an email and when I see the subject line, my face isn�t sure which mask to don. So Bill-Dale Marcinko is dead. Again. I pick up the phone and push buttons.
�Jeepers!� I say to the voice on the other end. �It's deja vu all over again.�
�I don�t know, Cliff,� Elayne replies. �I�m not sure if he�s coming back this time.� I grow suddenly vexed as my mind whirls about. Not coming back? Where�s your faith, lady?! I never expected blasphemy from you, the closest of his disciples! No, no�that was Elayne Wechsler. That was Rutgers. That was the time of mimeo-fanzines and Phil Seuling cons, when movies were something you drove to and corresponding with folks meant licking stamps. That was a different America, when the man who sat in the White House was quoting Bob Dylan in his inaugural speech. Times had indeed a'changed� She is Elayne Riggs now I realize through the collective looking glass of midlife vertigo.
I hold my head with both hands to stop it from spinning, blink and I�m back at the computer, fingers pecking at the keyboard as they search the net for news items while my mind, disconnected, leapfrogs unrestrained through the time-tunnel of recollections. �Nostalgia!� Bill-Dale warned us. �America�s favorite mood!� I look up and there he is, center stage at the Wharton Community Theatre in Northwest New Jersey rehearsing Mark Medoff�s �When You Coming Back Red Ryder�. He is Teddy, a borderline psychopath grasping for semi-meaning with a semi-automatic and I am menaced by him, cowed in front of my girl�me, Stephen Ryder, tough guy-wannabe now saddled with the bleak reality of utter impotence when faced with true violence. The play became a skewed metaphor for our fledgling friendship and would continue to inform it in years to come.
Wharton man dies in house fire:
Autopsy needed to confirm identity of victim
A Monday afternoon fire in a one-story house at 47 Crater Ave. killed its lone occupant, authorities said.
I was just 15 when Bill-Dale, 17, began fueling my imagination with all manner of music and books and film and urbane happenings beyond the scope of my single-horse-town upbringing. On any given day, a new icon would take residence in my growing pantheon courtesy of Bill-Dale�s superior reach. It was through his glass darkly that I first encountered Phil Ochs, Warren Zevon, and The Firesign Theatre. Bill-Dale delighted in driving small bands of close comrades to far-out-of-town little theatres to catch the showing of an old film (there were neither DVDs nor videos nor Sony Betamax�s in 1976). One Saturday, he dragged me to a Star Trek Convention at the New York Hilton to witness readings by authors whose names I�d never encountered: Isaac Asimov, Ben Bova and a young firebrand named Harlan Ellison. As Ellison prepared to address the huge assembly, Bill-Dale got a gleam in his eye. �Quick�go ask Harlan if they�re going to censor him,� he urged.
I jogged up to the podium. �Excuse me! Excuse me, Mr. Ellison? Are they going to censor you today?�
Harlan glared down at me like the idiot child I was. �Nobody fucking censors me, kiddo,� he said, turning away.
For the most part, spending time with Bill-Dale was a crash course in counter-culture polemics. There was always the overload factor, but Billy, as he sometimes called himself when he wasn�t insisting on being �Bill-Dale,� would quickly overlay the student-teacher relationship with a deeply personal one. He loved his friends. As much as he feared people, he treasured his companions and elevated them to icon status. This love manifested itself as extraordinary generosity. For a teenager of meager means, he gave oddly lavish gifts. I remember receiving Byron Preiss� Weird Heroes collection and other books filled with the sublime artwork of Frank Frazetta, Richard Corben, Jeffrey Jones. More realms opening�fastastical new worlds...
Bill-Dale introduced me to comics-fandom mainstays like Russ Maheras, Wm. Messner-Loebs (then Wm. Francis Loebs), Jason Sacks, and Capt. David Health Jr�to Bob Andelman and Bob Pinaha of The Fans of Central Jersey�to the writings of James Van Hise and �Keno� Don Rosa along with the breath-taking fan art of Mike Zeck at RBCC� And then Bill-Dale decided to launch his own fanzine. But first, he sought to do something grand�something sensational. So he sent a letter to the editor of CBG announcing his accidental death. A tragic auto accident had snuffed out the light of fandom pioneer Bill-Dale. The letter was signed by me.
It was only 30 days later when fandom witnessed Bill-Dale�s Easter, his miraculous rising, that ingenious ploy to launch AFTA (Ascension From The Ashes), his breakthrough fanzine of �temporary culture�. What fun! The hoax at last revealed! With more than 100 pages (five-times the size of the average �zine), contributions from dozens of global fan writers and artists, and a cover by George Perez, no less! AFTA was a far cry from the faceless fanzines of its day�and these days, let�s face it�an evolution cleverly strewn with revolutionary contents. Between the contributed art and interviews with people like comedian Steve Martin, Bill-Dale�s editorials would discuss a beating he�d caught at the hands of local thugs, or how his parent's Pennsylvania mining town had dried up when the highway passed it by.
And here I was convinced that Bill-Dale�s parents had spent their whole lives in New Jersey. Hmm�
AFTA may have been the first comics 'zine distributed to book and comic shops that combined comedy, politics and reviews on books, films, and comics. It was very much an underground version of Crawdaddy, though with vastly personal content. Its formula would be duplicated over and over, but AFTA was the first of its kind. Bill-Dale, at this point an undergrad at Rutgers University living in Demerest Hall, gathered about him a coterie of new devotees, post-Yippie counterculture types who were continually invigorated by his energy and ideas.
"Billy ... used to be, years ago, a critic of movies," said nephew Mark Marcinko, 33. "He enjoyed all kinds of movies, videos, vinyl albums. He had a lot of different interests.� Mark said his uncle made a living selling those types of items on eBay. "He made a pretty good living doing it," Mark Marcinko said, adding that years ago his uncle was an English professor at Rutgers University.
Shortly after I left Rutgers, Bill-Dale and I lost touch. I was on to greener pastures; Bill-Dale was making Rutgers greener. He managed to take over the student newspaper The Livingston Medium for a number of years, transforming it into a bizarre guerilla weekly with overt sexual material and political satire. For his efforts, Bill-Dale found himself very disliked by the establishment. And it only grew worse when he graduated and began teaching at the university, where his reputation among students and staff grew to cult status.
It all ended as quickly as it began. For nearly two decades, no one from comics fandom nor The Livingston Medium heard from Bill-Dale. I was told that Rutgers had shown him the door for reasons I could only imagine. His name would come up from time to time, especially as the people he�d once weaned intersected on the information super highway.
The internet: It was the perfect medium for a cult figure like Bill-Dale Marcinko. He apparently hadn�t made it in films�at least not under any name we knew off�but with the new frontier of cyberspace, Bill-Dale�s second coming was imminent.
A new webzine, perhaps. A blog. Something. Anything� But Bill-Dale was nowhere to be found. A Google search only turned up former friends nostalgic for their guru.
Two years ago, I got it in my head that I wanted to find out the fate of my old friend. After hitting a number of dead ends on the internet and via phone calls to his former pals, I decided to drive out to his old home in Wharton. Perhaps his parents were still around. Or maybe an old neighbor in-the-know.
There was a purple Dodge Neon parked far back in the driveway at 47 Crater Avenue. It reminded me of the broken down Dodge Dart he drove when we were kids. I proceeded up the front steps. From the outside, the house was in terrible disrepair. Looked like no one had lived there for years. Inside, I could hear a TV playing terribly loud. Must be old people, I thought. There was no doorbell, so I rapped on the screen door� No one answered. So I knocked again.
The man who came to the door didn�t recognize me, but I sure knew him. Bill-Dale, always a tad overweight, stood skinny and frail now. His pale, yellow hair was thinning. It had been thinning two decades ago. He still looked out from behind thick-lens glasses. I was invited to come in.
Everywhere I looked, there were stacks of albums or tapes or books or magazines. His parents� home�now his home with their passing�had become home, too, to an enormous collection of temporary culture that threatened to engulf its frail owner. The term firetrap came to mind.
Bill-Dale and I spoke for an hour. I compressed two decades of living and career and accomplishments and disappointments into sixty minutes.
And then I asked the question that had been bothering me for so long. �Why aren�t you writing?�
Bill-Dale smiled and looked away. He�d always done that�smiled and looked away, only back then he�d burst into laughter. This time there was none.
�I suppose I�ll write,� he said, �when I have something to say.�
Dead, said the newspaper. William Marcinko, dead.
I can hardly wait to see what he has planned next.
The Covers of AFTA zines, with two versions of #2 and The Medium.
Here are some interesting AFTA related flyers and newsletters and two letters to IF.
This page is IF's way of paying homage to the man please see Elayne Riggs' and Jason Bates, below for futher tributes.
Obession with Comics Bill-Dale Marcinko Tribute
Elayne Riggs Blog: RIP Bill-Dale Marcinko