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frezno funnies 1
average writing
competent art
historical bonus 3
total score 6
Frezno Funnies #1
2nd Printing / Summer, 1975 / 36 pages / Doug Hansen

1st Printing 1973

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At twenty years old, college junior and Fresno native Doug Hansen had been illustrating full-page comic stories for his college newspaper, The Daily Collegian, for about a year. He was quite sure he was ready to hit the big-time underground comic scene, so he took the short trip to San Francisco and presented Rip Off Press with a complete comic book. They gently turned him down. Undeterred, Hansen returned to Fresno and published the book himself, under the title Frezno Funnies. None of the stories in the book were related to Fresno, but he planned to sell the book locally and thought it would help sales to have the title named after the city.

The book sold reasonably well and Hansen's career as an underground cartoonist was launched. He worked in comics for the rest of the '70s and occasionally contributed stories for books even after he began working in the art department at the Fresno Bee in 1979 (where he worked for 23 years). Today, Hansen is an associate professor in the Department of Art and Design at his alma mater, California State University, Fresno, and also works as a fine artist and book illustrator.

For a comic book by a 20-year-old kid, Fresno Funnies #1 isn't bad. The first story, "Billy Thrills" is a self-admitted comic-strip fantasy starring Billy, who is the hero of a tailor-made adventure that he appears to conjure up on demand, one command at a time. The plotting may be a bit predictable, but there's a certain wild charm to Billy that's endearing.

The opening story is followed by four pages of "Baloney News and World Report," featuring absurd spot news reports related to baloney and assorted meats. It's rather weak. The 20-page tale that follows, "Bungo Magga and the Warthog in Desert Madness," is not nearly as lively as "Billy Thrills," but at least it's readable. The story is about a young man named Bungo Magga and his quest to scale a mysterious mountain, which is interrupted by a troublesome talking wart-hog. Bungo manages to ascend to the peak of the mountain anyway, but his reward only gets him into more trouble.

It's not too surprising that Rip Off Press didn't want to publish this comic book, but I've certainly encountered worse books in the underground genre. Hansen is to be admired for publishing the book himself and forging a name for himself at such a young age. I have to admit not liking much of his output as an underground cartoonist, but after his subsequent employment at the Fresno Bee and earning his Masters Degree in Art at age 50, he matured into a solid illustrator and maintains a successful career as a college professor and working artist.
There are two printings of this comic, both published by Doug Hansen. Both printings were distributed by Commonwealth Enterprises in Fresno, California. The 1st printing was 500 copies, which were signed and numbered by Doug Hansen. The indicia indicates the comic was printed in 1973, and though Kennedy reports it was actually published in the spring of 1972, Hansen states on his website that it was 1973.

According to its indicia, Frezno Funnies #1 was printed by "Mike and VIC Printing." Apparently, "Mike" was an acquaintance of Hansen's friend, underground comic artist John Thompson. As Hansen describes on his site: "[Thompson] found me a truly "underground" printer who surreptitiously printed the comic for free, after hours, on the in-house press of a large local business establishment. I paid for ink and plates, then paid to have it folded, collated, bound and trimmed at a printer's service shop."

The 2nd printing took place in the summer of 1975, soon after the publication of Frezno Funnies #2. For the 2nd printing of #1, Hansen used 140 copies of the cover left over from the 1st printing and printed 140 more sets of the interior pages for 140 additional comic books
. He also signed and numbered each copy of the 2nd printing, from #501 to #640. The 2nd printing copy shown here is #632.


Doug Hansen 1-36