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excellent writing
exceptional art
historical bonus 3
total score 9
Promethean Enterprises #4
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Only Printing / Fall, 1971 / 80 pages / Promethean Enterprises
The page count for Promethean Enterprises continues to rise with each issue, and #4 features 80 pages, which includes the covers and a card-stock centerfold that was designed to be removed from the book and built into a toy boat. Remarkably, with the huge increase in page count and production costs, the cover price for the fourth issue remained at $1.00. However, in his editorial at the back of the book, Vadeboncoeur warns that the price would be going up to $1.25 with the next issue (which came out over two years later with a cover price of $2.00).

The fourth issue opens with a seven-page wordless story from Dennis Nolan that was produced on large (2.5 x 3.5 foot) acrylic paintings and photomechanically reduced for publication. Though without dialogue, there is a brief passage of text on the first page that explains the concept of the story, which appears to be something about Satan judging a wanton woman (Eve?) but then Jesus (crap, He came way after Eve) rescuing her from damnation and teaching archery to African babies. Plus vultures lurking about in case you get all morbidly Shakespearean about death. Hard to say f'sure, but that's what I got out of it.

From this grim introduction we segue to Vincent Davis' hilarious "Comic Book Fans," a story about comic-book collectors that points out the absurdity of their obsessions. The story was reprinted two years later in Myron Moose Funnies, volume 1, #2.

The lone article in this issue is "Blast the Rats!" by Al Davoren and Parley Holman, which is about the rise of crime comics after World War II. Oddly, the four-page article doesn't reference EC nor any of EC's titles, but focuses only on Crime Does Not Pay, Exposed True Crime Cases, and Crime and Punishment, among others. Perhaps EC's omission was due to the fact that so many EC fanzines were already well established (e.g., Potrzebie, Squa Tront, Hoo-Hah!) and Promethean wanted to give some props to the non-EC crime comics. In any case, the article is interesting, especially to the uninitiated.

Robert Crumb provides several pages of early sketchbook material, most of it devoted to Fritz the Cat and Silly Pidgeons drawings. The "Gallery" immediately follows and features work by Keith Kleespies, R.L. Tubbesing (a lovely drawing of decrepit aviation), John Fawcett, Neil Passey (an exceptional female nude), Bob Inwood and Rob Brown (with more great inkwork).

After a few three-panel "Little Green Dinosaur" strips by Johnny Chambers and a perpetually looping sci-fi one-pager from George Metzger (who does not provide the third chapter in "Panoply Mind" in this issue, reportedly due to his summering in Canada), Tom Bird is given eight pages for a story about a mentally tortured war veteran. The story—which has no dialogue but lots of expositional text—is run of the mill, but Bird displays his above-average illustration skills to good effect. Not much was seen from Bird in the coming years (a couple of stories and a few pages in other books), but in 1974 Bud Plant published Bird's only one-man comic, Barbarian Killer Funnies, a parody of Conan the Barbarian that proved Bird had much more to offer to the comic-art medium than he apparently gave (or was allowed to give).

The book closes with a somewhat blasé album of early 20th-century photos and some cool John Thompson illustrations that were done around the time he produced Eternal Tales (1972), a somewhat rare comic book that features a drawing similar to one of the drawings printed here. Overall, Promethean Enterprises #4 is another extraordinary issue filled with unique work that has "no central theme throughout the magazine other than what the editors consider good art."
It is currently unknown how many copies of this magazine were printed. It has not been reprinted. The covers are printed on a heavy glossy cover stock and the interior pages are printed on white offset paper.

I have found no resources (including Kennedy's Price Guide) that indicate the print quantity for any of the five issues of Promethean Enterprises. However, in Vadeboncoeur's editorial for this issue, he provides a strong hint about the print quantity when he states that the editors did the production work on each issue themselves. Vadeboncoeur says that after the printing was completed; "We'd take the 50,000 or so pieces of paper, fold 'em, score and fold the covers, collate them, and then staple and trim each issue. All of this takes time; time which is becoming harder and harder to find, especially with our increasing page count and print runs."

This is a clear indication that the print run (likely of #3, based on the page count) was around 3,000 copies. I'd only be guessing, but if I was I'd guess the print run of #1 was 500-1,000 copies and #2 was 1,500-2,000 copies. Issue #5, which appeared in 1974 after a long delay and is the most easily obtained issue, may have had a print run of over 3,000 (though that seems high).
Jim Vadeboncoeur Jr. - coeditor, 4 (editorial), 77-78 (editorial)
Al Davoren - coeditor, art director, 3 (shared), 16-21 (article coauthor)
Bud Plant - coeditor
Bob Zoell - 1, 53 (ad)
Greg Irons - 2
Rick Griffin - 3 (shared), 80
Dennis Nolan - 4-11
Vincent Davis - 12-14
George Metzger - 15, 54
Parley Holman - 16-21 (article coauthor)
Jim Osborne - 18
Roger Brand - 21
Robert Crumb - 22-28, 38, 43, 77-78 (art)
Keith Kleespies - 29, 32
unknown artist(s) - 30, 31
R.L. Tubbesing - 33
Doug Wildey - 35
John Fawcett - 37, 40-41, 44, 79
Neil Passey - 45
Robert Inwood - 46, 50
Victor Moscoso - 47-49
Rob Brown - 51
Johnny Chambers - 52-53, 76
Tom Bird - 55-62
Albert Huter - 68-70
John Thompson - 71-75