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excellent writing
exceptional art
historical bonus 3
total score 9
Promethean Enterprises #5
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Only Printing / Spring, 1974 / 84 pages / Promethean Enterprises
The final issue of Promethean Enterprises arrived in 1974, well over two years after the previous issue. Coeditor Jim Vadeboncoeur acknowledged in his editorial that "There is the distinct possibility that this may be our last issue." He cited rising production costs and a business merger that changed the publishers' relationship with the printer as risk factors for future issues. "But don't write us off yet," he declared.

Well, as it turned out we did have to write them off, but at least we got one more great issue of artwork and, for the first time, a long-form interview. Al Davoren interviewed Robert Crumb on August 6, 1972, right after Crumb's XYZ Comics hit the streets (and about 20 months before Promethean #5 was published). This is also around the time that Crumb had a live-in girlfriend, Kathy (living next door to Crumb's wife at the time, Dana), who accompanied Crumb to San Jose for the interview and occasionally tosses in a comment or two.

The interview runs over 30 pages, which is about half text and half samples of early Crumb artwork (including several strips of "Roberta Smith, Office Girl"). After a bit of small talk, the interview begins with Crumb's interest in fanzines in the late '50s (and his own short-lived FOO! fanzine) and moves through his early career with Help! magazine, Yarrowstalks and Fritz the Cat, including the movie fiasco with Ralph Bakshi and Steve Krantz. Crumb discusses Zap Comix, his visit to the Playboy mansion, his passion for old music from the '20s and '30s, and his thoughts on the current (1972) state of underground comics.

While I certainly haven't read every word Crumb has ever uttered in 40+ years of interviews, I'm sure there are a few nuggets in this interview that aren't available elsewhere.

The Crumb interview is presented at the beginning and end of the book, with the middle providing the usual array of comic artwork from various sources. George Metzger delivers the third chapter in "Panoply Mind" (over three years after the second chapter in Promethean #3). The old man in the forest takes our three protagonists on a mind trip through "the city," where—in a dream—they meet a pivotal character who wields much more power than some of them realize. By the conclusion of the chapter, "Panoply Mind" has finally gotten interesting, but I've never found another chapter published anywhere. Metzger moved to British Columbia, Canada back in the '80s and left comics behind to work in animation.

Clifford Neal contributes a nice six-page story that was later reprinted in Dr. Wirtham's Comix & Stories. The center spread features the rarely seen bus-wrapping project that Victor Moscoso produced for KSAN radio back in 1971. Bob Inwood provides a lushly illustrated 11-page story about a woman who is married to a werewolf who kills both her dogs and her children... alas, I am not aware if this story was ever concluded in another publication, but it certainly should have been.

Elsewhere there is a terrific ink illustration by David Karbonik and a pair of lighthearted watercolors inspired by early Disney animation by Bob Zoell. And of course, there is the front cover art as well, which features an awesome foldout cover by Robert Williams. Promethean Enterprises may have ended its run after only five issues, but it made its mark by providing a remarkable diversity of fine comic art by both traditional and underground artists. It is rare indeed to find publications today that match Promethean and its ambitious scope and quality of content.
It is currently unknown how many copies of this magazine were printed. It has not been reprinted. The covers are printed on a heavy cover stock and the interior pages are printed on white offset paper. Kennedy's Price Guide lists the mag as having 86 pages because he counted the foldout cover as two extra pages (four in all). We are counting it as only two.

Promethean Enterprises #5 was originally intended to be sold for $1.50, as indicated by the cover price in Robert William's logo for the book. However, there were so many delays between the cover being designed and the magazine being published, the publishers raised the price to $2.00 and added a sticker to the cover to reflect the higher price. The cover shown above didn't have the sticker when I bought it and I can't find any evidence that it ever did.

Jim Vadeboncoeur recalled one reason for the publishing delay in a message board post from 2011: "I still have fond memories of issue #5, as well as a lingering sense of trepidation over the prolonged efforts it took to produce it. Do you remember IBM Selectric typewriters? I typed that Robert Crumb interview (sixteen three columns, justified, three different font pages) on one of those. Jeez, what a job!"
Jim Vadeboncoeur Jr. - coeditor, 41 (text), 82-83 (editorial)
Al Davoren - coeditor, art director, 2, 3 (shared), 5-6, 8-11, 17-18, 22, 63, 65, 67-68, 72-73, 77-76 (interview with Robert Crumb), 80-82 (shared), 83
Bud Plant - coeditor
Robert Williams - 1
Rick Griffin - 3 (shared), 23 (collaboration)
Robert Crumb - 3 (lettering), 5-22, 63-76 (art, interview, spot illustrations)
George Barr - 4 (art for table of contents)
unknown - 5, 7 (photos)
George Metzger - 23 (collaboration), 25-33
Frank Brunner - 24
Robert Inwood - 23 (collaboration), 45-55
Victor Moscoso - 23 (collaboration), 42-43
Keith Kleespies - 34, 61-62
Clifford Neal - 35-40
Trina Robbins - 56
Vincent Davis - 57-60
Bob Condon - 69-71 (story)
David Karbonik - 77
Bob Zoell - 78-79
Alex Nino - 84