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cover
 
solid writing
skilled art
historical bonus 3
total score 7
Don Dohler's ProJunior
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AVERAGE SCORE 8
2nd Printing / January, 1972 / 36 pages / Kitchen Sink
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First Printing October, 1971
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In 1958, as a twelve-year-old sixth-grade student in Baltimore, Don Dohler created a nameless but distinct cartoon character with cork stoppers in his ears, two sideways teeth, and eyeballs with white irises and black sclera (the normally white part of the eye). Originally doodled in his school notebooks, Dohler later used the character as the mascot to his homemade comic book, Wild, which he created with his best friend Mark Tarka. Dohler and Tarka produced five issues of the hand-drawn, single-copy Wild in 1959 and '60. In 1961 Dohler and Tarka relaunched Wild as a Mad-inspired fanzine, renumbering the title from #1 and printing about 60 copies of its early issues.
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Since Mad had Alfred E. Neuman as its mascot, Dohler decided to use his middle-school creation as Wild's mascot. Dohler redesigned the character to make him less bizarre and more human (as shown on the right), but the mascot still needed an official name. Since Dohler now considered himself to be a "junior professional editor," he came up with the name Junior Pro. But he thought that name was too hackneyed, so he switched the words around and Pro Junior was officially christened.

Despite its small print run, Wild was one of the more respected fanzines of its era. Though it evolved towards becoming a prozine, it never quite made it and the publication was abandoned in 1963 after the original art for its ambitious tenth issue was destroyed by a flood in Dohler's basement. But previous issues had featured contributions from Jay Lynch, Art Spiegelman and Skip Williamson, who became luminaries in the underground comix scene.

Fortunately, Wild's demise did not end the life of its mascot, Pro Junior. Years later, the character was still fondly recalled by underground artists who read or contributed to Wild. In 1970, Jay Lynch and Art Spiegelman started drawing Pro Junior for fun, which inspired Robert Crumb to officially revive the character in a strip he produced for Lynch's Bijou Funnies #4. Crumb gave Pro Junior a leftist persona and a frisky girlfriend named Honeybunch Kaminski. Crumb also contracted the two-word character name into the singular ProJunior.
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Pro Junior
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Pro Junior as he
looked when he was
first created and
when he was first
published. Drawn by
Don Dohler for Mark
James Estren in 1974.
ProJunior's comeback hit full stride in 1971, when Jay Lynch recruited an entire comic book of new ProJunior strips contributed by 22 underground cartoonists (including Dohler) and published by Kitchen Sink. Joe Pilati, who had produced his own Mad fanzine called Smudge in the early '60s and later became a staff writer for the Boston Globe, provided the book's introduction, which briefly explained the origin of Pro Junior.

In Don Dohler's ProJunior, the star character is subjected to a broad range of interpretations by the likes of Lynch, Williamson, Jay Kinney, Trina Robbins, and Denis Kitchen. Crumb and S. Clay Wilson collaborate on the two-pager that opens the book while Spiegelman and Justin Green team up for a three-page strip that is one of the book's highlights.

With so many contributors, it's not surprising that ProJunior is an uneven collection of comics, but overall it's still a pretty solid book. Most of the strips are one-pagers, a couple of which just toss out a snippet of an idea without much more. The multi-page stories generally fare better, even when the writing isn't all that good. For instance, Peter Poplaski's three-page story falls a bit flat, but some of his panels feature lively illustrations with energetic compositions. And Jim Mitchell's two-pager doesn't really go anywhere, but he does deliver some amusing bilateral character progressions with his finely honed inkwork.

After ProJunior was published, Don Dohler went on to become a B-movie director, cinematographer and editor, producing several micro-budget science-fiction and horror films that have a cult following of their own. Dohler passed away in 2006, but his legacy certainly survives him. In 2009, Dohler's life was chronicled in an acclaimed documentary by John Kinhart called Blood, Boobs & Beast. The movie is mostly about his film career, but it includes a brief synopsis of Pro Junior and Wild (with interviews of Jay Lynch and Skip Williamson), as well as Dohler's groundbreaking Cinemagic magazine. There's also an official Don Dohler website, but its entertainment value is probably surpassed by the more colorful and dynamic website dedicated to Blood, Boobs & Beast, where you can watch the movie for free on Hulu. The movie and the websites will likely appeal to Dohler's fanzine and underground comics fans just as much as Don Dohler's ProJunior.
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keyline
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HISTORICAL FOOTNOTES:
There are currently four printings of this comic book, all with 50-cent cover prices, all published by Kitchen Sink Enterprises, and all with print runs of 10,000 copies. All of the printings identify their print edition in the indicia on the inside front cover. The 1st printing is also easily distinguished from the others because it states "An Anthology Featuring 23 Undeground Cartoonists!" on the front cover. In all subsequent printings, the statement has been corrected to read "...22 Underground Cartoonists!"
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COMIC CREATORS:
Jay Lynch - 1, 6-7
Joe Pilati - 2 (introduction)
Robert Crumb - 3-4 (collaboration)
S. Clay Wilson - 3-4 (collaboration)
Evert Geradts - 5
Jay Kinney - 8
Art Spiegelman 9-11 (collaboration)
Justin Green - 9-11 (collaboration), 29
Jim Mitchell - 12-13
Trina Robbins - 14
Pete Poplaski - 15-17
Peter Loft - 18-20
Ned Sonntag - 21
Denis Kitchen - 22-23, 36
Dave Dozier - 24
Wendel Pugh - 25
Dave L. Herring - 26
Bruce Walthers - 27
Dale Kuipers - 28
Skip Williamson - 30-31, 35
Joel Beck - 32
Bill Griffith - 33
Don Dohler - 34
ProJunior 2nd Printing

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ProJunior 4th printing
1st Printing
"23" instead of "22" on cover, states print edition on IFC.
4th Printing
"22" instead of "23" on cover, states print edition on IFC.