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excellent writing
exceptional art
historical bonus 3
total score 9
Promethean Enterprises 1 _ Promethean Enterprises 2
Promethean #1
Promethean #2
Promethean Enterprises 3 _ Promethean Enterprises 4 _ Promethean Enterprises 5
Promethean #3
Promethean #4 Promethean #5
Promethean Enterprises

1969-1974 / Promethean Enterprises
Although the origin for the title Promethean Enterprises isn't discussed anywhere in the five issues of this extraordinary comic fanzine, it was undoubtedly inspired by the Greek myth of the diety Prometheus. In Greek mythology, Prometheus was a crafty, powerful advocate of the common man. He stole fire from Zeus and gave it as a gift to the mortals, which really pissed off Zeus. Prometheus soon came to symbolize cultural enlightenment and absolute resistance to tyranny, and later as a symbol of socialism (after Karl Marx named him as "the greatest saint"). So what better inspiration for a comic art fanzine that rebels against the conformity of both mainstream and underground comic books?

The three founders of Promethean Enterprises—Jim Vadeboncoeur Jr., Bud Plant and Al Davoren—established their publishing philosophy in the first issue when they published legendary creators from both mainstream comics and the nascent but red-hot underground comics. They also published a multipage strip by a virtual unknown. In a brief editorial, Vadeboncoeur declared the magazine would "have no central theme" except "what the editors consider good art." The thin first issue published art by Robert Crumb, Frank Frazetta, George Metzger and Al Williamson. They also introduced Robert Jack Juanillo. Heard of him? ...Well hello, Mr. Juanillo!

The commingling of traditional comic artists with the brash underground rebels catered to no one particular set of fandom, except fans who recognized exceptional comic art when they saw it. That was enough to develop a small but devoted base of Promethean enthusiasts, who endured long stretches of waiting between issues for over five years. After finally managing to publish two issues in one calendar year (1971), it took two and a half years to put out the fifth and final issue in '74. By that time, the golden age of underground comix was over and so was the founders' drive to publish more issues of Promethean Enterprises.

Vadeboncoeur went on to build a distinguished career in the field of comic art and illustration, researching and contributing to many books and articles about professional artists, and has written over 100 illustrator biographies that are available on his terrific publishing website. His penultimate life's work is probably his exquisite illustration magazine, ImageS, which focuses on great, rarely-seen illustration produced from 1880 to 1922 (he produced both black-and-white and color editions). Some back issues are available on his site and Frank Stack wrote a lengthy review on the publication for The Comics Journal.

Al Davoren, who coedited Promethean and also did the layout and art direction, went on to produce comics for Doctor Wirtham's Comix & Stories and Aardvark. I imagine he has (or retired from) a career in art direction, but I can't find much about his current activities.

Bud Plant, another coeditor but also identified as "the money man" in the first issue, was a mere teenager when Promethean launched. He became a legendary wholesale comics distributor in the 1970s and '80s before selling his business to Diamond Comics Distributors. Plant co-founded Comics & Comix with John Barrett and Robert Beerbohm. They hosted the first Bay Area comics convention, Berkeleycon 73, on the University of California, Berkeley campus. Plant also published the fantasy titles Anomaly and The First Kingdom, which ran 24 issues from 1974–86. Plant currently runs, which sells an eclectic mix of art books and related material.

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. Not many publications today match Promethean and its ambitious scope and quality of content. To some degree, I think of it as a predecessor to Art Spiegelman's Raw, which did not appear until 1980 and changed the landscape of comic book art as surely as underground comics did in 1968.