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Russ Cochran – RIP

Comics maven, historian, archivist, dealer, and publisher Russ Cochran has passed away.


above: Russ Cochran portrait by Frank Frazetta

Russell Vance (Russ) Cochran
July 3, 1937 – February 23, 2020

Self-described as “Ph.D. in Physics, 1964, Professor at Drake University 1964-1974,
Publisher of collector books, 1971-date, lover of all apes.”

The news of Russ’ passing was posted by his daughter on Facebook
and spread quickly through the Fan-Addict community.

Bleeding Cool News and CBR (Comic Book Resources) are among the sites reporting the sad news.

Diamond Comics has offered a fine tribute.

“The news that Russ Cochran has passed hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. As a historian, a fellow collector, a friend, and eventually as an employee, he taught me – he taught all of us – so much. His knowledge of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Disney, and so many other topics informed his conversations, but it was his love of William M. Gaines’ EC comics line that led him to quit the Physics Department at Drake University and get into the business of reprinting, preserving, and promoting the EC legacy.”

The Russ Cochran Company and Wikipedia sites impart more information than I could.
So I’ll try relay my memories of Russ’ efforts toward preserving comic art.

 

In the late 1960s and early 1970s comic fans and pros, both knowledgeable and with the means, and with the determination to present comic art in the best possible manner, began issuing high grade and high quality fanzines. Squa Tront, Heritage, Witzend and others were must haves for comic fans. Russ joined in with his Graphic Gallery, but his “fanzine” wasn’t like the others; Graphic Gallery was a catalog of original art for sale, showcasing comic strips and pages on quality paper with remarkable reproduction. This was a marked difference from the newspaper funnies and comic books printed on pulp paper with its attendant “bleed.”

Of course the historian in him prevailed and Russ’ catalogs were full of knowledge … and surprises!
Like when he showed us the original art to the first Flash Gordon Sunday strip by Alex Raymond –
no, not the January 7, 1934 debut strip, the one before that!

above: unpublished first Flash Gordon and the published debut strip

Russ’ catalogs and other publications were wonders, and then he upped the goodness.

Partnering with Bill Gaines of EC Comics fame, Russ got Bill to open up the EC Vault of original art and began a project of reprinting The Complete EC Library from original art (whenever possible), between hardcovers and on top-grade paper. Neither my wallet nor my bookshelves could support the heft of all the volumes of a series that set a standard that has seldom been matched since. But I had to get a few slipcased sets, picking one from each genre:

above images via My Comic Shop

 

Not long after beginning the EC Library Russ would partner with Bruce Hamilton and, under the Another Rainbow imprint, would do the same service (minus the original art), with the same care, for fans of Walt Disney comics. The two would also publish floppies and albums of Walt Disney comics as Gladstone, presenting the genius of Floyd Gottfredson, Carl Barks, Hank Porter, and others to a new generation.

 

At the end of his publishing career Russ attempted a project I held high hopes for,
but only two issues of Sunday Funnies were ever printed.

above: 22″ x 16″, 96 pages

He was a man who loved comics,
and passed that love to the rest of us.
Rest in Peace Russ.

 

Update: Russ’ friend Steven Ringgenberg pays tribute.

Community Comments

#1 Kip Williams
February/26/2020
@ 9:11 am

I’m glad I could afford a few of those sets. I owe him big for seeing the project through, and for the encouragement it gave to other publishers to get classic works in print at a reasonable (all things considered, especially compared to finding an original) price.

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