On a recent trip home, I learned a pretty crazy fact about my dad’s past that I want to share. My dad retired a few years ago after nearly 40 years as a special education department coordinator for a public middle school in San Antonio, TX. Aside from teaching, he had (and has) a few esoteric hobbies and collections: slot machines, pinball machines, arcade games, basketball and baseball cards, and a comic book collection that he started when he was a kid. In the early 1960s, as a teenager, he also self-published a comics zine called The Comic World News, which had a small but national readership of like-minded comic geeks. (There is a sketchy bibliography of The Comic World News‘s nine issues here; my dad is Paul Feola.)
A big chunk of my dad’s time post-retirement has been spent organizing and cataloguing the vast archive of stuff he’s accumulated over the years. In the process of rifling through back issues of The Comic World News, he recently realized that one of his readers and regular interlocutors at the time was none other than George R. R. Martin, author of the A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy novel series, the source material for HBO’s Game of Thrones. My dad hasn’t seen the TV show nor read the books, but he eventually connected the dots from the George R. R. Martin of Bayonne, New Jersey whose letters to the editor appeared in almost every issue of The Comic World News, to the George R. R. Martin who penned the titanic pop-cultural phenomenon that GoT has become. Crazy.
Unsurprisingly, there’s a market for GRRM ephemera, including the pages that my dad mimeographed at his aunt’s house from 1963-64. On his fan site, Martin lists all of his contributions to ’60s comics zines, including his appearances in The Comic World News. In addition to several “letters of comment” (precocious teen-to-teen commentaries on previous articles published in TCWN), he also had a semi-regular non-fiction column called “Can This Hero Be Saved?”, and even contributed the cover art for The Comic World News #6, published in December 1963.
(This appears to be GRRM’s only published artwork, and is a hot commodity: a copy of TCWN #6 recently went for over $1,000 on eBay.)
Anyway, I was shocked and thrilled when my dad told me this story, since I did my own photocopied punk fanzine in high school, and kind of still do that for a living to this day. (I had two articles in the Dec 2016 issue of b&w punk rag Maximum Rocknroll, for example.) Below is a photo of my dad’s copy of TCWN #6, with GRRM’s cover art, and below that is one of GRRM’s “Can This Hero Be Saved?” columns, published in TCWN #9, March 1964. I’ll repeat the caveat that George R. R. Martin puts on his fan site about the latter: “if by some mischance you should actually manage to stumble on some of these long-forgotten publications, please do remember that I was still in high school when I wrote most of this stuff.”
By the way, Mr. Martin, if you’re reading this, Paul Feola would love to reconnect, 50+ years after your last correspondence. DM me here if you’re interested in dropping him a line! (Also, I’m a big ASOIAF fan, for whatever it’s worth.)