Jerry Bails Father of Comic Book Fandom R.I.P: June 26, 1933 – November 23, 2006

This is the saddest notice I have ever had to pass along to my friends in comic book fandom.

I just received a call from Jerry’s wife Jean of the news that Jerry Bails, The Father of Comic Book Fandom, died in his sleep today of an apparant heart attack. He was 73.

Jerry had been suffering a serious heart condition for the past several years. In recent months the physical discomfort he had experienced had kept him mostly homebound, but his mind remained as sharp as ever, thanks to the contact he was able to continue with friends and family through the internet.

At this time, details of any services or funerals are not yet known. According to Jean, Jerry’s wishes were for something simple and the family are in the process of working on that.

Jerry was a lot of things to a lot of people. For me, he was a mentor, a teacher, a guide–whose wisdom and kindness helped make the world an even better place for many. But most important, I am and will always be deeply proud that I consider Jerry to be my friend. I am a little less not to have his wisdom gracing my ears any longer and I am much MORE knowing that I did have time on this earth in having that same wisdom touch my heart.

My deepest love goes out to Jean, Kirk, and all other family members and loved ones of Jerry.

-Ray Bottorff Jr

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13 Responses to Jerry Bails Father of Comic Book Fandom R.I.P: June 26, 1933 – November 23, 2006

  1. Lee Houston, Junior says:

    Addendum: November 26, 2006
    Now that I have had time to compose myself more…

    Death is not an easy thing to deal with, regardless of the context(s) involved. While unfortunately I cannot relate any first hand remembrances as to Jerry Bails’ importance either as a human being or within at least comic fandom, if not the industry as well, that does not by any means diminish his achievements or love of this medium.

    There probably would not have been any conventions for me to attend without his input. Creators might have continued to work in obscurity and never received their well deserved kudos without people like Bails wondering who they had to thank for all the wonderful stories that they read. Would many of the Golden or Silver Age Greats be remembered without him?

    It is painfully obvious that we would all be the poorer without his contributions and that he will be missed.

    My personal condolences to his family, and my voice to the public mourning of his passing.

    Without Jerry Bails’ input, I might never have become…

  2. Tony Isabella says:

    I’m getting ready to leave for Mid-Ohio-Con and it hits me that I wouldn’t be going there if it weren’t for Jerry Bails.

    I wouldn’t be communicating with fans online if it weren’t for Jerry Bails.

    He was at the forefront of just about every important event in the early days of comics fandom. It’s not exaggeration to call him the father of comics fandom.

    He was changing my life before I ever met him. I don’t think I would have ever considered a career in comics without having been part of comics fandom as a teenager.

    When I did meet him, he was every bit as generous, kind, and just plain smart as I could have hoped. And it has been a joy to have been in some online groups with him in recent years and exchange e-mails. I was learning from him right to the end of his life and I suspect I’ll continue to learn from him to the end of mine.

    God bless you, Jerry…and thank you.


  3. CArchivist says:

    A Message from Jean Bails

    I have been reading the kind words about Jerry and shared them with his sons as well. I thank you as do they. I hope to get around to send a more personal thanks to each soon. What would Jerry say?
    He would probably have said, “awe, stop–you are making me blush.” :-)

    Actually it is MY read of his involvement in fandom that it was not all about him–it was about YOU. Surprisingly as it may seem, fandom was not that much about comic characters either but rather it was about people discovering their potential in whatever area and developing confidence in what they could do. Also, fandom was above all good people cooperating with one another to create an entity that was greater than the sum of its parts.

    Looking at the size of some of the fanworks and conventions he would sometimes joke, “a monster has been created” but it was a monster he dearly loved. He had no misgivings about fandom going on quite well without him. It will because of all of you.

    Thank you very much.
    Jean Bails

  4. jwasserman says:

    I never met Jerry Bails but I was certainly influenced by his good works; particularly due to his formation of comic fandom’s first amateur press alliance, CAPA-alpha. I was a member of the apa for fifteen years and in that time I met many, many wonderful and talented people whose expressions of love and joy for comics knew no bounds. The camraderie amongst the members was heartfelt and true even though it lived solely through the US Mails at first. It blossomed into ‘real’ friendships at conventions where members congregated and later in NY and LA where many members gravitated.

    CAPA-alpha was a major building block for me when I joined at nineteen years of age. The ‘publish or perish’ membership requirement prepared me for graduate school. And its diverse membership introduced me to people of backgrounds far different from mine.

    Thank you, Jerry.

  5. WLLilly says:

    …I’m not sure , at least right now , what I can say .
    I am so aware of Bails’ ultra-importance to the very existence of comic book fandom .
    In an odd way , I , at least , had the honor to have some very , very , very slight ” contact ” with Mr. Bails recently , through participating in nYahoo!’s Timely-Atlas group , which he posted on…It was extremely slight , but a, at least I was , sort of , in the same ” room ” with him , in a sense .
    My condolences to his family and friends .
    In some ways , perhaps I wish I could have kbnown him , or , at least , met him .

  6. Russ Maheras says:

    Here’s some photos I took of Jerry at the “Fandom Reunion” in Rosemont, Ill., on July 5, 1997.

    He will be greatly missed…

  7. WLLilly says:

    …Could somebody , please , point me to an obituary of Dr. Bails with the journalistic details on his life – Where he worked , where he grew up , etcetera ?
    I searched some , but , did not find one .
    I’ll add that I mentioned on a Michigan native-owned board I post on that he was a Michiganer ( In residence/later years , anyway . ) , and want to back that up , if I can do so .
    Presumably , his hometown/-area paper might have run an obit ?

  8. Maggie Thompson says:

    The best information I’ve found is in Bill Schelly’s The Golden Age of Comic Fandom. Jerry earned his Ph.D. in Natural Science and joined the faculty of Wayne State University in the Detroit area not long before he began his pioneering work in the field of comics fan activity.

  9. WLLilly says:

    …The ” journalistic ” info ?????????
    Anyhow , OK , Dr. JB was very definitely an MI resident , thank you , Maggie .

  10. wildfan says:

    My brother Ted and I were avid comic fans in the late 50’s and early 60’s, when we first were exposed to comic fandom, courtesy of Jerry Bails. I had come across an ad for “On the Drawing Board” available by sending an sase, in a magazine called (I think) “Flying Saucers,” which was edited by Ray Palmer (the inspiration for the Atom’s true ID). Although we sent it to a Mike Tuohey, the mimeo’d couple pages of “The Comic Reader (formerly On the Drawing Board) we received were from Jerry, and we were fascinated. To think we weren’t the only fans out there was astounding, and to consider that some of us might actually interact with comics’ creators, and get “inside info” in advance seemed impossible to conceive until then. But there it was, in faded purple and white.

    About that time came the onslaught of letter pages, and more and more realization we weren’t alone. Then, when Jerry shipped us our manila envelope with the first offset issue of Alter-Ego (with the Alley Awards) and “The Authoritative Index to All-Star Comics,” we began to grasp the depth of comic history.

    There is no doubt that Jerry was not only the father of fandom, but the father of all of us who feared we were goofy for loving a medium that others considered trash. We were nurtured with respect, and from that respect maintained a love for a unique (mainly) American artform, which today is the source of multi-million dollar movies, analytical art exhibits, and scholarly reference works. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the acceptance of the comic book in mainstream America properly belongs in any eulogy to Jerry Bails. I never met the man, but shared a childhood with him that I’ll never forget.

  11. Zete1968 says:

    I don’t know if I should post to this. I never met the man (or actually met anyone who knew him). However, I am an avid reader of Alter-Ego and any other companion to All-Star Comics. I am a student of comics history. I try my best to find any publication that covers comic history. I have a nice library of comics related literature. The reason why Mr. Bails is so important is that he defined exactly what a student and FAN was. Mr. Bails took his love for something and gave back to the comics community. If not for Jerry, would we even have Roy Thomas? If not for Jerry, would we have ever had some of the Silver Age revivals (especially JLA)?
    Jerry to me is what we all are – a “fan.” CBG is a great mag, but without pioneers like Jerry, there would not be a CBG or Wizard or CBA.
    For anyone reading this forum, I hope you are giving thanks to the man who made it possible.
    Goodbye, Jerry. You will be missed.

  12. remssr says:

    I’ve been following the coverage of jerrys’ passing and am encouraged that so many people are still around to aknowledge their debt to him. jerry told me once that there would always be collectors and he was/is right. what he never really crasped was that without him there would not be an organized and on going fandom. i remember the year when shelly had the get together at chicago wiz world and jerry was actually about to pay to get into the con. i was laughing that the “grand father” of cons would haved payed to get into one if i hadn’t come along.

  13. WLLilly says:

    …I have thought (& put off puttimg up for a while) that the presumed inheritors of Jerryu’s collection , his family , should they decide to sell it…

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