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Tom Fagan and the Rutland Parade 1970s by Alex Grand

Read Alex Grand’s Understanding Superhero Comic Books published by McFarland Books in 2023 with Foreword by Jim Steranko with editorial reviews by comic book professionals, Jim Shooter, Tom Palmer, Tom DeFalco, Danny Fingeroth, Alex Segura, Carl Potts, Guy Dorian Sr. and more.

In the meantime enjoy the show:

Tom Fagan was born in Rutland, Vermont in 1931, was employed by the Rutland Herald and eventually went into publishing. He was a lover of pop culture, and co-created the annual Rutland Halloween parade which started in 1960 which had a strong superhero costume presence.  As a lover of superhero comics, his parade promotions showed up in  DC’s Detective Comics 327, 1964 which describes that Batman makes an annual appearance in Rutland each year, as a mystery caped law enforcing figure of the evening.

This was the era of the beginnings of the New York Comic Con and the Detroit Triple Fan Fair and superfans Dave Kaler, Denny O’Neil and Roy Thomas were heavily involved in communicating and reading letter updates like this in Rocket Blast Comic Collector 52, 1967:

Dave Kaler flipping through his comics pile (first Batman??)

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Dave Kaler, Denny O’Neill and Roy Thomas

Roy Thomas joined Marvel comics a year or so later and we see that in Comic Crusader 8, 1970 Roy takes his ex-wife Jeanne and fellow comics writers like Len Wein & Marv Wolfman to the Rutland Parade as well as to Tom Fagan’s mansion that he house-sat and these photos are documented there. According to CBH’s interview with Roy Thomas, Tom Fagan would house-sit a 24 room mansion close to the parade, have parties, and host writers from both Marvel and DC Comics to come over for a fun time.  The pics below are scans from my friend, Barry Pearl.

Tom Fagan out of costume

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Tom Fagan in costume as Batman

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The Famous 24-room Mansion

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Roy Thomas sitting in the Mansion

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Martin Greim and Bob Cosgrove as Yellow Jacket & The Fly

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more of Martin and Bob

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Andy Yanchus and Marv Wolfman as Phantom Stranger and No-Man

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Al Bradford and Susan O’Neil as Joker & Catwoman

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Tom Fagan as Batman theatrically playing with Joker and Catwoman

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Ellie Greim as the Wasp

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Irene Vartanoff and Dave Kaler

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Len Wein and Mark Hanerfeld

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Dave Kaler as Vigilante and Yellow Jacket on the Float

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Jeanne and Roy Thomas as Susan Storm and Spider-Man

 

In Avengers 83, 1970 Roy Thomas wrote a story of the Avengers at the Rutland parade and meeting Tom Fagan, but instead of a Batman outfit, it was Nighthawk (the Marvel version).  As we can see the Avengers actually hang out with Tom Fagan at the parade which is crashed by Klaw with a Tom Fagan feeling he is in over his head in the costumed adventurer world.

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There is also a close up of Roy and his ex-wife Jeanne Thomas in Spidey and Susan Storm costumes at the parade with Roy in a Spider-Man outfit which we see in 1969 Marvel Bullpen photo in the 1969 Fantastic Four Annual of Roy as Spidey.

and a picture of his wife Jeanne in the bullpen photo as well:

These two Thomas’ had a sexual revolution type relationship before they divorced as shown in National Lampoon 33, 1972 with Douglas Kinney,

which was spoofed in Crazy 3, 1974 with Steve Englehart.

Back to Rutland, Batman 237, 1971 has the Rutland parade portrayed by Neal Adams with Dick Grayson with friends checking out the local costumes:

Batman eventually makes it into Tom Fagan’s house and we see Tom himself in the Batman suit mentioned in the 1964 letters page, as opposed to the Nightwing costume from the Marvel book.  We also see spoofs on Marvel costumes with likely Roy in the back saying he is Webslinger Lad and a large fan in a Thor outfit.

Marvel’s Avengers 88, 1971 describes 5,000 spectators at the Rutland parade with marchers including the Black Panther, Scarlet Witch, Black Widow, Medusa, Wasp, Captain America and Havok to reenact the Roy Thomas written issue of Avengers 83 that took place there.

Roy Thomas writes again about Tom Fagan and his wife Jeannie in Marvel Feature 2, 1972 where Tom gives them advice on ancient magics.

In 1972, there are more photos of the Rutland Parade with Marvel and DC Comics writers shown in TCR Etecetra Fanzine by Paul Levitz.  Here is Master of Ceremonies Tom Fagan again standing in front of a Steranko blow up poster of Batman.

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Tom Fagan in costume as Nighthawk at the parade

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Len Wein as Morbius & Marv Wolfman as Aquaman?

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More colorful costumes at the parade with a Thor blow up

There was enough back and forth fun and interesting interactions in Rutland between some of these Marvel and DC writers that Steve Englehart, Mike Friedrich and Gerry Conway wrote a three issue unofficial cross over in Amazing Adventures 16, 1973 by Steve Englehart,

Justice League of America 104, 1972 by Len Wein,

and Thor 207, 1973 by Gerry Conway.

All 3 issues surrounded the Rutland Halloween parade when letters fan, Tom Fagan put together large parties in his nearby mansion attended by Marvel and DC Comics writers, Len & Glynis Wein, Roy Thomas, and Gerry Conway and we would see them walk through Rutland from the first Marvel issue into the DC issue then into the second Marvel issue in an unofficial Marvel DC crossover.  In Amazing Adventures 16 by Englehart, Roy, Len, Glynis and Gerry’s car breaks down on the way to Tom Fagan’s house while Beast is fighting Juggernaut.

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The comic foursome make it to the Rutland parade and a drained Juggernaut steals their car.  Then in JLA 103 by Wein, their same purple car is broken down in the beginning, but they figure it out and drive to Tom Fagan’s house to see Tom in his Batman suit and join in on the Rutland parade.

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In this case, a drained Felix Faust steals their car implying that they are walking in between two worlds and we are seeing mirror events.  Thor 207 by Conway starts off with the parade as a mirror event to what we saw in JLA 103 with the comic foursome on the bottom right of the splash page.

We also see the comic foursome headed to Tom Fagan’s house like they did in the JLA story and we see Tom Fagan this time in his Nighthawk suit instead of Batman as well as the costumed festivities in the mansion.

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We also see that the comic foursome see Loki appear to jump to his death after Juggernaut stole their car and they are left mystified as to what exactly happened here, but it seems that there was some interdimensional nexus event that occurred as the first unofficial Marvel DC Crossover.

Tom makes another appearance in the newer Nighthawk costume in Avengers 119, 1974 and we see that the mindless Loki is still hanging around in Rutland.

Tom Fagan appears again in Thor 232, 1975 written by Gerry Conway where he reports that was a kid hypnotized into fooling everyone it was Loki, but actually wasn’t.

Tom Fagan makes an appearance as Thomas Sikes in Rutland, Lakota in Gold Key’s The Occult Files of Dr. Spektor written by Donald Glut where we can see Thor and Dr. Strange in the background.

Tom Fagan and the Rutland Parade made their next appearance in Freedom Fighters 6, 1977 written by Bob Rozakis as an epilogue where the action and conflict of the story didn’t interfere with plans to proceed with the event.

 

Again in the DC Universe, Tom Fagan pops back in Justice League of America, 145, 1977 by Steve Englehart as the JLA including Batman pop into Rutland, Vermont.  Tom mentions its not even time for the parade, and wonders what mystery could be lurking around the corner.

Tom Fagan’s mansion that he would house-sit was haunted by events concerning Deadman and the Phantom Stranger in DC Superstars 18, 1978 written by Marty Pasko and we have Gerry Conway, Marty Pasko, Paul Levitz,and Romeo Tanghal.  They specifically mention Roy Thomas, Len Wein and Denny O’Neill in the dialogue bubbles.

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Tom Fagan or the parade didn’t appear in the next comic book featuring Rutland which was Ghosts 95, 1980 written by Paul Kupperberg, but there still was a ghost mystery to be solved by Terrance 13 at the local community playhouse.

In What if? 22, 1980, Mark Gruenwald, editor as Uatu the Watcher, remarked on Rutland, Vermont as an artificial nexus of realities.

In their 100th issue of the Defenders, 1981 Dr. Strange, Sub-Mariner and the Hulk find themselves in Rutland, Vermont fighting hooded figures of Satannish, but there is no Tom Fagan nor the Halloween Parade.

Thunderbunny 5, 1986 published by WARP graphics written by Martin L. Greim has an older Tom Fagan with a more modern Rutland Parade including Star Wars costumes and ends with Tom in his traditional Rutland float Batman suit.

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Animal Man 50, 1992 by Tom Veitch has some Superhero deconstruction moments that take place in Rutland, Vermont but with no parade nor any Tom Fagan sighting.

Generation X 22, 1996 has the young mutant squad looking for Franklin Richards during the Rutland, Vermont Parade, but with no Tom Fagan sighting.

Superboy and the Ravers 16, 1997 written by Steve Mattsson & Karl Kesel have a Superpowered rock band perform on All Hallows’ Eve in Rutland, Vermont to  a costumed audience.

Tom Fagan moved on, worked in Tuttle Publishing Co, and eventually passed away in 2008, but his legacy is immortalized in the Rutland parade comics in Marvel and DC in various issues starting in 1970 for the remaining of the 20th century.

Like many things in pop culture, it ceases to exist in the 21st century except in memorials such as this article, the 2006 Boston Globe Rutland article or Tom Fagan’s obituary written in 2008 Comics Buyers Guide.  Tom is an interesting lesson in the early costumed days of Fandom and the proto-cosplay movement that is popular today.  It’s important to remember the pop culture origins of these costumed fans, Tom Fagan and the Rutland Parade.

 

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Use of images are not intended to infringe on copyright, but merely used for academic purpose.

Images used ©Their Respective Copyright Holders

 

 

 

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