Zoë Webb is a graduate student at the University of Iowa in the School of Library and Information Science and is also pursuing a Book Studies certificate at the Center for the Book. As a student worker in Special Collections, she was recently appointed Processing Intern for the L. Falcon Media Fandom Collection. Below Zoë shares some of the amazing things she has found, as well as the experiences and lessons learned working with this collection.
Special Collections recently acquired the L. Falcon Media Fandom Collection (MsC1108). Since processing collections often require a serious time commitment, the collection’s donor also gave the library a generous gift to allow a student more time to focus on the Falcon collection and be thorough with the processing. That lucky student was me, Zoë Webb. I’ve been spending a portion of every week as a student worker in Special Collections organizing and identifying the weird and wonderful material found within this collection.
This collection consists of books and annuals, zines, fan art, article clippings, scripts, and a couple of recordings. The fandoms range from the 1960s to the 2000s, and are mostly science fiction, with some fantasy and war stories in the mix. Topics covered include Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, Blake’s 7, Fantastic Journey, War of the Worlds, Rat Patrol, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Avengers (the 1960s British spy Avengers, not the tight-suited American Avengers that grace our screen today), The Professionals, The Sandbaggers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Captain Scarlet, and Due South, just to name a few.
Over the past months I have come across some great, albeit odd, gems that I’d like to share with all of you out there reading this. Below is just the tip of the iceberg of what this collection holds. Thanks to the generous donation from the Falcon family, I have been able to focus my attention on this collection, learning not only more about the world of fandom, but about the skills needed to process and sort such unique material in an archival setting. In the next month, you will be able to enjoy this collection for yourself by searching everything on ArchivesSpace and visiting us.
In September of 1964, a new series premiered on American television. It was a spy series influenced by Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels and the films that began with 1962’s, Dr. No. I was eleven years old at the time and couldn’t wait to see it. America had caught spy fever and television and Hollywood were feeding demand. The show was called, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and it was a major hit, the source for what is widely recognized as the first real media fandom, two years before the debut of Star Trek and Trekkies. This fandom grew and sustained itself from the 60’s through to the present, rewarded with a new film interpretation that seeks to cash in on both Boomer nostalgia and the current fascination with hyper-lethal, shadow agent heroes.
We are fortunate to hold the papers of the executive producer and co-creator of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Norman Felton, in the University of Iowa Library’s Special Collections http://aspace.lib.uiowa.edu/repositories/2/resources/271. As a kid, I ran around the house with my U.N.C.L.E. gun and my U.N.C.L.E. communicator and glued myself to the screen when the show aired. Not content to be mere consumers, many teens began newsletters and fan clubs. Teenage girls were an enormous share of the show’s audience and were particularly smitten with the show’s English actor, David McCallum. He played agent Illya Kuryakin, a cool, cerebral opposite to his partner Napoleon Solo’s suave man-of-action, played by American actor Robert Vaughn (The Magnificent Seven, The Young Philadelphians). Vaughn’s character was the show’s ladies’ man but it was McCallum that pulled in record-breaking fan mail, more than Clark Gable at his most popular.
By 1966, the show was a huge success and the stars of the series were on a promotional tour. They travelled to New York to appear at Macy’s department store. They were to drive their limo straight into a freight elevator and go up to meet the fans, but it was not to be. 15,000 teenage girls showed up and quickly became unmanageable. It was decided to cancel the appearance. When they learned of the cancellation, the girls rioted, doing extensive damage to Macy’s with a few injuries as well. The police influenced Vaughn and McCallum to return immediately to the West Coast. McCallum later vowed to never appear at an American promotion again, fearing that fans or he himself would be injured. This devotion didn’t end when the series was finished in 1968. It expanded into more clubs, newsletters, conventions, and fan art and fan fiction. One of those fans was Lynda Mendoza and we are privileged to have her fine collection of David McCallum fan materials http://aspace.lib.uiowa.edu/repositories/2/resources/778.
With the new film, U.N.C.L.E. returns to center stage in pop culture. I‘m currently binge-watching the first season of the series on DVD, enjoying it and watching with a more critical eye than I did fifty years ago. The show alternates between a self-reflexive campiness and a realism that makes it palatable to a contemporary audience. Interestingly, in light of the huge McCallum fandom, the Kuryakin character makes only intermittent appearances, sometimes not at all. Perhaps this peekaboo added to the hunger teens felt for McCallum. He was often referred to as “the blond Beatle” because of his hair. He is still acting, in the hit series, NCIS, as is Robert Vaughn, seen recently on Law and Order: Special Victim’s Unit.
Among the fan-related and series-related material in the two collections are letters from Felton to and from Ian Fleming regarding the series and a letter from Felton explaining that he sent his papers, including scripts, correspondence, photos, business records, advertising, etc. to the University of Iowa so that fans would leave him alone and could come to a central location to see the treasure. In the Mendoza collection, there are card and board games, fan t-shirts, convention materials, fan correspondence, newsletters, and a wealth of merchandise and memorabilia.
Want to get started exploring Man From U.N.C.L.E related collections in the University of Iowa Special Collections?