Gordon Bailey, Co-Founder of The Nostalgia Journal, Dies at 59

Gordon Bailey-PHOTO-1
Gordon Bailey at a December OAF convention in Oklahoma City sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Photo by Robert A. Brown.

Gordon Francis Bailey Jr., a contributor to early comics fandom in north Texas, passed away July 13 after a brief illness, according to his sister, Katherine Bailey. Gordon Bailey was part of The Syndicate — himself, Larry Herndon, Joe Bob Williams, and later Mark Lamberti — a group that created The Nostalgia Journal in the summer of 1974. TNJ ran for 26 issues before it was acquired by Gary Groth and Michael Catron of Fantagraphics and became, first, The New Nostalgia Journal and then The Comics Journal. Bailey helped organize early conventions in north Texas and Oklahoma, and wrote about some of them in Trek in Texas — The 1970s Star Trek Conventions, one of his 18 self-published books.

Bailey was born July 21, 1956, lived most of his life in Fort Worth, Texas, and died a few days shy of his 60th birthday at Harris Medical Center in Fort Worth, the same hospital where he was born. He graduated from Eastern Hills High School in Fort Worth and attended North Texas State for a year.

He fell in love with journalism in the ninth grade and though not eligible to take the journalism course, he sat in on the classes anyway and was appointed editor of his high school paper while still a junior. His first magazine was The BiWeekly Bomb — which was eventually banned by the high school administration. He collected comics, Mad magazines, and movie memorabilia throughout high school. Those loves persisted throughout his life. At 17 he published his first fanzine, Comic Fantasy Quarterly.

He owned a bookstore and a video rental store at one point, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a reporter and contributing editor for the Dallas Observer. Beginning in early 2009, he was a regular contributing writer for Austin’s Slaughter Creek Reporter, doing feature stories, restaurant reviews, business profiles, and the like as well as a regular movie column, “Box Office Rap.”

His Amazon.com author’s page lists 18 books by Bailey, including several on movie criticism and history, multiple original short story collections, a memoir, the above-mentioned Trek in Texas, and two science fiction novels released earlier this year, Bee World and 1950.

Gordon F. Bailey Jr. with his grandson, Gordon F. Bailey IV, October 24, 2015, in Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by Rebecca Bailey.
Gordon F. Bailey Jr. with his grandson, Gordon F. Bailey IV, October 24, 2015, in Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by Rebecca Bailey.

He was divorced and is survived by two sons, Gordon F. Bailey III (and his wife Rebecca) and Eric Bailey; a grandson, Gordon F. Bailey IV; sisters Jan Herr and Katherine Bailey; his brother, Joseph Bailey; and his parents, Gordon F. Bailey Sr. and Katherine Bailey.

John Wooley Remembers Gordon Bailey

Along with Larry Herndon, Mark Lamberti, and Joe Bob Williams, Gordon Bailey was a major force on the Dallas-Fort Worth nostalgia, science fiction, and Star Trek convention scene of the 1970s. In 1974, Larry, Joe Bob, and Gordon launched The Nostalgia Journal, an adzine that grew out of the progress reports they were creating and sending out to hype their conventions. Mark joined up around issue #19.

Those regular progress report mailings had started drawing advertisers, and from there it was a reasonably short step to a full-blown tabloid that emphasized ads — and drew the wrath of Alan Light, whose The Buyer's Guide to Comics Fandom had been around for some three years doing the same sort of thing with no real competition. A firestorm of accusations and counter-accusations followed, with both camps dispatching often-incendiary preprinted correspondence to those who had advertised in the other’s publication. For a time there, you could singe your fingers picking up one of those inflammatory postcards.

Although his laid-back, soft-spoken demeanor might have belied it, young Gordon stood strong right in the midst of it all, giving as good as he got and helping write, edit, and otherwise produce The Nostalgia Journal until — after a couple of tumultuous years — they decided to sell it to Gary Groth and Mike Catron of Fantagraphics, who ultimately transformed it into The Comics Journal and made it the cornerstone of their publishing company.

I was around then, resettling into fandom-type activities after getting back from a stint in the military. Living near Oklahoma City, I could make the trek to the Dallas-Fort Worth area pretty easily, and I began helping with the conventions, which is where I first met Gordon.

We hit it off pretty quickly. Both aspiring novelists, we also shared a love for the offbeat and obscure in movies, comic books, and other literature. When the 1980s rolled around, we ended up spending a lot of time together at the fabled Dallas Fantasy Fairs and Dallas Fantasy Festivals, put on by Larry Lankford with a big assist from Paul McSpadden. As I recall it, Gordon helped with the movie programming there for several years, championing the notion (quaint now) of a room devoted entirely to showing features, shorts, and TV shows on 16mm film.

Gordon’s love of cinema led him to publish and edit a slick semi-pro publication called Movies Then And Now, which lasted four issues from 1988 to 1990. I was contributing editor and a writer for the mag. Other contributors included Michael H. Price, George Turner, and Tom Rainone. Gordon penned his own pieces for each of the four issues, writing both under his own name and the pseudonym Nelson T. Bunkworth. I can’t imagine Movies Then and Now made any money for him. But, God bless him, he gave contributors $50 per article.

The Dallas conventions were the glue that held a lot of us together, and when they evaporated in mid-’90s, many of us simply lost touch. Mark Lamberti, Gordon’s old Nostalgia Journal cohort, just recently told me of Gordon’s book about his convention days, 2013’s Trek in Texas: The 1970s Star Trek Conventions. Looking it up, I saw that Gordon had published quite a few other books, both fiction and non-fiction, in the latter years of his life.

Recalling all those beer-fueled discussions about our writing goals in rooms at innumerable Texas conventions, I was glad to find that out.

— John Wooley

John Wooley is a comic-book writer, novelist, and pop-culture historian whose most recent work includes the graphic novels The Twilight Avenger and The Miracle Squad (Pulp 2.0 Press) and, with James Vance, the introductions for Bob Powell’s Complete Jet Powers and Bob Powell’s Complete Cave Girl (Kitchen Sink Press/Dark Horse Books). In the past couple of years, two of his story synopses have been expanded into full-length Alley Oop comic strip adventures by Jack and Carole Bender.

Robert A. Brown Remembers Gordon Bailey

Gordon Bailey attended almost all (if not all) of the conventions put on by the Oklahoma Alliance of Fandoms. He was always good for a laugh, loved to talk about the books, and would go over your sales items with a fine-tooth comb looking for his “wants.” We would sit in the hotel café having a great time, shooting tall tales, and laughing a lot. I never saw him depressed.

He was like most of us in those days, a kid in a candy store with only a dime to spend, but he enjoyed spending as much as he could. I only made a few trades with Gordon, but they were easy ones. We’d select the books the other had we were interested in, come to an agreement on price and just stack them up until one of us ran out of “spending” power. Once in a while he’d offer more than a book was worth to get me to turn loose of it. Which to me meant he was a very serious collector.

I lost track of Gordon after the conventions went away (the real conventions), but I hope his eternal reward is to be at a show with unlimited funds. That would be heaven for Gordon.

— Robert A. Brown

Oklahoma Alliance of Fandom (OAF)