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The History of Phantasm Magazine

published by Heidelberg Graphics, 19761980

While studying poetry from George Keithley at California State University, Chico, Larry Jackson noticed how much fellow students enjoyed sharing their work. That year, 1975, Jackson began planning a journal that would offer an outlet for creative writers. He thought of having a bimonthly magazine that would be supported by writers who would be able to share one another's work via his magazine. This idea was a fancy of his mind which is a definition of phantasm, the journal's soon-to-be title.

Jackson thought he could earn an income from the magazine by building the subscription base of West Coast readers enough to attract advertising.  Once that level was reached, he would start another bimonthly magazine catering to the Eastern region.

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Jackson operated Heidelberg Graphics which was founded in 1972 by himself and Dennis McNamara in Chico, California, where they both lived. Their first venture, before forming a partnership, was designing an ad for a local fishing lure company to run in a sports magazine. They were paid well, but too much according to the advertiser who terminated the business relationship. McNamara had just finished reading Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and the two decided to create a "Year of the Native American" calendar in honor of the proud people who were victims of U.S. government sponsored genocide.

Jackson's father, Nelvin, owned a small print shop where Jackson sometimes worked. His father offered the use of his facilities to the two. Using a process camera, the two shot film for printing plates to print the calendar's first edition. Larry Brock's father, Lou,  had purchased a large press that he just rebuilt in a warehouse. Lou agreed to print the calendar at a reasonable price if the two supplied the paper and film. Lou's press was larger than any at Jackson's Printing.

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Jackson and McNamara rode in Dennis' Jeep wagon to pick up the stock they ordered by phone from the Sacramento Zellerbach Paper warehouse for printing that night. When they arrived in Sacramento a hundred miles away, they were told the paper wasn't in stock. The woman who took the order felt so bad she gave them ten dollars from her purse and called the warehouse in San Francisco. The two drove 85 more miles to San Francisco and  picked up the paper there. On the way back to Chico they drank a Heineken beer and contemplated a name for their publishing business. It was decided they would become Heineken Graphics. They met Lou at the warehouse that night and stood by while he printed the calendars until dawn the next morning. Jackson would take them to Nelvin's shop to be cut apart for assembly by hand.

The next day the name Heineken Graphics didn't sound good, so they renamed their business Heidelberg Graphics after the Heidelberg press in Nelvin's shop that Larry operated.

Jackson and McNamara continued making the Year of the Native American calendar. In 1974 Jackson was driving a van load of calendars back from a printer in Sacramento at night when he fell asleep and crashed into an embankment. Most of the calendars were destroyed and Jackson suffered major injuries, especially to his legs.

That fall Dennis designed note cards, which Larry printed at Jackson's Printing. Larry commissioned artist Steve Ladd to draw portraits of the twelve apostles, one for each month of the Twelve Apostles calendar. Larry printed copies, hoping to tap into the multi-million Christian market. Donna DeDominico created fingerprint note cards which Jackson also printed. With the calendars and various note cards, McNamara and Jackson drove to Portland, Oregon, in Dennis' mothers' (Ryia McNamara) Volvo station wagon to the Northwest Gift and Variety Wholesalers Show. There they exhibited their products for four days and took in  less money than they paid for their booth, not to mention travel and other expenses. Other marketing techniques including direct sales visits and mail were used unsuccessfully for all but the native American calendar.

Several months later Dennis decided to become manager for Goodwill Industries and the partnership was dissolved. Jackson continued publishing the Year of the Native American calendar and established an Indian scholarship fund from part of its sales. In 1983 he published the last issue, which had a mistake in the dates of one month causing him to replace the faulty page and dealing with the complaints of his customers. At that point Jackson turned the attention of Heidelberg Graphics to commercial work and publishing books.

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Phantasm grew from twelve subscribers its first issue to a few hundred in its heyday. Circulation was national, including around twenty libraries. There was never paid advertising. Once the magazine received a matching grant of $2,500 from the National Endowment for the Arts, and another time it received a $930 grant from the nonprofit New York based Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines (CCLM). The remaining funding came from eight dollar annual subscriptions and Jackson, who saved money by using the equipment at Nelvin A. Jackson's Printing and doing almost all the production work himself.

Jackson worked alone until poet Kevin Campbell agreed to become an unpaid poetry editor. That freed Jackson from having to read the hundreds of poems Phantasm received for possible publication. Campbell had a master's degree in English.

Jackson was also helped when CSUC student Mona Ceniceros worked as an intern feature editor for a semester. When Mona  left, Jackson took over the void. He also served as fiction editor. Campbell quit working for Phantasm to attend dental school in the Bay Area, where he became a doctor of dentistry and returned to set up practice in Chico. Poet Phillip Hemenway took over Kevin's job and held it until Phantasm went defunct. Phil teaches English at Butte College, Oroville, California.

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In addition to publishing a literary journal that contained more substance than just fiction and poetry as most journals were doing at that time, Phantasm also had special supplements within five issues. The first supplement was in a double issue that included original poetry, art, and fiction by contemporary native Americans. Another issue included a chapbook epic poem by Joanna Thompson, of Pacific Palisades, California, Into Dark. Before Philip Hemenway became poetry editor, Jackson published a chapbook supplement by Hemenway, In the Russian Manner. Each letter of Hemenway's chapbook  was handset in lead type by Jackson, each page was printed on a letterpress by Jackson, then it was folded, bound, and trimmed by Jackson.

Phantasm was a labor of love. It started out being called a bimonthly magazine, then changed to being simply called a literary magazine when its frequency slowed. Faced with financial concerns and working in paid jobs, Jackson found it harder to spend more time on the journal. Its final issue was nearly ready. All the poems, stories, guest column, and artwork were selected. Jackson typeset the fiction and feature articles; but he kept putting off typing the poetry, pasting up the copy, and going to work photographing the pages and printing them alone at night. He just couldn't do one more issue. Phantasm had become too much labor and not enough love. The resin coated phototypesetting paper on which the last copy was set has now faded away. Phantasm, volume 5, number 4, issue 28, never made it to print.

Only a few back issues of Phantasm remain--some in special collections, others by those who contributed their writing to the publication, and some that were kept by the publisher, Larry Jackson, owner of Heidelberg Graphics.

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