Pro Junior, by Don Dohler

Don Dohler was a U.S. comic artist and film director. He gained notability as the publisher of the influential film magazines Cinemagic (1972-1979) and Movie Club Magazine (1993-1997). Later he directed several low-budget horror and/or sci-fi pictures, of which 'Nightbeast' (1982) and 'The Galaxy Invader' (1985) remain cult classics. Earlier in his career, Dohler was active as a comic artist. In high school he created the character ProJunior, who was mascot of his fanzine Wild (1961-1963). In the 1970s several unknown cartoonists who once published in Wild had become famous underground comix artists. They paid tribute to Dohler by using ProJunior in various fanfiction comics, including a full-blown one-shot comic book, 'ProJunior' (1971). Still, Dohler only made two one-page gag comics published in professional magazines, titled 'The Good Deed' (1971) and 'Fatty Atty' (1972). 

Early life 
Dohler was born in 1946 in Baltimore, Maryland. He had early interest in film making, particularly monster movies and the work of special effects maker Ray Harryhausen. Dohler also enjoyed comics, particularly Mad Magazine. He drew comics for his high school fanzine, Wild!, but at age 16 dropped out of school. He got a job at Eddie Leonard Restaurants in Washington D.C. and got more interested in making movies. 

ProJunior
In 1958, 12-year old Dohler drew an odd comic character. It had four teeth, two of which were on the side of his mouth. His hair looked like the letter 'x', while his ears were covered with cork stoppers. The man's most notable feature were his eyes. His irises were white, while the 'whites' of his eyes were black. The character had no name, but given Dohler's love for Mad, was obviously inspired by the magazine's mascot Alfred E. Neuman (designed by Norman Mingo) and Basil Wolverton's equally wacky-looking characters. Between 1959 and 1960, Dohler and his best friend Mark Tarka created a high school fanzine, Wild!, relaunched from 1961 on as a magazine closer in spirit to Mad. Dohler reused his wacky character and gave him the name 'ProJunior'. The name referenced the fact that Dohler regarded himself a "junior professional editor". ProJunior was additionally redesigned as a demented version of Chic Young's Dagwood Bumstead. The only feature kept from Dohler's original design were ProJunior's spooky eyes. While the fanzine was mostly a local affair, it ran for two years and attracted many enthusiastic contributors, some of which later became famous underground comix artists, such as Jay Lynch, Skip Williamson and Art Spiegelman. They always remained grateful to Dohler for launching their careers.

In 1970 Lynch and Spiegelman designed ProJunior in a Tarzan-like leotard. Robert Crumb developed a comic strip around this design, 'ProJunior', published in Bijou Funnies issue #4 (15 June 1970). In this story ProJunior is given a girlfriend, Honeybunch Kaminski, whom he saves from the clutches of 'Mr. Man'. The same issue also features a Pro Junior story titled 'Dr. Lum Bago', drawn by Dan Clyne. Jay Lynch starred Pro Junior in 'Too Much Too Soon', printed in Teen-Age Horizons of Shangrila (Kitchen Sink Press, Summer, 1970). Crumb reused both Honeybunch and ProJunior in 'Honeybunch Kaminski in 'She's Leaving Home'', printed in Uneeda Comix (Print Mint, August 1970). In this tale ProJunior only has a small part near the end, when Honeybunch runs away from home and decides to move in with him. 

Many colleagues from the underground scene now started drawing comics starring Dohler's creation, which culminated with the publication of 'ProJunior' (Kitchen Sink Press, 1971). Among the graphic contributors were Robert Crumb, Jay Kinney, Jay Lynch, Skip Williamson, Jim Mitchell, Peter Loft, Ned Sonntag, Dave Dozier, Wendel Pugh, Dave L. Herring, Bruce Walthers, Dale Kuipers, S. Clay Wilson, Justin GreenPete Poplaski, Trina Robbins, Art Spiegelman, Evert Geradts, Denis Kitchen, Joel Beck and Bill Griffith, who all drew short stories about him. The book was distributed by Kitchen's own Krupp Comic Works. It was only natural that Dohler also drew a comic strip for this issue. His ProJunior story, 'The Good Deed', is a one-page gag comic in which the thirsty hero drinks a half-full bottle of liquor. 

After the publication of the first and only 'ProJunior' comic book, ProJunior only made a few minor appearances. Crumb drew his final story in Bijou Funnies (issue #6, Kitchen Sink Press, 1971), in which ProJunior gets a job as a shoe salesman. Lynch made another story with 'ProJunior Movies', printed in Teen-Age Horizons of Shangrila (issue #2, Kitchen Sink Press, November 1972), while Gail Burwen gave the character a role in 'Manhattan Madness'', published in Apple Pie (issue #1, Histronic Publications, March 1975). Gary Whitney and Jay Lynch featured ProJunior in three cameos in their newspaper gag comic 'Phoebe & The Pigeon People'. 

Other comics
Although other artists made ProJunior more familiar with underground comix readers, Dohler never took the opportunity to relaunch his own comic career. Apart from 'The Good Deed' in ProJunior (Kitchen Sink Press, 1971), he only made one extra comic strip. In Roxy Funnies (Head Imports, 1972) he drew the one-page gag comic 'Fatty Atty'. 

Film magazines
In 1972 Dohler founded Cinemagic, a magazine for aspiring film makers. Each issue featured useful information and advice on how to make films on a string budget. Drawing from personal experience, Dohler, for instance, explained how one could make miniature UFO's or puppet monsters. Although the magazine only lasted 11 issues, it had a professional approach and wide reach. By 1979 Dohler could even sell the rights to the same company that distributed more big-budget film magazines, like Starlog and Fangoria. Several youngsters who'd later become famous film directors and/or special effect makers credited Cinemagic with being their useful guide. Among them, people like Tim Sullivan ('2001 Maniacs'), Michael Trcic (animator and puppeteer for 'Jurassic Park'), Al Magliochetti ('Terminator 2', 'Natural Born Killers'), Ernest D. Farino ('The Thing', 'The Terminator') and J.J. Abrams ('Star Trek Into Darkness', 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'). In 1979 Cinemagic was profitable enough to be sold to the same company that distributed the more big-budget film magazines Starlog and Fangoria.

Dohler was additionally editor of the Times-Herald and Harford Business Ledger. Between 1993 and 1997 he co-founded a new film magazine, Movie Club Magazine, which expressed his love for monster movies. He also wrote two books about the profession: 'Film Magic: The Fantastic Guide to Special Effects Filmmaking' (Cinema Enterprises, 1979) and 'Stop Motion Animation: A Complete Step-By-Step Guide' (Cinema Enterprises, 1980). 

Film career
As a film director, Dohler debuted with the short pictures 'Mr. Clay' (1967) and 'Pursued' (1968). For years he tried to make a feature-length film, but couldn't find the time, nor the money. He satisfied himself with the thought that his film magazine Cinemagic (1972-1979) at least did well. However, in the late 1970s Dohler was victim of a bank robbery. A group of armed robbers held him and his colleagues hostage for an hour. Although Dohler survived the ordeal, he became aware that he could've died without realizing his dream to direct an actual movie. He therefore quit his job and put more effort in gaining money and professional assistance. The end result was 'The Alien Factor' (1979), a full-length film about an extraterrestrial alien terrorizing a local village, while a sheriff hunts it down. The picture wasn't a success, but at least proved that he could earn a living by making movies. Even if he had to cast family members and friends to cut costs. Gradually Dohler left most directing to his assistants, so he could spent more time on other technical aspects. 

During the 1980s Dohler directed several films which essentially recycled the plot of 'The Alien Factor'. 'Fiend' (1980), 'Nightbeast' (1982), 'The Galaxy Invader' (1985) and 'Blood Massacre' (1988) all failed at the box office and received bad reviews. Frustrated, Dohler retired from the film industry, but 11 years later returned to the director's seat. 'Alien Rampage' (1999) was the official sequel to his debut film, while 'Harvesters' (2001) was a remake of  'Blood Massacre'. His final films were 'Stakes' (2002), 'Vampire Sisters' (2003) and 'Dead Hunt' (2006). 

Death, legacy and influence
In 2006 Don Dohler passed away at age 60 from cancer. Although he never achieved a cinematic breakthrough, at least two of his films have achieved cult status. 'Nightbeast'  is remembered for John Dods' impressive special effects. Interestingly enough, the soundtrack was composed by Robert J. Walsh and future film director J.J. Abrams, who was only 16 years old at the time. The picture was given a bad review by Internet critic James Rolfe (better known as the Angry Video Game Nerd) in a 2012 episode of his web series Cinemassacre. Red Letter Media also panned it in an episode of 'Best of the Worst' and chose it as the worst film of all three pictures they had watched that night. However, they did praise Dohler's other film, 'The Galaxy Invader', as their personal favorite of his work.  'The Galaxy Invader' was also reviewed and mocked in 2008 in an another well known Internet series, 'The Cinema Snob' by Brad Jones, and by RiffTrax: former members of the cult TV show 'Mystery Science Theater 3000' (1988-1999) and the godfathers of comedic film reviews.

Documentary about Don Dohler
For those interested in Dohler's life the documentary 'Blood, Boobs & Beast' (2009) is a must-see.

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