ANIMATION ANECDOTES
January 18, 2021 posted by Jim Korkis

Remembering David Mruz

David Richard Mruz
February 11, 1951 – December 20, 2020

MINDROT #6 and #7

Dave Mruz, 69, passed away December 20, 2020 from complications of a blood clot that traveled to his lungs. He was a larger-than-life character like publisher William Gaines of MAD magazine and was full of good-hearted amusement, generosity and a never-ending sense of wonder. He was the publisher of the animation fanzine Mindrot/Animania for six years.

Dave Mruz (right) holding a copy of Mindrot #17, with Our Gang member Joe Cobb, at Cinecon in 1980

He grew up in Northeast Minneapolis, the son of a proud Polish and Finlander Catholic family, going on to study theatre, social work and nursing, and settling with his bride Kathy into the Uptown Minneapolis neighborhood in 1972. He was a graduate of Edison High School and St. Mary’s Nursing School.

While I had not talked with him for quite some time, I always considered Dave Mruz a good friend and just the thought of him always made me smile. I still cherish some of the tattered old comic books he would occasionally send me because he thought I might enjoy them.

Here is a short excerpt from one of the illustrated letters that Dave used to send me. He was an aspiring amateur cartoonist with a unique but enthusiastic style and sense of humor and it decorated his hand-written text: “Every now and then I’ll be found muttering about my passion, animated cartoons, where funny animals were once king. My favorite period for animated cartoons is the 1930s and 1940s of Hollywood craziness.

“I just love the real wild Betty Boop cartoons, those insane Bob Clampett cartoons, Tex Avery and the rest of the gang. Currently, the stuff I’m going wild over are the works of Harman and Ising who got their start with Disney.”

He was also the first editor to publish something I wrote about animation although I had written several articles previously about comic books for various comic book fanzines.

Besides my interest in comic books, movies and theater, I was also a huge fan of Disney and animation and often in my apazine for Capa Alpha, the historic comics apa, I occasionally included little bits of quotes, news and stories about animation that I found in four different Los Angeles newspapers and various magazines.

In Film Collector’s World, a monthly newspaper I subscribed to that also published Comics Buyers Guide, Mark Mayerson had a short-lived column on animation and mentioned a new fanzine called Mindrot published by Dave Mruz.

I wrote to Dave and offered to supply him with some of the stuff that had been appearing in my apazine. Since I had called my apazine contribution harlequin to relate to my interest in theater history, the column was called “harlequin” as well.

I figured Mindrot probably wouldn’t last long and I probably would run out of material soon anyway so the name didn’t make any difference. The first harlequin column appeared in Mindrot #6 (Spring 1977) and continued every issue until the zine ended in Animania #27 (December 1983). Jim Engel did a wonderful logo for my column.

One of the many contributions animation historian Michael Barrier made to animation fandom was to stop publishing his magazine devoted to animation entitled Funnyworld. Funnyworld was the unquestioned center for animation scholarship and once it disappeared, it forced the development of Mindrot to try to fill the void.

Like Funnyworld that first sprang to life as an apazine contribution to Capa-Alpha, Mindrot was designed as an apazine for Vootie, the funny animal cartoonists’ apa.

GARAGE SALE was another zine Dave did for Capa-Alpha. Click to enlarge.

David Mruz, editor and publisher, remembered his school teachers warning him not to read comic books or watch animated cartoons because they would “rot” his mind, so Mruz joyfully created a fanzine for others with similarly rotted minds.

The first issue appeared April 1976 and was only two pages long but by the end of the year it had grown to eight pages of offset type stapled at the upper left corner devoted to animation and sold to the general public for fifty cents.

A favorable plug for Mindrot in Mark Mayerson’s animation column for Film Collector’s World attracted the interest of many animation fans looking for a place to share animation information.

This influx of interest encouraged Mruz in June 1977 to further expand his fanzine and to develop its familiar format of forty pages in the form of a digest pamphlet that Mruz would painstakingly fold, collate and staple the pages at his home in Minneapolis with his family and friends like Joel Thingvall. Like Funnyworld, the magazine featured lengthy interviews with animators and historic research.

Unlike Funnyworld, the magazine featured detailed episode listings of animated series and several regular columns by animation historians including Jerry Beck, Tom Bertino, Jeff Missine and many others.

Some potential readers were confused by the title of the magazine so Mruz changed the name to Animania (issue 20, Feb. 1981) and the name change increased sales and recognition (although true fans still often refer to it as Mindrot when talking about it).

However, Mruz needed to devote more time to his business and his family and the final issue of Animania was number 27 (December 1983). However, Mruz made no official farewell announcement and over the years often thought about reviving the title. Animania inspired other animation fanzines in a similar format including Reg Hartt’s Animazine and Mike Ventrella’s Animato!

David was an occupational therapist. But then did a career move and opened David’s DayCare in 1988. For more than two decades he specialized in caring for toddlers in his own unique way which included the continual showing of his favorite cartoons.

Dave’s program book for the Minneapolis Comic Con ’79

He was deeply interested in comic books. The Mruz backyard became a home to monthly gatherings of comic fans who traded and discussed comic books. It resulted in a newsletter and the town’s first comic book convention in 1973. He helped in the creation of the city’s first comic book store Comic City in 1974 that lasted more than forty years in its original location. He was the store’s first ambassador and was the face of the Minnesota Comic Book scene.

Along with Thingvall he started the Minneapolis Comic Convention in 1977 that lasted until 1983. Bob Clampett was the guest of honor in 1979 and I contributed to a special program book for the event.

Dave never learned to drive a car but it didn’t stop him from researching cartoon history in the Minneapolis area and becoming involved with the Minnesota Cartoonist League. He did cartoon programs and cartoon history lectures at public libraries and local public grade schools. The Suburban World Theater became a home for regular cartoon afternoon matinees.

It has taken me this long to write a tribute to him because the news of his passing shook me to the core and took a little of the light out of my life. I would like to thank my friend Joel Thingvall who was Dave’s best friend for additional material for me to include in this article.

POSTSCRIPT by Jerry Beck

Dave and I met in-person maybe three or four times. The first time I heard of him was – I think – via Ron Hall, a Minneapolis film dealer who was passing out copies of Mindrot #2 at a Cinecon in New York City in, I believe, 1976. I immediately contributed to the next issue (#3) and was in many subsequent issues with articles, images and a column called “Cartoon Review”.

I remember meeting Dave at a Cinecon held in Minneapolis a year or two later – I recall being invited to his house and went through stacks and stacks of comics with him. We shared a deep interest in funny animal and “oddball comics” – but now that I think about it, we loved ALL comics. David would send me “care packages” of old obscure comics for years – coverless, or tattered, mostly odd stuff, like Dell westerns, or Sheena Queen Of The Jungle. And I loved them. Somewhere along the line I started addressing him as my ‘country cousin’, and he called me his ‘city cousin’.

I saw Dave again in New York in 1979, where I invited him to an Asifa meeting where Osamu Tezuka spoke and screened his latest film. I saw Dave the next year at a Cinecon in Hollywood. From that point on – especially after Dave ended Animania – we remained pen pals – and later, friends on Facebook.

As others have said, Dave had a big heart. He loved sharing what he loved, and that was mainly comics and cartoons. A part of my life ended with the passing of my country cousin, David Mruz. I can only recall him laughing, smiling and being funny. He will be missed.

Anyone who knew Dave can’t forget his unique handwriting. Here’s one of his letters to me, on official Mindrot stationary, from 1979.

16 Comments

  • Although I never read an issue of Mindrot/Animania, I am very sad to hear of David Mruz’s passing.

  • Jim, Jerry:

    Thank you for this tribute to David Mruz. Mindrot meant a great deal to me back in the day; because of it, I learned things about cartoons that I would have never known otherwise. He was a real pioneer. I will always be grateful for his writing, editing and publishing work, and for his great enthusiasm for animation which he so freely shared.

    It is impossible for me to look at the cover of the new second volume of Tex Avery cartoons, with that classic image of the Wolf’s arms and hands coming out of his ears, without remembering theMindrotlogo. It makes me smile.

  • I am very sorry to learn of David’s death. In that pre-computer era such fanzines were indispensible. I have the complete run of MINDROT/ANIMANIA bound in two volumes and still consult it from time to time.(Plus the two last loose leaf issues!) Rest in peace,David.

  • My run starts with #7 and goes to the end. I got Bob Clampett to autograph #13 – the issue devoted to him – for me when he came to the Sequoia Theater in Mill Valley, California for a tribute night.

  • My Friend, David Mruz, was truly the Father of Minnesota Comics and Cartooning Fandom. If you have Facebook access, I have established a MEMORIAL PAGE TO DAVID MRUZ in which us Minnesotans will try and post and document the Minnesota Comics and Cartooning History he so loved, as well as anything we can find in his files. Check it out, if you wish.
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/387493525862317

    Also, here’s a link to my own tribute to My Buddy David Mruz.
    https://www.facebook.com/1473492427/posts/10224584152539291/?d=n

  • I never knew David, but he seems like a lovely guy. Rest in peace.

  • I remember David Mruz from his involvement in APATOONS, a similar fanzine that I actually belonged to for a time. I only wish I still had the copies of those issues that we both contributed to, and now, after reading the tributes here, I wish we knew each other, face to face, because I didn’t know that he was as avid or obsessive a fan of Harman and Ising cartoons as I am. On that level, I already miss you, my brother. So many memories of classic animation at film fests in the 1980’s are just floating out there with you now.

  • I’m very sad to hear about Dave Mruz. The few times that I met to him, I found him very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. I’ll never forget seeing some of his Gumby Cartoons in 16mm in his basement with a group of fellow animation fans.

  • My condolences to all of David’s friends and family.

    I wasn’t familiar with the term “apazine” and had to look it up. Apparently it’s also a variety of pain relief medicine.

  • I, too, am very saddened about our old Chum!! I (still) have my Mindrots from yesteryear[s]!! RIP!!!

  • We’re getting up there all of us that remember MINDROT/ANIMANIA and David. I, too, send him a truckload of stuff. When I invited Bob & Sody Clampett to Toronto for three days in 1979 Toronto said, “Who’s he? Jed Clampett’s brother?” and thumbed its nose.

    That not just me. This place has a long history of thumbing its nose as Jane Jacobs noted more than twice. (She’s the author of THE DEATH AND LIFE OF GREAT AMERICAN CITIES and her last book DARK AGE AHEAD is coming true by the second).

    I ignored Toronto, bought the center pages of an issue of MINDROT and had people flying in from England, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Greece, Japan, America and from across Canada. Admission was by donation. I promised 200 cartoons over three days plus the chance to meet and learn from a legend.

    The event was self funded. It paid its own way. It led to me bringing Bernard B. Brown, Friz Freleng, Grim Natwick and Shamus Culhane to Toronto.

    David provided an extremely valuable service bringing us together and giving us a voice.

    Us members of that MINDROT community are a special breed. We love cartoons. We’re all wonderfully crazy in the head.

    Too bad there are not more of us.

    Rest in peace, Buddy. You left at the right time. This world is getting nasty and it is going to get nastier.

    But while you were here you made it a good place to be.

  • A great tribute to Dave from Jim and Jerry — thank you both!

  • it would be great if some of these were re printed or uploaded …i have a few.

    • Same here, Troy. If I could reach four feet further from where I’m sitting, I could grab them off my bookshelf.
      For me, reading Mindrot was a wonderful sense of discovery. I couldn’t get enough information about the old cartoons and the people who made them. There were filmographies and reviews of cartoons I had never heard of (“Scrappy? What’s that?” said I at the time). There was a wonderful sincere scholarship about it by people excited enough to share their discoveries with others.

  • I just now learned of his passing. I hadn’t seen him in ages, but we kept in touch via Facebook. Another agonizing loss.

  • I knew Dave Mruz for almost 50 years. He was a truly good guy, and always full of enthusiasm for whatever he was into at that moment. I attended the first Minneapolis Comic Convention in 1973 that Dave helped put together; it was held in (I think) a small brick VFW building on the corner of 28th Street and 1st Avenue South in Minneapolis. There were a few dealer’s tables, some displays, and later in the evening, movies. I also attended the 1979 Comic Convention, which featured Bob Clampett and C.C. Beck (creator of the original Captain Marvel) as special guests, and they both signed my program book. In 1975, I became a part-owner of Comic City, the first comic book store in MInneapolis (and probably in Minnesota) at 3149 1/2 Hennepin Avenue South. Dave had found the location for the store, which was only a block from his house. After I sold Comic City in 1979, I didn’t see Dave as often but we still saw each other now and then, and it was always fun. I miss him.

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