February 11, 1951 – December 20, 2020
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.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.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.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.