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Barr Wars is one of the "zap"-style APAzines. It was not the first, but it is considered by some to have been the best. In such a 'zine, cartoonists would have their characters interact -- sometimes violently or viciously, sometimes lovingly, most times crazily -- but usually in a giant game of oneupmanship. Characters of different creators often carried on romances, got married, and even had children. They formed and reformed alliances; drew lines in the sand and dared other artists to cross them; and generally had a laugh-riot.
The War itself actually began life in the pages of the Centaurs Gatherum, an APA run by and dedicated to centaur fans, with an infamous exchange of bad punnery between members Jim Groat and Donna Barr.
Mr. Groat had opined that he had figured out where Mrs. Barr's Germanic centaur character had come from. When "Frau" Barr inquired as to Mr. Groat's deduction, he replied, "BARRVARIA!". Mrs. Barr, naturally enough, begged the rest of the reading audience to "shoot him, not me!".
Mr. Groat's response was to draw his entire main cast of characters holding modern weaponry with the leader in the middle saying "Shoot WHO, Frau Barr?". To which Mrs. Barr posted a picture of all HER main characters (including many who'd never previously been centaurs) with Stinz dressed in Wehrmacht livery and toting a machinegun: "Anyone she tells us to, Herr Groat."
The gauntlets had been thrown, and over the years some fifty-odd (some would say VERY odd) cartoonists slung mud, built nations, exploded nuclear bombs, sent in the spies, had love affairs, and otherwise attempted futilely and humorously to do away with each others' characters, or at least put them in compromising situations. One of the more notable examples of this sort of free-for-all cartoonery can be found in The Crusade, which covers a story arc that starts with Mrs. Barr (herself, inkwise) molesting a unicorn. Things go rapidly downhill from there, often hilariously.
Published quarterly, the Wars eventually outgrew the pages of the Centaurs Gatherum, then outgrew the compilations Barr Wars #1 and #2, and continued to be published (without Frau Barr, who has long gone on to more industrious pursuits) under the nom de plume of "Bizarre Wars". The Bizarre Wars itself ultimately became so big that the waitlist of cartoonists awaiting entry spawned a "waitlist APA" called The Dallas Brawl...just so they could take their creative pressures out on each other while waiting for entry to "the real show"!
Particularly in the older days of the fandom, the Barr Wars were significant in that its membership was virtually a who's-who of furry fandom's top talents, to include the likes of Terrie Smith and Scott Ruggels.
The name "Barr Wars" itself was actually coined by Chris Dunn and of course is a blatant pun of Star Wars. Chris became involved simply as a follower of The Centaurs Gatherum Newsletter and an avid fan of some of the artists therein. In correspondence with a number of the artists (many of which became great friends) and the CGN he offered to collect, collate, and redistribute to the artists the pictures they drew battling each other.
What started out in the CGN as a few fun pictures between 3 or 4 artists suddenly exploded as more artists contributed. Chris had at the time access to a high volume copier and postal services. In return for covering the copying and postal costs he would get fun originals of some fantastic furry art. Whereas at the start he would collect, copy-full-size, and remail to each of the few artists everyone’s contribution once a month – by the time he had to end his involvement a few years later he was burning out industrial copiers and mailing thick packets of double sided quarter-sized images to over 30 artists every other week.
Using this vast collection of material, well over 600 images at the start, he pasted up Barr Wars #1 and produced a 40 page 8.5x11 compilation. 200 copies were created and one sent to each artists in the jam. The reset were sold at cost to cover printing. A second issue was released some time later, but by then the war had grown so large it had split and morphed into regional factions.
As referenced above, Barr Wars may not of been the first Zap’zine, but is still considered by many to of been the best.
- "Vas Ist Das BARR WARS?" article in Furtherance #1, pp 16-18